Luke 4:16-30—And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself. What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
After being baptized by John in the Jordan, tempted by the devil in the wilderness, and preaching in the power of the Spirit throughout Galilee, Jesus comes back to Nazareth, His hometown.
Nazareth was an all-Jewish settlement town established outside of Jewish territory. The thought when Nazareth (and other towns like it) was established was that eventually the Jews would have a strong enough presence to take back those regions. The people were very patriotic and religious, but they lived among the Gentiles.
Now, Luke has skipped over a large portion of what’s both Matthew and Mark cover. This scene of Jesus in Nazareth doesn’t come until Mt. 13. Jesus has been busy healing, casting out demons, and preaching. You get a sense of excitement from the people in Nazareth as Jesus returns home. Their excitement makes sense, if Jesus has been doing all of that for people who are strangers, what is He going to do for the people He grew up with?
We know there was a daily lectionary or pericope that was used in Jesus’ day. I tend to think that this was the appointed reading for the day; there’s no way to know for sure though. Jesus unrolls the scroll to Is. 61[:1-7], but He only reads v. 1 and the first line of v. 2. Is. 61:1-7 speaks about what the Messiah, the Christ, will do when He comes.
Residents of Nazareth loved this portion because it said that when God’s Messiah came the Gentiles, who were currently living around them, would do all the work. Strangers would tend their flocks; foreigners would be there plowmen and wine dressers. God’s people would be called priests and eat the wealth of the nations. God’s people would have everlasting joy.
It would almost be like Jesus coming here and reading Ps. 23, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death….” Some wonderful things are read, but some of the best parts got skipped. You would wonder, “What about the fearing no evil? What about that table that’s prepared before me? What about my had being anointed with oil, and my cup overflowing?”
Jesus the miracle-worker returns to His hometown, reads one of the people’s favorite passages but leaves out the good parts about God’s vengeance upon the Gentiles and the Gentiles doing the work while the Jews relax and enjoy a double portion. Then He its down and says, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. The Lord has anointed Me.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “I am the Messiah Isaiah spoke about. I am the Christ.”
As if this weren’t enough, Jesus then piles on the insults. He says, “I know you want me to do the miracles that I did at Capernaum. I know you don’t find Me acceptable here. You’ll reject Me; just like Elijah and Elisha were rejected by your ancestors.”
Of course, this did not sit well with the people of Nazareth. Jesus claims that they are rejecting one of their favorite passages of Scripture, so what do they do? They reject Jesus. How could He claim to be the Messiah? Where is all the good, tangible stuff, the miracles they can see and touch? Who cares about good news for the destitute and liberty for the captives?
They drive Jesus out of the synagogue, out of the town, and up a hill to the edge of a cliff. Just as they are about to throw Him off and stone Him by casting down boulders, Jesus, ironically, performs His miracle. He walks through the crowd and continues on his journey.
Jesus does the work of a prophet – He proclaims the Word of God and gets rejected. He continues to proclaim the Gospel, but it’s more than that. When Christ, the Word made flesh, speaks His words create. Jesus’ words cause the brokenness of this world to be restored. The reign of God is present wherever you find Christ.
Jesus continues to speak the Gospel of His rule and reign today. Now, I would not say this unless Scripture taught it: In what would appear to be a great folly, God has ordained and sent me to you today to speak His Word. The message that God gives you is, “I forgive you of your sins through Jesus Christ.”
Jesus continued the pattern of a prophet of God; He is a prophet and more than a prophet. He is the Christ. Jesus continued to proclaim God’s Gospel and get rejected.
Jesus left the hill outside Nazareth that day to journey to a different hill outside Jerusalem where Jesus was rejected by all humanity – by you and by me. Though He died on the cross, His death did not negate what His words created. In fact, just the opposite.
Jesus’ death rejected all of your enemies. Jesus releases you from your bondage to sin, death, and the devil, and He is your double portion Who restores you to harmony with God. As you hear this, it is the year of God’s favor – for you. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and forevermore. Amen.