Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Not a Townie

"What do you want with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God."
Mark 1:24

In New England there exists a special group of people called townies; folks who live their entire lives in their hometown. There's a measure of respect attached to this designation; kudos if you will to the ones who for better or worse, through boom and bust never leave their place of birth. Geographic longevity earns them a special spot at the local coffee shops and eateries and here in the South, reserved seating at their alma mater's stadium for the Friday night football game.

Jesus was no townie. Despite numerous attempts by others to define his regional loyalty, He never connected Himself to any earthly location. Under scrutiny by Pilate concerning His political aspirations Jesus responded, "My kingdom is not of this world." John 18:35.  "Holy space invaders, Claudia Procula,* we've got an alien amongst us!" I'd have like to have been a fly on the wall in Pilate's brain when Jesus dropped that bombshell on him. I'm sure he'd heard all kinds of stories but an out-of-this-world royal visitor - that had to be a first.

Jesus was no Nazareth townie. Born in Bethlehem, raised for an indeterminate time in Egypt, His immediate family thought he was crazy (Mark 3:21). The hometown crowd looked to kill him (Luke 4:13-40), so Jesus relocated to Capernaum, a more congenial environment.

Why didn't Jesus correct the misinformation concerning his place of birth? In addition to bolstering His claim as Messiah, to be a Judean would have enhanced his credibility with the religious leaders and the population surrounding Jerusalem. The people of Judea considered themselves, albeit erroneously, more cosmopolitan and sophisticated than their Galilean neighbors. In reality, their geographic location kept them isolated and more provincial from the surrounding cultures whose travels brought them through Galilee.

Either the demons got it wrong (not omniscient) or attempted to downplay Jesus' true position by labeling Him a Nazarene. The moniker meant to be despised. This was, however, Jesus' Messianic M.O. Jesus, "made himself of no reputation," (Philippians 2:7). He was, "despised and rejected of men," (Isaiah 53:3) and "came to his own people, and even they rejected him," (John 1:11).

Promoting his Bethlehem nativity could have placed Jesus in more danger than He already faced. The reigning Herod disposed of His cousin, John the Baptist. A quick check of the Roman census and some simple math would place Jesus in Bethlehem at the time that Herod the Great ordered the slaughter of the innocents in order to protect his crown. This Herod was just as ruthless. With forces already looking to take Him out, Jesus didn't need to make their job easier.

The truth is, Jesus wasn't from Bethlehem, Nazareth or anywhere else on earth. He was from Heaven. When confronted at Gethsemane by the arresting party, three times Jesus identified Himself as "I AM" - the unspeakable name of God. So powerful was this pronunciation that the entourage sent to retrieve him hit the ground (John 18:5). Oh no, clean up in the garden center! Jesus' mission wasn't regional, it included the ever expanding cosmos. Only a Heavenly identity could encompass such a task.

How about you? How important to you is your hometown or nation of birth? What type of reaction would you experience if like Jesus you declared that you are from another world? As a citizen of Heaven and an ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven how are you authorized and qualified to act on the King's behalf?

* Pilate's wife is nameless in the Gospel of Matthew. According to the Apocryphal book, The Gospel of Nicodemus, Claudia Procula was Pilate's wife and the granddaughter of the Emperor Agustus.


1 comment:

  1. Mary: When I was in college, one of the girls from New York referred to kids who lived in the town as 'townies.' I have never heard of it to mean someone who lived their whole life in their hometown. Thank you for this post. It makes me think.