When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, Jesus went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. 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 listeners’ minds were set afar off; they didn't expect anything to happen here and now. Cyril of Alexandria (375 – 444) wrote: “The Israelites used to say that the prophecies concerning the Christ were fulfilled either in the persons of some of their more glorious kings or in the holy prophets.” But they were unable to realise that what they were hearing was written about the man standing before them. About him they were only “wondering perhaps how he could read without having been taught,” wrote Cyril.
We think little of the present moment or the present place; and that rubs off on anyone who happens to be present. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Yet all great religious teachers keep emphasising the here and now. If nothing is happening here and now, nothing is happening, simply.
Imagine everyone who has ever sat in church listening to a preacher. They are encouraged by the readings to think about the past, and by the preacher to think about the future. A curate in my childhood used to preach all the time about the next life. The actual life of the village seldom got a mention. What happens to the present? It is somehow forgotten. The past cannot face the present, so it moves into the future.
It would be an interesting theme to follow up. Is the 'present' the same for everyone? Not really, I think. Imagine it this way. Someone in the village has climbed to the top of a tree and he sees a horse coming; while I, sitting at the foot of the tree, can't see it. The horse is still the future for me, but for the person at the top of the tree it is the present. The 'present' depends on where you are. Applying the image, we could say it depends on the level of your consciousness. For people with a low level of consciousness the present is almost non-existent; for Jesus it is an immensity. For his listeners the kingdom of God was about some distant future; for Jesus it was already being inaugurated: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
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