When Adults Act Like Children

For the past two weeks, I have been edified by teachings on Luke 4:14-30.  In both the youth ministry two Sundays ago, and in the main service only a few days ago, I have heard God’s children speak boldly of Jesus’ ministry.  I endeavor now to share how this scripture relates to a realization I have had about the way in which we are (and can be) like children with regards to the Lord.  I have shared the verses below for reference.

[14] And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.
[15] And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
[16] And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.
[17] And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
[18] “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
[19] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
[20] And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
[21] And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
[22] And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
[23] And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’”
[24] And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.
[25] But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land,
[26] and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.
[27] And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
[28] When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.
[29] And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.
[30] But passing through their midst, he went away.

Luke 4:14–30 (ESV)

Now Luke 4:14-30 takes place immediately after the temptation of Jesus in the desert.  The passage begins, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.” (Luke 4: 14).  The Holy Spirit’s communing with Jesus is critical to his entire ministry, and I think it worthwhile to note every mentioning of his presence.  Jesus’ perfection in his own character, but also in the eternal community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit prepared Jesus for his earthly ministry in a way that little else could.

Two weeks ago when I heard this passage read aloud, I was in the K-2nd Grade classroom serving as a small group leader.  While sitting in the presence of the other adults and a room full of children, I couldn’t help but draw a simple comparison between Jesus’ evasion of death at the hands of his children and the graceful way that a parent will not let a child cause harm, even if a child is blindly angered.

I believe we all have seen this basic scenario play out before.  A child, angered at not receiving a toy, candy bar, or attention, may lash out at mom or dad with pummeling fists and a pouting face.  The reactions of godly parents may differ in how they confer discipline, but the broken human condition means that even the most mild-mannered children will have tantrums, rage, and desires to hurt those who love them most.  Fortunately, small children can rarely physically hurt their parents, but the broken bonds and rejection of love is palpable and painful.

After reflecting on Luke 4:14-30, I see the uncanny resemblance to an unknowing child in the people of Nazareth rejecting Jesus.  Taking great offense at Jesus’ proclamation of his authority and divinity, the people “…rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff” (Luke 4:29).  Doubting his sincerity, the people who should have known Jesus best attempted to kill him before his crucifixion was to occur.

Jesus knew this, but he knew it in the moment.  He knew that his people would eventually jeer and mock as he endured great suffering on the cross for their sake, and for the world’s redemption.  What incredible grief must Jesus have felt as he “[passed] through their midst” and went away (Luke 4:30)?  The perfect parent, the King who only ever went to incredible lengths to embrace his children, was rejected time and time again during his earthly ministry.  The pain that this disobedience, this rejection, must have created is like and unlike any pain that a godly parent could ever feel.

Jesus, truly impervious to any physical pain or death that he should not submit himself to, embraced incredible pain as he slipped through that crowd and saw just how broken and angry his children were.  The Son of Man did incredible things on this earth as he embraced suffering, not only on the cross, but in his daily laying down of his life and incredible love for his children.

After escaping an attempted assault or murder, could any of us walk away calmly without a trace of vengeance or violence in our souls?  Even more though, could any of us actually face such an experience and then endeavor to go die for those who just attempted to kill us?  The logic astounds and humbles the human conscience.  The answer is yes, but only by the power of Holy Spirit.  Just as this passage reflects in the opening verses (4:14), with the Holy Spirit, we can experience incredible sufferings and count it all to God’s glory.  A great end of Jesus’ earthly ministry was that it ushered in the Holy Spirit and His refining work within our souls (John 20:22).  Now we can live this same example out, choosing to “suffer, yet always rejoice” as Paul encourages the early church several years later (2nd Cor. 6:10).  

Let us think deeply about Jesus’ life and choice to embrace suffering, not only on the cross, but in all the days of his life.