Never Underestimate the Power of Stupid People in Large Groups! George Carlin
Yup, I have a weird sense of humor! And the story in Luke 4:14-28 makes me chuckle a little every time I read it.
Basically, the story goes like this:
Jesus (in the power of the Spirit) goes to his hometown in Galilee. Everyone was talking about him. He was teaching in the synagogues and people were crazy impressed with the stuff he was saying. They had never heard teaching that made so much sense and yet challenged them. It was something totally new and different, yet it didn’t contradict their scripture. How could this be? It was hard to understand. It was like the truth they had been waiting for…
One day, in the middle of this buzz about him, Jesus goes to the synagogue in his home town. He reads the scripture to them about the prophecies from Isaiah. He puts all the things that they have been hearing into context for them. He explains that he is the Messiah that they have been waiting for.
Luke tells us that everyone “spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” And they all wondered how this could be Joseph’s son, the dude they knew from down the road who was always looking for carpentry work. They had heard the stories and rumors about this family.
And then Jesus says something that is pretty in-your-face and probably snarky to them. He basically says, “You guys are going to quote proverbs to me and demand that I prove myself to you, but you are just proving where your heart is. As a matter of fact, your culture (which you claim as your key to a right relationship with God) has traditionally rejected God’s messengers, so they went to people of other nations.” (CFV)*
So, Jesus was telling these very religious people that they would not recognize God if he came to visit them, or sent his prophet, or SON! Jesus was implying that these religious people who studied scripture, prayed, went to the synagogue, observed festivals, gave sacrifices, and followed a ridiculous amount of rules, did not really know God!
And the crowd got the message loud and clear! They were furious!!! They said, “Let’s kill him!” and tried to throw him over a cliff.
And I’m wondering, did anyone question this line of thinking?
Jesus walked right through them and left. Like, “Yeah. This ain’t happening folks. I’m out. Why don’t you just chew on what happened here for a while…”
(At least that’s how I imagine it.)
Then Jesus went to Capernaum, a nearby town, and drove out some impure spirits. He went to Simon Peter’s house, healed his mother-in-law and then crowds of sick people were brought to the house and Jesus healed all of them too.
I always wonder how the people in Jesus’ hometown reacted when they heard these stories.
I kinda want to hear a story of Jesus going back and singing the chorus of Toby Keith’s song How Do You Like Me Now? And have all the people he had just healed singing back up for him! LOL
I also wonder if anyone was sitting in the crowd at the synagogue that day going, “Uhmmm…am I the only one who sees the irony here?”
I feel like I would be that guy. Looking around, trying to catch someone’s eye. Asking, “We aren’t really doing this are we?”
And then, I’d probably tag along assuming that the crowd was right.
Cause, it’s hard to go against the crowd. It’s even harder when the crowd is your people. It’s perhaps the hardest when the crowd is the people that are supposed to believe the same thing you do.
Most groups tend to be good at squashing independent thinking. It’s kinda the nature of the beast. You come in, you get affirmed by the group for agreeing with them. They accept you. You are loved. You belong. It feels great.
But what do you do when the group does something stupid?
Then things get messy.
And if your group is a religious group, then things get infinitely messier. Suddenly, it feels like you are not only standing alone, trying desperately to catch the eye of at least one other person, but also, you are going against God himself.
These people all claim to follow God. They read the same Bible as me. They seem to have it all together. I guess I’m wrong.
The problem is, not all religious people who read the Bible and follow the rules actually know God. They might have Bible verses on their coffee mugs, a great job, neat family, and unquestionable morals, but their hearts can be so far from God that if Jesus showed up in person, they’d try to throw him off of a cliff.
And if you listen to large groups of these religiously stupid people, you will miss seeing Jesus too. You will hear the stories of his work in other people but miss out on the work he wanted to do in your life.
I have actually been dealing with this a lot in my own life lately. I have been a follower of Jesus for many years now. I do know him, but I still let the influence of tons of religiously stupid people keep me from seeing Jesus.
For me, it always comes back to trying to do enough stuff and be good enough to fit in with the religious group. Even when they aren’t around, I still feel like I can sense their judgment.
I have to learn to block out their voices and listen to Jesus.
And by listen to him, I simply mean that I read the Bible, I pray, I ask God to show me what I need to change in my life, and I wait.
I wait for a sense of truths that I need to remember. When I do this, I know that Jesus really is with me and he really does use the Bible to confront things in my life that need to change. Best of all, he gives me the power to change!
Religiously stupid people, like the folks in Jesus’ hometown, don’t want to be confronted with who they really are. They want to be affirmed and they want rules.
When I follow the religious crowd:
I miss out on Jesus.
I don’t want to confront who I really am.
I suppress who I am and try to conform.
I try to be good enough on my own.
I’m full of anxiety.
I judge others and love people who make me feel better about myself.
I want other people to think like I do.
But there was a whole other crowd in Luke 4. A crowd of messed up, demon-possessed people, of sick people, of desperate hurting people who individually each came to find Jesus. A crowd of people who chased Jesus rather than chased him away. They were desperate, they needed hope and Jesus healed them.
When I follow this crowd outside of the synagogue, I find something different:
I know that Jesus is with me.
I know that he accepts and cherishes me.
I have courage to change and be who I am created to be.
I am freed.
I want the best for everyone else.
I am not afraid of questions and enjoy seeking the answers.
Blessings my friends,
*Cindy Felkel version was translated from years of studying scripture. It is heavily influenced by white American culture and an attempt to not be influenced by this culture. It is full of translation errors…