By David Faust
We know heroism when we see it. We try to capture it with words like courage, bravery, pluck, gallantry, and daring. But no dictionary can fully describe the admiration we feel for the firefighter who races into a burning building to rescue a child or the nurse who devotes her life to serve the dying.
Heroism is rare, marked by uncommon valor and exceptional sacrifice. In a culture that idolizes athletes and turns TV stars into pop philosophers, true heroes stand out. They inspire us to aspire for better things.
Scripture portrays Jesus as a robust, rugged figure. Curious children, inquisitive young adults, and hardy men followed him, drawn by his fearless audacity. He stood up to spiritual bullies. He unmasked hypocrites. He threw corrupt merchants out of the temple. He burst the bubble of the pompous Pharisees, and dared to call King Herod what everyone knew he was—a cunning fox.
Bold Words and Daring Deeds
According to Luke 4, Jesus “went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom” (v. 16)—but this would be no ordinary gathering in the Lord’s hometown synagogue. He stood up to read Scripture, the attendant handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and the Lord unrolled it all the way to Isaiah 61—a passage filled with messianic implications: ”The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19).
With dramatic flair, “Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ’Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’” (vv. 20, 21). Jesus boldly claimed to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prediction about the Messiah, and at first the crowd received his message gladly. “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked” (v. 22).
But things turned ugly as Jesus’ Old Testament lesson continued. He told about the Sidonian widow in the days of Elijah who survived a famine by God’s intervention. He singled out Naaman the Syrian, whom God healed of leprosy in the days of Elisha. God’s graciousness to Gentiles was an unpopular message among nationalistic Jews, and the crowd reacted violently. “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff” (vv. 28, 29).
In less than 24 hours, Jesus went from honored to hated. In his hometown, with concerned family members looking on, his popularity quickly dissolved. Jesus’ neighbors tried to throw him off a cliff and kill him, “but he walked right through the crowd and went on his way” (v. 30).
I wish I knew more about what Jesus said there in Nazareth, and exactly how he escaped from the hostile crowd. But one thing’s for sure: Jesus acted heroically that day.
He always does.
1. Name three people you regard as heroes.
2. What actions of Jesus do you consider heroic?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for June 16, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
1 Kings 13, 14
1 Kings 15, 16
1 Kings 17, 18
1 Kings 19, 20
1 Kings 21, 22
2 Kings 1—3