After the temptation in the wilderness, according to Luke, Jesus went to Nazareth. “He came to Nazareth where he had been brought up, and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day.” In modern parlance, Jesus made it his habit to go to church.

This sentence would seem to be something of a rebuke to that company of church members who, come the Lord’s Day, take lightly their appointment with God. A question haunts the edge of the mind: “Why did he go?” Were there not hypocrites in that synagogue? Consider the obvious faults of that Nazareth congregation. If those two clergymen who passed by the poor, desperate, done-in man on the Jericho road were a fair sample of the religious leadership of the day, I wonder that Jesus ever went near the place. But Luke, who checked all things for accuracy, says: “He went as his custom was into the synagogue on the sabbath day.”

Why did he go? He knew what some of us must still learn—that although God can be found under the quiet pageant of the night sky, or beside the tumbling descent of a mountain stream, or even on the fourteenth green of some country club, the one place the human soul most surely encounters God is in the prayerful gathering of his people. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” he would say to the oncoming generations with the gentle expectation that they would not “forsake the assembling of themselves together.”

Thus Jesus stepped across the threshold of his home town’s place of worship despite its erring people, its faulty preachers, and a sprinkling of hypocrites, because he had earnest business with his Father. It is a rebuke to those who, absenting themselves from this appointed hour in our modern ...

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