More aligned now than ever to what we believe is true, it doesn’t take much to be set off by issues dear to our hearts. After years of inhabiting pandemic-pressured lives, lines have been drawn that dare not be crossed. These boundaries, firmer than ever, leave us quite intolerant, insensitive, and reactive—a perfect environment for everyone’s buttons to get pushed. I don’t think any of us can say we are exempt from this shift of allegiance, especially in our closest relationships.
A BUTTON PUSHER FROM THE PAST
Intolerant, insensitive, and reactive—also an apt description of the atmosphere found in a small-town faith congregation one day long past. You may have heard this community’s story. One of their own, born and raised in their midst, returned home for a visit. As was the young man’s habit in childhood, he attended their weekly worship gathering and even participated in the reading of God’s word.
Handed a portion of Scripture, He chose a section with deliberate care. Standing, he read to those assembled—stopping short of reading to the end of the final sentence. Instead, he closed the document, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down.
The crowd murmured and marveled at this boy who had grown into a man they scarcely recognized, approving heartily of his reading. In fact, they could not take their eyes off him.
That is, until he spoke again, issuing words not met with such marvel, pushing their buttons beyond repair. Enraged by his declarations, they drove him out—not just out, but out with deliberate intention, to a steep drop-off, intending to throw him down and shut him up for good.
I’ve pushed some buttons in my time, both on purpose and on accident, but no one has ever tried to throw me off a cliff to silence me —at least that I’ve been told.
What became of the man, you ask? To the astonishment of all watching, he passed through the mass of people set to toss him down and went on his merry way unscathed! He declared truth to the people that day. A truth powerful even to kill.
Who was this king of button pushing, and what in the world did he say to make all these people so angry —angry enough to kill him?
You know his name. It’s Jesus. And I think you may even have a sense of what He declared that day when He spoke to the congregation. He claimed it was He the Scriptures spoke of, and He had come to fulfill them.
THE KING OF BUTTON PUSHING
He would continue to push buttons everywhere he traveled. So much so, that it would eventually lead to his demise—which, believe it or not, is good news for you and me.
The congregants of His hometown synagogue were lovers of their law, lovers of their land, and lovers of their religious practices. They would fight, even to the death, to keep what they believed was rightfully theirs—even if it meant casting a madman off a cliff.
They could not wrap their heads or hearts around the possibility that one of their own might be the promised messiah and thought he could deliver them from bondage. He did not fit their script. He did not match the image they had conjured of the coming King. And would you or I have thought any differently?
This encounter between Jesus and His hometown of Nazareth occurred not long after His baptism and time of temptation in the desert. He had just come from Galilee, where He preached and was well received by the people listening. And then, He returned to His hometown and went to the temple on the Sabbath.
“And he 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. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’” (Luke 4:16-19 NIV)
Perhaps if Jesus had sat down at this point without saying another word, things would have continued as a typical Sabbath day gathering. But He had more to say to those listening.
“And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 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?’ And he said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, Physician, heal yourself. What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.'” And he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away. (Luke 4:20-30)
Those listening knew Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah. But, He took it one step further by calling them faithless. The two stories he mentions speak of a rescue coming from outside the bounds of the Israelite nation in a season of great faithlessness among God’s people. A slap in the face and a complete rejection of what they viewed as their privileged position with God. No wonder they wanted to throw Him off a cliff. They could either believe and embrace Him or throw Him down and shut him up.
In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, former atheist and Christian apologist, said of Jesus and to anyone who thinks of Jesus as less than God or merely a good teacher, this one thing must be said:
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.
A BUTTON-PUSHING JUBILEE
That button-pushing day long ago in Nazareth was speaking to Jews who had spent generations waiting for restoration by God of all that was broken and held captive and the receipt of their inheritance from Him. Their ancestors tasted this in the form of the Year of Jubilee mentioned in the Old Testament book of Leviticus. (Leviticus 25)
Every 50th year on the Day of Atonement, a trumpet sounded. The trumpet blast declared freedom, releasing the enslaved and forgiving debts, including property to its family of origin. It was a Sabbath year, not just a day. The norm was a regular Sabbath, and every seven-year Sabbath to rest the land, but after seven years of seven, the 50th year was the year of rest.
The Jubilee marked the beginning of a life free from bondage! It was a reset, a bringing of equity to the people of God, and a reminder to them that they and all they possessed were Gods.
“Proclaim liberty throughout the land” (Lev 25:10) – that was everyone’s job for a whole year. But it was more. It foreshadowed the liberation to come through Jesus’ death on the cross.
Jesus, when He stood before His hometown congregation that day, declared He was the Messiah and the jubilee incarnate. Like a trumpet blast, his voice announced the time had come for the eternal jubilee to begin.
I’m sure the people in the synagogue were beyond confused by Him that day. They may have wondered why He stopped reading the verse “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” before the end of the text. The next half of the sentence? “…and the day of vengeance of our God”.
Jesus did not come to declare God’s wrath to the people. His earthly ministry would end with Him receiving the vengeance of God, satisfying it through His death on the cross, and offering the world forgiveness of sins with no strings attached.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17 NIV)
And the words He spoke from Isaiah were His words and, at that moment, declared His mission.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
This mission also belongs to His church—proclaiming God’s favor to the world. The word favor in Hebrew refers to a favor graciously given and not earned. That is what the Israelites of old needed and what we need every day. We cannot earn and do not deserve the favor of God. It is through Jesus alone that we are graced and proclaim His grace to a hurting world.
Stop trying to make others earn what you, yourself, were gifted. Jesus gives more than you can contain, so you can generously give it away.
Stop trying to make others earn what you, yourself, were gifted. Jesus gives more than you can contain, so you can generously give it away.Kim McGovern
Jesus being a button-pushing Jubilee is good news for us. He is the never-ending Jubilee in more ways than one.
- Bringing good news to the poor (Isa 61:1b)
- Binding up the brokenhearted (Isa 61:1c)
- Proclaiming liberty to the captives (Isa 61:1d)
- Opening the prison to those who are bound (Isa 61:1e)
- Comforting all who mourn (Isa 61:2b)
And it is good news for His bride, the church. At a time in our nation’s history when more churches are closing than are being planted and fewer people claim to hold a Christian worldview, Jesus continues to proclaim a season of God’s favor and eternal Jubilee for those who put their trust in Him. We, in Jesus, live in this perpetual Jubilee, forgiven and free as God’s beloved.
When we hear the declaration of God’s favor, we have two choices—will we embrace Him and experience His rest, or will we reject Him as His hometown congregation did?
When we place our trust in Jesus alone for salvation, we can rest in the truth that we are living in the year, season, and eternity of the favor of God. And as favored ones, we get to share that grace with all who will hear. Yes, this means we get to be grace-filled button pushers too.
Jesus is still pushing people’s buttons with his uncompromising truth today. Just as He spread the message indiscriminately beyond the Jewish people, we are to extend it to any in our path, proclaiming Jesus as our button-pushing Jubilee and the beginning of a life free from bondage!