May 20, 2016

Mercy or Revenge?

Luke 4:14-22

Jesus returned to Galilee . . . . He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

—  Luke 4:14

Jesus went into Galilee and began preaching and teaching. The people eagerly listened. The synagogues buzzed with excitement as he explained the Scriptures. Jesus was becoming very popular. 

But popularity wasn’t on Jesus’ mind. In Nazareth, his hometown, Jesus was handed the scroll of Isaiah. He read from verses 1-2 of Isaiah 61 and proclaimed, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” He didn’t read the rest of the passage about God’s vengeance on Israel’s enemies and the restoration of Jerusalem. He judiciously rolled up the scroll and spoke from the words he had read.

Though everyone appreciated his words and spoke well of him, they wondered why he hadn’t said more. The local people longed for the day when Rome would be overthrown. Why didn’t Jesus complete the text about revenge against the enemies of Israel? Why didn’t he preach war or revolt?

Jesus knew what the crowd was thinking. He knew they would soon turn on him and utterly reject him. Jesus was not after applause or compliments. He wanted to bring hell-bent souls to repentance and forgiveness. He was the only one who could save their lives from the wrath of God that they themselves deserved.

We also deserve punishment. We also need a Savior. We need mercy, not revenge. We need God’s grace. Agreed? 

Jesus, though I often want revenge, I pray for mercy and grace for all who have hurt me, just as you have given grace to me. Amen.

About the author — Reginald Smith

Dr. Reginald Smith is senior pastor at Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he has served for seventeen years. He has also served as a pastor in Paterson, New Jersey. He and his wife, Sharon, have three daughters, Janelle, Katrina, and Mariah.

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