Luke 11:27-32

While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!”

Sometimes it’s hardest to see the things right in front of us.

This is the practical import of Jesus’ rather indelicate and I’m guessing rather impromptu sermon. He starts off rebuking a woman who thought she was complimenting him – or at least complimenting his mother – and things go rapidly down hill from there.

Keep in mind, however, that he has just been accused of working for the devil, and this passage follows immediately on the heels of that exchange. In this context, he reminds the people of two times in Israel’s history when a foreign person or nation – in this case the Queen of Sheba and the people of Nineveh – turned to worship the Lord in response to their encounter with a representative of Israel.

The irony – and I suspect it was a bitter irony – for Jesus is that while people absolutely unfamiliar with the God of Israel turned in response to Solomon and Jonah, yet Jesus’ own people will not turn in response to the preaching and healing and ministry of the Son of Man.

Sometimes it’s hardest to see the things right in front of us. Familiarity, the saying goes, breeds contempt, and surely we value those things that are rare or foreign over the everyday. Think, for a moment, of the fuss we make over an eclipse while all but ignoring the sunsets we see every day that are far more beautiful.

But rather than join Jesus in his lament of that generation of Israelites, we might instead ask whether we often make the same mistake. What persons in our lives do we overlook and undervalue? And I don’t mean just those we count on but too easily take for granted – though surely we should recognize and thank them – but also those people who are difficult or challenging and feel like a burr under our saddle. For surely this was also part of their problem with Jesus – he made things difficult, challenging their conventions and overturning their ways. And yet God was at work through such disturbance to fashion a new people.

And so the next time a colleague, or a stranger, or a family member intruders into our neat, orderly world with demands and expectations, before rebuffing him or her or turning away in annoyance, perhaps we should ask if this person might – like Solomon, Jonah, and Jesus – be a messenger to us from the Lord.

Prayer: Dear God, grant us eyes to see in the people around us – familiar or unfamiliar, agreeable or disagreeable – those children who you also love and have sent to be a part of our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.