A thunder drum of heaven rolls in Luke’s description of Jesus entering his hometown (Luke 4). The Gospel writer portrays Jesus glowing with victory from his 40-day wilderness fast and successful triumph over Satan’s temptations. Unrolling the scroll of Isaiah in his local sanctuary, Jesus reads to his neighbors the prophet’s illustration of God’s compassion for humanity in our most vulnerable condition. Every person listening in that congregation undoubtedly knows of God’s concern for broken people. They take comfort in the hope that one-day, in some distant place, a Messiah will come and help fulfill God’s vision of goodness. They consider this a nice thought, albeit a completely elusive vision.
The drum of heaven then falls silent, as Jesus declares history in the making. He personally claims to be the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy and takes the helm of a movement to save all people. His resounding inaugural address introduces a radically different way of thinking and living beyond religion as usual. No longer does faith focus on a distant future, ancient past, or some ethereal concept. Jesus declares that God is right here, compassionately working in our presence.
This heavenly proclamation by Jesus is met by earthly murmurs from the crowds. God’s creatures start judging what their creator is doing, rather than align with God in this historic moment. Shewing away the hand of God, they arrest Jesus and plan to throw him off a cliff.
By recounting this event in his Gospel, Luke invites us to consider our response to the claims of Christ. Fyodor Dostoevsky offers a reaction in his brilliant novel, Brothers Karamazov. His character, Ivan, tells a hopeful tale about Jesus returning to earth to live out love for the needy during the Spanish Inquisition. A representative of the church arrests Jesus and suggests that he should have taken the deal with the devil in the desert. The Christian leader declares that the church certainly has!
Reading this tale can leave you in heart racing breathlessness. The idea of a Christ-less Church and Spirit-less Christians is horrifying. Yet it happens! Nevertheless, Jesus keeps marching on. Nothing can silence the drumbeat of his Spirit or arrest his mission for long. The Bible invites us to listen and enthusiastically embrace his movement. If we don’t, others most certainly will.