Nazareth’s Prophet Rejected
Written by Pastor Jim Dorman
1. Thoughts by Luke: Luke 4:16-31
“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 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, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
22 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.
23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ ”
24 “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 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. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 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.”
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 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 down the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.”
2. Passage Outline
I. Jesus Teaches in the Synagogue at Nazareth (vs. 16-27)
A. Jesus reads from Isaiah (vs. 16-20)
B. Jesus claims the passage Fulfilled (vs. 21-22)
C. Jesus claims no need for Miracles to substantiate His Authenticity (vs. 23-27)
1. States He will not Prove Himself (vs. 23-24)
2. States Elijah only went to one Widow (vs. 25-26)
3. States Elijah only healed one leper, Naaman (vs. 27)
II. The Attendee’s Response to the Teachings of Jesus (vs. 28-29)
A. They were filled with Wrath (vs. 28)
B. They led Jesus to the Hill to Execute Him (vs. 29)
III. Jesus’ Reaction to their Response (vs. 30-31)
A. He Passed through the Crowd (vs. 30)
B. He went to Capernaum and Taught on the Sabbath (vs. 31)
3. Information to Consider
Luke 4:16–22. “In a setting of universal praise, Jesus went home to Nazareth to preach. He followed his family’s normal habit and went to synagogue worship. There they repeated Deuteronomy 6:4–9; 11:13–21; Num. 15:37–41 (called the Shema), the central verse of Judaism, pledging allegiance to the one God. Next, they prayed, heard a passage read from the Pentateuch or Torah, then a passage from the prophets, a sermon, and a final priestly blessing. Jesus was given the honor of reading the scroll and then preaching. He read Isaiah 61:1–2. Then he claimed that the passage was fulfilled as they heard him read it.
This claim was too big for neighbors and friends to stomach! What delusions of grandeur. He says God’s Spirit has brought him to us. He has news that the poor, impoverished people have been waiting for. He is God’s anointed. Does that mean he thinks he is the Anointed One, the Messiah? People in prison, he will free. The blind he will make see. Our oppressed nation he will release from captivity and renew its strength. Today is the day. This is the year God will show favor and grace on his people. A young man from Nazareth can do all this? He can bring in the true Jubilee year when we release not only our slaves but also our nation from oppression and captivity (see Lev. 25:8–55)?
It sure sounds good. Nazareth can be proud of a young man who can make such a fine speech. Can you believe it? Joseph’s son doing so well? Wish he could really do all this, but you know him as well as I do!
4:23–27. Jesus knew the people’s hearts and thoughts. He also knew their traditions and could quote their proverbs—sayings preserved orally among the rural people without ever being reduced to writing. They told him to put up or shut up: “If you have such a calling from God, let us see you prove it.” Here they echoed Satan’s temptation to Jesus: “We will believe you and follow you if you do things our way.” Jesus sought faith in his word and in his person, not faith in miracles. The people felt slighted. They had heard of a ministry he performed in Capernaum—the significant military, trading, and commercial city of the area. Why not do the same at home for his friends and neighbors?
Jesus would not be reduced to a local side show attraction. He did things only when they were God’s will leading to God’s purposes for God’s kingdom. So Jesus had another proverb for them. He knew the fate of prophets as well as they did. Prophets receive honor only years after their death, and certainly not among the people who know them best. The Bible itself proves that. First Kings 17 shows how Elijah had to go up to Phoenicia to do his miracles and find faith. Naaman (2 Kgs. 5) was the only person with the horrible skin disease that Elisha chose to cure. Naaman was from Syria.
Yes, prophets often have to go far afield, even outside Israel—certainly outside their hometown—to do God’s work. Nazareth is not going to force Jesus to do God’s work when they have no faith in him. Yes, God can send the Messiah and see Israel reject him. God can take his message of hope and grace clear outside the chosen people Israel to Gentiles like the widow and Naaman.
4:28–29. Amazement turned to fury. Mob mentality took over. By brute force, the crowd forced Jesus to the brink of the cliff outside the city. They had every intention of throwing him down.
4:30. There was no miracle, no angels called down from heaven. Jesus just walked right through the crowd. His person was enough to quiet them. They had no response to his quiet self-assurance as he walked away, leaving them looking foolish, a collected mob without a victim. Rejection at home did not call forth desperate measures from him to win back the crowd. Rejection at home simply sent him elsewhere to do his mission. How far would that mission reach? Luke will eventually follow it to Rome, where Paul can preach about Jesus unhindered (Acts 28:31) even though Jesus could not so preach among his friends. Rejection is not the end of ministry.”
4. Question to Ponder
- What is the point behind, “Physician, heal yourself!”?
5. Author’s Comments
While there are many items to consider, within this passage, we are going to focus our attention on three which have often spoken to me during my ministry years.
The first is this phrase “went to the synagogue, as was His custom” (v. 16). Over the years I was in ministry, I cannot tell you the amount of times people have given me reasons why they did not need to attend weekend services. As our society, has moved toward an individual focus toward Christianity rather than a corporate experience, many have failed to understand the value Jesus placed on participating together in the worship and praise of God.
If anyone could say I have chosen to quit going to church because the “sermons are boring and do not feed me”, “the music is too hymn-like, folksy or rock-n-roll”, or the “church is too full of hypocrites”, it could have been Jesus, but He did not. Every time I find myself considering not attending a weekend service, I simply say to myself, “Jesus went to the synagogue ‘as was His custom’ and attending church will be my custom, as well”.
Secondly, this passages affirms the reality of God’s scriptural “Sign Posts”, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing …” (v. 21). With these words, Jesus declared Isaiah’s promise that God would someday send His Messiah had come true and He was the one God had promised.
Throughout my ministry and personal Christian life there have been seasons where doubts would begin to permeate my life, “What if what you are sharing is not true?”, “What if Jesus was not who He had claimed to be?”, or “What if the words of the Bible were not the revealed thoughts of God?”. While these were not the only thoughts that would come to mind, these and other thoughts would serve to initiate these seasons of doubts. When they did, I would find myself going through the lists of recorded OT prophecies and then affirming they had been fulfilled through events recorded in the NT. Following these seasons of review, I found myself being reaffirmed and my faith in God’s promises deepened and my faith maturing. To this day, reviewing God’s spiritual “Sign Posts” is essential in deepening my personal foundation in Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
Thirdly, this passage records the response of the those assembled in the synagogue when Jesus revealed His true nature, “all the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this …” (v. 28).
Often, I fail to remember our society’s natural response to God’s truth is not to embrace and celebrate, but rather they choose to reject and deride. For me, this is critical for me to respond rather than react when I experience rejection to the truths I find most dear in my life.
While it is important to be prepared to provide an answer for the hope we have in God, we must also be prepared to respond appropriately to those who choose to reject God’s truths or persecute God’s people.
6. Closing Prayer
Thank You for the opportunity to be one of Your children. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without Your presence and guidance in my daily earthly experience.
During our day, please deepen our desire to embrace our earthly family, grow in our understanding of Christianity’s spiritual “Sign Posts”, and prepare us to respond appropriately to those who deride us and persecute us for our Christian faith.
In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.
7. Answers to “Questions to Ponder”
- Jesus stated He knew He was expected to prove Himself to them in the same manner He had proved Himself in Capernaum. Jesus wanted them to know His Messiahship had already been confirmed through previous actions.