We began the Lent series reading from Luke chapter 4:3 and we’ll read through Luke and the journey to the cross over the next 40 days. So far we’ve read about the 40 days that Jesus spent being tested in the wilderness, fasting as the devil assaulted Him with one temptation after another. After He triumphed over temptation He returned to Nazareth, taught in the synagogue, and read Isaiah 61:1 from Scripture. Let’s read about how Jesus, and his teaching, was received by those hearing it.
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.”
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, having just read from Scripture and beginning to fulfill prophecy, anticipated doubt or objections from those in the room. He expected that they would be pleased to hear His words, but that they would want Him to perform the miracles in their own town, for their own people. They expected their people to be healed, and to glean the benefits of His miracles- why should strangers and foreigners benefit?
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.’” (Luke 4:20-23)
Jesus explains that Nazareth will not be his home base because “no prophet is accepted in his hometown”. Familiarity breeds contempt. Matthew Henry writes “Christ declined working miracles, or doing any thing extraordinary, at Nazareth, because of the rooted prejudices they had against him there.”
“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.” (Luke 4:25)
Jesus refers to the two most famous prophets in the Old Testament, Elijah and Elisha, and draws parallels between their choice to show favor to foreigners rather than their own countryman, no doubt by divine direction. Jesus uses these examples to substantiate his decision not to do anything extraordinary in Nazareth (Adapted from Matthew Henry, commentary).
Do the men in the temple respect Jesus’ decision? Do they rally around Him and encourage His mission and His journey? Do they place value on the Old Testament prophecy He is fulfilling? Tomorrow read about Jesus persecution in Nazareth.
Can you relate? Have you tried to explain your position to others, quoted chapter and verse to substantiate that position, only to be met with disbelief, contempt, or persecution? Jesus experienced persecution at Nazareth to fulfill prophecy, and as a mile marker on the road to the Cross for our salvation. He experienced persecution so we would be assured that He understands what we are going through when it happens to us.
Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. (Hebrews 2:18)