Luke – Doors Wide Open
Rejection is hard unless you are rejected from wrong thinking and behaving. In our passage today, Jesus has delivered two unbelievable statements to the Jewish people in his hometown Synagogue.
1. The time has come to be delivered. I AM the One.
2. The doors of salvation will be open to all who believe.
Luke 4, NLT
Jesus Rejected at Nazareth
14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
22 Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
23 Then he said, “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ 24 But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.
25 “Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 And many in Israel had leprosy in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”
28 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. 29 Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, 30 but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.
Imagine hearing this for the first time! Let’s go to that time and place for understanding…
The events recorded in John 1:19—4:45 took place at this time, but Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not record them. They moved right into the Lord’s ministry in Galilee, and Luke alone reports His visit to His hometown of Nazareth. By now, the news had spread widely about the miracle-worker from Nazareth, so His family, friends, and neighbors were anxious to see and hear Him.
It was our Lord’s custom to attend public worship, a custom His followers should imitate today (Heb. 10:24–25). He might have argued that the “religious system” was corrupt, or that He didn’t need the instruction, but instead, He made His way on the Sabbath to the place of prayer.
A typical synagogue service opened with an invocation for God’s blessing and then the recitation of the traditional Hebrew confession of faith (Deut. 6:4–9; 11:13–21). This was followed by prayer and the prescribed readings from the law and from the prophets, with the reader paraphrasing the Hebrew Scriptures in Aramaic.
This was followed by a brief sermon given by one of the men of the congregation or perhaps by a visiting rabbi (see Acts 13:14–16). If a priest was present, the service closed with a benediction. Otherwise, one of the laymen prayed and the meeting was dismissed.
Jesus was asked to read the Scripture text and to give the sermon. The passage He read included Isaiah 61:1–2, and He selected it for His “text.” The Jewish rabbis interpreted this passage to refer to the Messiah, and the people in the synagogue knew it. You can imagine how shocked they were when Jesus boldly said that it was written about Him and that He had come to usher in the “acceptable year of the Lord.”
The reference here is the “Year of Jubilee” described in Leviticus 25. Every seventh year was a “sabbatical year” for the nation, when the land was allowed to rest, and every fiftieth year (after seven sabbaticals) was set apart as the “Year of Jubilee.” The main purpose of this special year was the balancing of the economic system: slaves were set free and returned to their families, property that was sold reverted to the original owners, and all debts were canceled. The land lay fallow as man and beast rested and rejoiced in the Lord.
Jesus applied all of this to His own ministry, not in a political or economic sense, but in a physical and spiritual sense. He had certainly brought good news of salvation to bankrupt sinners and healing to brokenhearted and rejected people. He had delivered many from blindness and from bondage to demons and disease. Indeed, it was a spiritual “Year of Jubilee” for the nation of Israel!
The problem was that His listeners would not believe in Him. They saw Him only as the son of Mary and Joseph, the Boy they had watched grow up in their own city. Furthermore, they wanted Him to perform in Nazareth the same miracles He had done in Capernaum, but He refused. That’s the meaning of the phrase, “Physician, heal thyself.” Do a miracle!
At first, they admired the way He taught, but it didn’t take long for their admiration to turn into antagonism. Why? Because Jesus began to remind them of God’s goodness to the Gentiles! The prophet Elijah bypassed all the Jewish widows and helped a Gentile widow in Sidon (1 Kings 17:8–16), and his successor Elisha healed a Gentile leper from Syria (2 Kings 5:1–15). Our Lord’s message of grace was a blow to the proud Jewish exclusivism of the congregation, and they would not repent. Imagine this hometown Boy saying that Jews had to be saved by grace just like the pagan Gentiles!
The congregation was so angry, they took action to kill Jesus! St. Augustine said, “They love truth when it enlightens them, but hate truth when it accuses them.” That applies well to many congregations today, people who want “gracious words” (Luke 4:22) but who don’t want to face the truth (see John 1:17).
In spite of the unbelief of the people in Nazareth, the Scriptures declared that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s Son, the Messiah sent to fulfill His promises. The people who do not want Him and who reject “the acceptable year of the Lord” will one day face “the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 61:2). How significant that Jesus stopped reading at that very place!
How do we reject Jesus today?
Pride and selfishness that leads to thinking we are the only ones going to heaven because of our religion, color of skin, heritage, country we live in, the bounty we have or have not, any ways of thinking that are not Jesus’ thinking.
Jesus is for all. ALL who believe and follow Him. Period.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I believe. I believe you are for all and in all who believe.
In Jesus Name, Amen