This week, the RCL has invited us back into the Year of Luke. We jump back in, having skipped over the Temptation in the Wilderness, with Jesus “filled with the power of the Spirit” and making his way back home, to Nazareth in Galilee. We are still at the very beginning stages of Jesus’ ministry. There is yet not mention of disciples: it is just Jesus wandering around the countryside saying strange things and healing the random stranger; trying to figure out what it all means. Himself, it would seem, waiting for a revelation, a manifestation, an Epiphany.
Twice in chapter 4 of Luke’s Gospel, the NRSV (still our preferred version here at Saint Paul’s, though mostly out of convenience, lectionarypage.net is NRSV) uses the word “Report” to explain how news about Jesus is spreading around the Galilean countryside.
4:14 (the opening verse in this week’s pericope) – Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.
4:37 (the end of the healing of a man with an unclean spirit) – And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.
As I read 4:14, I thought it sounded like a strange turn of phrase, “a report about him spread,” so I decided to dig a little deeper. Seems that we find the English word “report” only in those two instances in Luke’s fourth chapter, but the Greek is two very different word. In 4:14, the report is “pheme:” news, report, or fame. In 4:37, the report is “echos:” a noise.
I know, Greek word studies by a barely competent preacher who studied Greek almost a decade ago is a dangerous thing, but notice your response to these two words: fame and nose. Do you notice a difference? I sure do. It seems as though the crowd that gather in the Synagogue in Nazareth has come to see someone famous. When he doesn’t live up to their expectations, they threaten to kill him. What follows him from then on is the noise: the sound of the angry mob, the rattle of chains, the crack of a whip, and the jeers and sneers of those who expected his message to be lush and simple.
Often, as we begin to share the Good News of Jesus, it begins with only the highlights: he healed, he cares, he rose; but if we forget the noise: he taught, he admonished, he yelled, he cried, he died; we miss the fullness of the story of Jesus. We can’t just take the good without the bad, and we ought not only share the bad, forgetting the good. Instead, we should remember that grace comes through judgment, that joy comes after sorrow, and that noise and fame are two sides of the same coin.