One gets the sense that the men of Nazareth had done this before. That throwing an impudent delinquent from the top of the cliff just outside their town, though perhaps not a weekly occurrence, was something familiar enough to them that they didn’t really have to hatch a plan. It just came to them in their rage as naturally as reaching in the night for a waiting object in a familiar place.
This, in any case, is a sure thing: Jesus is having a hard time with high places in the Gospel of Luke, chapter four.
Earlier in the chapter it is Satan himself who takes Jesus to a high place and tells him to throw himself off. “Seeing as you believe yourself to be God’s beloved Son, why not prove it beyond all doubt? Won’t God send his angels to catch you as you fall, just as the scriptures promise?”
And now, not thirty verses further, Jesus again finds himself at the edge of a precipice, this time with an angry mob at his back. “Seeing as we know you to be nothing more than Joseph’s son, the offspring of a poor day labourer and an offensive, obnoxious rabble-rouser to boot, we’ll give you your just deserts.”
Do you see what the Gospel writer is doing?
Sometimes we end up in a precarious place because of what we believe about ourselves: the identity or role we have latched onto, the dream we hold dear.
And sometimes we end up standing on the edge because of what others believe about us: boxing us in, not conceding that we have changed and grown since the last time they bothered to look at us.
In the first instance the temptation is to over-reach; to indulge a grand statement in word or deed, the purpose of which is nothing more than to prove ourselves. It is an act of self-aggrandizement, pure and simple.
The second temptation is to settle, to submit to the voices around us saying we will never amount to more than the constraints that our humble beginnings will allow, that our identity is anchored in our past, not our future.
When Jesus withstands the first temptation to throw himself from the top of the Temple, it is Satan who departs from him. When later he withstands the temptation to submit to the will of the crowd and be thrown from the Nazarene cliff, it is Jesus himself who departs, walking right through them.
The struggle to hold fast to a new found identity or purpose is often an internal one; the voices within urge us to make a statement, show our strength. When we choose instead the pathway of humility and patience, the voices dissipate.
On the other hand, the struggle to let go of our past is often a public event, involving those who knew us by a previous identity. When we finally reject their intentions to discredit and disgrace us, “go on our way” as Jesus did, we will have to face them and walk right through them.