Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Thoughts on Luke 4:14-30 (Rejection of Jesus)

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

When the Scripture says they praised him, it doesn't mean they praised Jesus the way we praise Jesus now.  Jesus was teaching with an authority and with a knowledge that no one had ever encountered before.  The people recognized this.  That is the kind of praise we are talking about here.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.  He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus is in his home town and goes to church (synagogue) because that's what Jesus does on the Sabbath.  He was given a scroll with the prophecy from Isaiah to read.  When he finishes reading it, he tells the people that this prophecy has been fulfilled.  It has been fulfilled not someplace far off in some future time.  Right now.  Your ears have heard it fulfilled.  In me.

Imagine if someone was to read the Scripture in church one Sunday that you knew to be a prophecy.  Now imagine that the person reading says they are the one the prophecy is talking about.  Now imagine the person reading it was your best friend.  You have known this person all of your life.  But this person is somehow the fulfillment of a prophecy?  How is this possible?  Is he crazy?  How can the guy who skinned his knee in your driveway be all that?!?  If you are all that, then prove it!  Well, that's more or less how the people reacted to him:

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.  Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.  I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.  Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.  And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed - only Naaman the Syrian.”

Jesus knew that they would want proof.  He knew they would want him to show off what they had heard he could do.  He says that no prophet is accepted in his hometown.  He reminds the people that the same was true of Elijah and Elisha.  Both of these were prophets that every Israelite would know about.  For Jesus to not only call himself a prophet, but to put himself in the same category as them was something that more than anger the people.  They would want to drag him out of town and kill him for saying something like that.

In today's terms, this would be like a fiery teenager calling himself a minister and comparing himself to Billy Graham and Max Lucado.  What would your church do if one of it's youth compared himself to Billy or Max?  I am pretty certain that it would not go well for that teenager.

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.  They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.  But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

Do you see that?  They were so angry with Jesus they were going to throw him off the cliff.  It wasn't enough to drive him out of town.  They were going to kill him!  What is wild is that he just walked right through the crowd and went on his way.  How did he just walk right through an angry mob intent on killing him?  How did he get away?  Jesus is the God-man, so why didn't he just give them the proof they asked for?  Why didn't he try to convince them?

Let's go back to our example of the teenager in church.  After saying what he did, the ears of the "adults" would be shut.  Nothing said after the fact would be heard.  There is nothing that Jesus could do to convince them of his true identity.  His time would be better spent saving, healing, and freeing those in need than arguing with these people.  They would learn the truth in due time.

What can we take away from this Scripture today?  How can it affect our lives?

For me, this is kind of a comforting story.  Jesus, the Son of God, was rejected by his home town and the place of worship that was always his, to the point that they wanted to kill him.  If Jesus was treated this way, why should any of us expect to be treated differently?  Yet Jesus did not spend time wallowing in grief or misery or depression.  If he did, the Scriptures do not tell us.  What we are told us that he went on his way and did the work set out before him.

If you are suffering for the sake of the Gospel, you are in good company.  You are not alone.

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