Words matter. The words of Jesus matter most. We live in an age where there is a plethora of words in continual bombardment on our senses. But words become meaningless when people adopt a fickle attitude. Observe what happened to Jesus in a very short period of time.
“[Jesus] 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.” [Luke 4:16 ESV] Synagogues were most likely started around the time when the Jews were freed from Babylonian capture. A synagogue could be started anywhere in town or country, where 10 or more respectable men of like mind wanted to gather to read the Torah, pray and sing praises to God. To the Jews, worship was a public affair and men were expected to participate. After Jesus had read the portion from Isaiah he sat down. It was expected and hence all were focused on him, to see what commentary he would bring to this reading. He spoke 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?'” [v. 22] It appears that they wanted to hear more but were puzzled by this this man who was raised and lived in their village who had no training religiously.
Jesus does say more. Luke tells us that “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.” [v. 28] As I read this account this morning, I was impressed with the word ‘fickle.’ By definition it is an adjective that describes people characterized by erratic changeableness or instability. A short talk by Jesus triggers a reversal of affections in the listeners, so much so that they intend to kill him.
One moment they were ready to lionize this apparent prophet who grew up in their midst and then the next they reject him. What triggered such reversal of attitude? They were men of tradition. They worship the tradition of having the Sacred Writings carefully stowed in the synagogue and each Sabbath, ceremoniously brought out to be read and then carefully put back in an ark. This was God’s word to them on how to have a relationship with him and those around them. They worshiped the tradition of worshipping God. Their fickleness shows up because they were not firmly governed by God’s word but rather by the traditions of the elders.
“… my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable …” [I Corinthians 15:58 ESV] Stand firm. In other words, God wants us to be firm in our affection, behavior, opinion and loyalty. The men of the synagogue in Nazareth were ready to kill Jesus based on their capricious emotions. They were ready to break both the Roman law and God’s Law based on a sudden whim. In their rage they carried Jesus to the edge of a cliff intending to toss him to his death, but God intervened and he walked away. “But passing through their midst, he went away. And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.” [v. 30-32] The Scribes and Pharisees taught with a detached coldness and indifference. They taught tradition, depending on the authority of others. Jesus taught with fervency and majesty, teaching what his Father told him to teach and his words penetrated their hearts.
Fickleness describes a person that is not firm or steady in their affection, behavior, opinion or loyalty. May we be the opposite? Under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit may we be men that “… continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard …” [Colossians 1:23 ESV]