Strangers and Foreigners

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then he said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted within his own country.  But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zaraphath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”  So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust him out of the city; and they led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built that they might throw him down over the cliff.  Then passing through the midst of them he went his way (Luke 4: 24-30.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Jesus was speaking to a town full of people who had seen him grow from a boy into a man. Before all of his miracles he probably worked as a carpenter.  Those people knew of him, and knew his family quite well.  In Mathew 13: 55-56, the towns people say, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary?  And his brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?  And his sisters, are they not all with us?”  Jesus was a real live person, with brothers and sisters; he interacted with others; he didn’t live in a monastery; he ate, slept, went to the bathroom, worked, played, laughed, and cried; he attended the festivals and wore the robes (but never once did he sin; never once was he displeasing to God.  (In fact, we read in other scriptures that his brothers disliked him; living beside Jesus was probably a very humbling experience for them.)  Jesus addressed two prophets in this scripture who had been rejected by their own countrymen.  Elijah and Elisha were explosive characters in the Old Testament who performed all sorts of miracles.  Elijah caused a drought to last for three years in Israel because of the wickedness of King Ahab.  During that time, he went to a foreign land and stayed with a widow who was near to starvation; God provided them with enough food to survive the three years while all Israel went hungry.  Elisha was Elijah’s protégé who took over after Elijah was taken up in to heaven.  Naaman was a commander in the Syrian army; an army that was continually at war with the nation of Israel.  He so desperately wanted to be healed that he reached out to the enemy’s prophet for help.  God used Elisha to heal Naaman, an adversary of his people, and not one leprous Israelite was healed by Elisha during this time.

                I grew up in a little town in the middle of nowhere?  I moved away and found California more interesting than Michigan; it was new, and fun.  The place where I grew up was something I had taken for granted; I was so familiar with it, I had a hard time seeing its beauty and majesty.  These men and woman Jesus was speaking too had grown up with him; they had known him from his childhood, but they made the mistake of believing he was less worthy of being praised because of it.  God and human beings are not equal; God is in heaven, and human beings are beneath Him; God is all powerful, and human beings are weak.  God is pure and holy, and human beings are impure and unholy.  The Jewish people had been taught to reverence God, which was a good thing; many had gone too far, and saw very little of God in humanity; yet God had made human beings in his likeness and image; so man is shaped like God; man feels similar emotions to God; man thinks similar thoughts (this is why people desire to design and build things; God is a designer and builder; this is why human beings desire to master their environment; because God is the master over the entire universe.) So, because they saw God as distant and unfamiliar; they felt anger toward a man claiming to be God because they were familiar with him.  The concept challenged everything that they had wrongly come to believe.  Had they known nothing about Jesus; if he was from a distant country or foreign land, they would have been more open to receiving the message; instead they allowed their knowledge of him to blind them from seeing his true identity.  In the nation of Israel today there are very few Jews who profess a faith in Jesus Christ, or a faith in God period (There are many messianic Jews around the world who have accepted Christ and call him ‘Teacher,’ and ‘Master,’ but not in Israel.)  The people of God have been blinded.  Jesus delivered a message to them, and because of their disbelief, the message went out from Jerusalem to a world full of strangers and foreigners.  Non-Jews have been healed by the millions and whole countries have converted to Christianity. 

Often we share the message we have received with those we expect will be most receptive to it; our family, and friends, co-workers and acquaintances.  We will often find the opposition from these individuals is great.  Many times the person you’d least expect to receive the message will be the one who receives it.  When others have rejected the message, move forward; God wants you to bring his love to any who will listen (this does not mean you stop loving everyone; it means you are called to produce fruit, and when a certain person isn’t fruitful you focus on someone who will be.)  Reach out to the strangers, to the foreigners, to those you’ve never met, and God will show you a harvest you could never have imagined.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we ask that You guide us in spreading the gospel to whomever You desire.  Help us Lord to let go of ministering to those who are not going to receive You, that we might go on to reach those who will.  Give us courage and boldness to stretch out to those we don’t know; to those who are strangers and foreigners.  Guide us by the power of Your Holy Spirit to be Your messengers.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

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