anointed, blind, captives, Christ, Elijah, Elisha, good news, gospel, Isaiah, Jesus Christ, liberty, Lord, mark, Matthew, Messiah, Namaan the Syrian, Nazareth, oppressed, persecution, poor, prophet, Scriptures, scroll, Sidon, sight, spirit, truth, widow, Zerephath
Luke 4:16-21 ESV
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. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“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,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
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. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
What an odd sermon! Jesus’s fame was spreading throughout Galilee and the surrounding countryside. He came to His hometown of Galilee, read from the scroll, sat down, and uttered one sentence: Today the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
Can you imagine a pastor in any church today reading a passage of the Bible, then preaching a one sentence sermon?
In this case, brevity truly was the soul of wit. Jesus read a clearly Messianic prophecy out of Isaiah, and proclaimed the words of the prophecy fulfilled. He was saying, loud and clear, “I am the Anointed One, sent by God to set you captives free and to help you blind men see. I am your long-awaited Messiah. Now is the time of God’s favor! Today is the day of salvation. Follow me.”
But the Nazarenes weren’t listening.
Luke 4:22 ESV
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?”
They still only saw Jesus as a good boy, Joseph’s son, who studied to be a distinguished rabbi, and had come home to give a cute little teaching in the synagogue. Wasn’t that precious?
Jesus put them in their place.
Luke 4:23 ESV
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.”
What had Jesus done in Capernaum? According to John 4:46-54, Jesus had healed an official’s son, and this was His second miracle. Jesus Himself was actually in Cana at the time, but the official had travelled from Capernaum seeking Jesus. The boy had been healed at Jesus’s word.
Now that He really had their attention, Jesus continued:
Luke 4:24-28 ESV
And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 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, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 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.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.
This was an especially offensive thing to say to devoutly religious Jews, who were proud of their heritage as God’s chosen people. Jesus told them that because they dishonored the prophets, God had sent their prophets to foreigners who had faith. Because of unbelief, in their time of need God had ignored Israel and ministered to faithful Gentiles. Essentially He was warning them, “Do you think I’m just Joseph’s kid? If you don’t take me seriously, I may as well go preach to the heathen!”
This was a harsh, but fair judgment against the Nazarenes. Mark recorded in his version of the same event, And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief (Mark 6:5-6a, ESV). Even the healing power of Jesus was restricted because they didn’t believe! The Nazarenes were just going through the religious motions, and lacked true faith.
Luke 4:29-30 ESV
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. But passing through their midst, he went away.
Jesus’s teachings were provoking violent reactions from the religious establishment already.
Often when people can no longer deny the truth of our message, they try to shut us up by any means necessary. We need to preach the truth all the more. Matthew records that Jesus said, Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:11-12, ESV).
So they persecuted Jesus, and so they will persecute all who preach the gospel. Don’t be afraid to speak God’s truth, no matter what the cost. Be fearless.
Philippians 1:27-28 ESV
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.