It is perhaps a little mischievous to say that there only two occasions when Jesus was reported as having gone to the synagogue, and they both turned out to be a bit of a disaster.
The first time was immediately after he returned from his fasting in the desert; he read from Isaiah 61 and added the unfortunate suffix, given the context: ‘The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!’
And they were so offended that they dragged him out of the building in a determined effort to throw him off the top of a cliff.
The second time was when he found the temple overrun by traders and moneylenders. It might have looked like he lost his temper, kicking over the tables and sending piles of money and frightened animals and birds in all directions.
But no, read between the lines and it is clear that he was acting in a premeditated manner: ‘He made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the temple.
He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables’ - he made a whip, how long does it take you to do that?
But what was it that so enraged a bunch of normally respectable and presumably predictable church leaders that they appear to have made a serious attempt on his life? Well, he read Isaiah’s prophecy that foretold what the Messiah’s mission was to be, and that included,
‘To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.’
He was about to set people free, but freedom is anathema to the religious mind.
The word ‘despair’ means to be without hope. Isn’t that a fair description of vast multitudes in our world? And when you gaze upon the face of a mother cradling a child who is dying from malnutrition or diarrhoea, can you imagine what it might take for her to engage in ‘festive praise’?
And yet that is among the things he came to do.
Look at your circumstances today, look at the things in your life that cause stress and anxiety.
I look at mine, and can testify that what might lurk around the next corner could be worrying. But the key in there is that we tend to worry about things that might be lurking, but maybe not.
Churchill said: ‘When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.’
Jesus spoke about the tendency we have to be running up the street looking for troubles that might come our way tomorrow. That’s what he had in mind when he said, ‘... don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’
In other words, he will give us strength to deal with today’s problems today, but if our shoulders are bending under the weight of tomorrow’s anticipated difficulties, we’re on our own.
We need to learn to trust, don’t we? Listen to what the writer to the Hebrews said: ‘Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said: ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” You’d think that should be enough for us, wouldn’t you?