It’s homecoming time on many campuses, including the one where I serve as president.

These are wonderful, long-awaited days, with graduates and former students greeting friends, reminiscing about college experiences, and sharing news of life since the last reunion.

Occasionally the successes of these graduates astound their former teachers (“failures” seldom attend homecoming events). Almost every year I hear a colleague say something like, “What a surprise! Who would ever have thought she would accomplish so much.” Or, “I never expected he would amount to much of anything, but just think what great things he’s been able to achieve!”

Such talk bothers me. After all, these former students were young people gifted and committed to Jesus Christ when we admitted them. We gave them an education. And, with God’s blessing and guidance, they should have done well!

There should have been no surprises.

Jesus, too, put in a homecoming appearance. But, oh, how he shocked and surprised his former classmates and teachers.

Actually “shocked” is too mild a word. The home-town folk in Nazareth were outraged (Luke 4:14ff.). In fact, Jesus’ remarks at his one and only homecoming so provoked his listeners that they turned into a lynch mob bent on killing him.

But why? What had he said or done?

As he sat down to deliver his homecoming sermon at the synagogue that Sabbath day in Nazareth, Jesus took his text from the fifty-eighth and sixty-first chapters of the prophecy of Isaiah, passages popularly understood to refer to the expected Messiah. He challenged the commonly held notions of a sociopolitical messiah with military might and political power, one who would mete out vengeance on the Roman oppressors, restore wealth and prosperity, and establish a chauvinistic international dominance for Israel.

Instead, Jesus dwelt on the spiritual and redemptive aspects of the Messiah’s work. He spoke of the Messiah’s compassion for the poor and the oppressed. He identified with the needy. He stood the messianic expectations of the synagogue leadership upside-down.

But even more to the point, and in an unmistakable and inflammatory way, Jesus asserted his claim to be that divine Messiah. Insistently, he made his own claim central—he sought to be the focal point of God at work in human history right then and there. And that, the home-town crowd could not handle from the carpenter’s kid. All homecoming hospitality vanished. Murderous hatred rose within them.

It was not his miracles and other accomplishments that turned them against him. It wasn’t even his revisionist notions about the kingdom of God. It was his messianic claim that was so blasphemous and so infuriating. Death was what he deserved.

Some homecoming!

We must judge the citizens of Nazareth harshly. They were spiritually blind, morally outrageous, and murderously impetuous.

However, I must pause to examine carefully my own response to Jesus’ homecoming claims. Of course I affirm the orthodox Christological formulas—but am I properly responsive to his lordship? Is my own understanding of the kingdom free of my own carnal agenda and self-serving preconceptions?

In many ways, I too can say: “All these things I have kept from my youth.” Yet what is there that I may still lack?

Am I ready to give a positive and obedient reception to him and to his claims?

By his grace I want to be able to say an enthusiastic yes!

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