Beliefnet
Jesus Creed

Benefactions for All

 I was once at a small gathering of mostly Roman Catholics in the City of Chicago where we were talking about being benefactors to the poor in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Toward the end of our session, we were informed that the priest who had been guiding our conversation that day was now prepared to celebrate the mass. When the priest made his way around the room and got to Kris and me, he just passed us by. Not only were we humiliated but no one seemed to take notice that the priest had skipped us. Later in the car I asked our friend who shrugged it off with words like this: “That’s the Catholic way. If you’re not a Catholic, you can’t take the sacrament.” Neither the priest nor the others had any doubts that we were Christians; nor did we question they were Christians. But we weren’t the right kind of Christians. Because we weren’t, we were not permitted to partake of our Lord’s body and blood. The most important rite in all of Christian worship was not for us.

Jesus’ benefactions, I would have reminded my friend had I thought of it this way, were for all. Jesus the Benefactor welcomed all to his table of benefaction. Jesus’ opening sermon at his hometown synagogue, in Nazareth, offended everyone because he believed God liberated the marginalized – like the poor and the imprisoned and the blind and the oppressed – and he believed scorn for the Gentiles had to stop. Jesus’ opening opportunity in the synagogue was to read the Bible, and his text that day was Isaiah 61:1-2 and I want to quote the text from Isaiah and then make one simple observation:

            The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

                        because the LORD has anointed me

                        to proclaim good news to the poor.

            He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

                        to proclaim freedom for the captives

                        and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor

                        and the day of vengeance of our God.

Tied into the vision of salvation the prophet believed genuine justice involved vengeance. Bit Jesus stopped short of quoting that very line and it angered the audience. This is what this text looked like (and therefore sounded like) when Jesus was done:

            The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

                        because the LORD has anointed me

                        to proclaim good news to the poor.

            He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

                        to proclaim freedom for the captives

                        and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor

                        and the day of vengeance of our God.

            Justice with vengeance turns against justice without vengeance. Jesus explained this text to show that, though he was a prophet, Nazareth would not embrace him and would fail to receive his benefactions. Jesus appeals to two of the greatest of Israel’s prophets to explain who will benefit from his benefactions: Elijah and Elisha. As they gave benefactions to the margins of t
heir society – Elijah to a Gentile widow and Elisha to a Syrian male – so Jesus will include those who have been rejected by the status quo. Jesus the Benefactor operates with the word “inclusion” and he wants everyone to find the GodLife through him.

            Jesus was chased from his hometown for this kingdom dream.


Previous Posts
Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus