Updated: Feb 10
Luke 4:16-30 It is normal, not the exception that God’s word is met with apathy or rejection. Even Jesus, the very Son of God was met with rejection. He didn’t win them all. But nothing will stop him, not even rejection. Jesus tried. On doing his normal church routine, he went to synagogue. 16 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. Some traveling teachers were invited to read from the Old Testament Bible and preach a sermon. What would you have given to be in the building that day to hear Jesus preach? 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: Like us, he had appointed readings. Here’s what Jesus read. 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.” He read from Isaiah, what we know now as Isaiah 61:1-2. The effect was astounding. 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. There they waited in anticipation for how he would expand. What was the sermon? All we have is the theme. 21 And he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” In this summary of his sermon, Jesus was declaring or revealing himself to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior, for he claimed to be the one speaking through Isaiah 700 years before his birth. The evidence for the miracles he did should have proven it. Reactions? They certainly had favor for him, even amazement over his preaching. 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. The people were amazed but couldn’t get over that cute little boy Jesus they knew before. It seems this sermon was going well until... 23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!” Or in our modern phrasing “Don’t trust a skinny chef.” “Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” “Prove it!” If everything was going so well, why would he ruin it by challenging them? He said it because he knew their amazement wasn’t trusting in him as the Savior. He said what needed to be said. He wasn’t interested in their earthly friendship, he wanted to save them from sin. They chose not to see that type of Jesus. The ugly head of sinful nature revolted against all reason to oppose the Word of God. When they asked about Jesus being the son of Joseph, it was not to find out if it were so, but instead challenging if it were possible that Jesus could be the Messiah. In other words, “Isn’t Jesus just a local boy, how could he be the Christ? He is surly not the Messiah.” 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.” If only they believed, like Naaman and the widow of Zarephath, they would receive God’s blessings. After all, in each of the miracles cited, the two gentiles simply believed the prophets. Naaman had to take Elisha at his word that if he washed in the Jordan he would be cleansed of leprosy. He trusted and was cured. The widow at Zarephath had to trust Elijah that if she shared the last of her oil and flour, her supply of food would not run out until after the famine was over. She trusted and did not starve. Oh, how it must have pained Jesus that they rejected him. Nazareth’ population would have been about 400 around that time. Everyone knew everyone. Imagine, his own family, friends, and neighbors didn’t believe in him. The kids that grew up with him down the road. These were his friends with whom he ran and played games, the people that traveled with him and his family from Nazareth to Jerusalem every year for the annual sacrifices, the ones who watched him grow in wisdom and stature. Imagine how Jesus’ heart must have broken for these people, even his own family. Maybe we don’t reject Jesus as our savior, but do we always accept the messenger? How many good sermons have died in the gathering space or living room after church with our critiques? How many preachers have been prejudged before speaking, and their sermons have fallen on deaf ears because the hearers can’t get over a certain style or personality? Maybe you don’t push back on Jesus personally, but you don’t like one or more of his teachings. The teachings of the bible are so simply laid out that even a child can understand them. It is only when we grow older that we tend not to like or appreciate some. They are met with a “Yeah but…” It is wrong to divorce. “Yeah but you don’t know my marriage.” It is wrong to have sex or even hint that you are by cohabitating before marriage. “Yeah but we love each other.” It is wrong to give a group of Christians the impression that their false teaching on the bible is ok. “Yeah but I am trying to be loving.” Any rejection of God’s teaching is an attack on him personally because he gave it to us. This pains Jesus’ heart. Jesus cut through their hypocrisy. He was pointing out that there was something horribly wrong with their attitude, which of course meant that there was something horribly wrong with them. And they didn’t want to hear it, so they tried to shut him up. They tried to get rid of the guy who pointed out this inconvenient truth. They tried to silence their problem. 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. Before they had eyes of wonder and now they had a pitchfork gaze. 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. If you go to Nazareth today, they take you to a spot on a cliff where they think this was. If you glance down, you see the danger. Jesus would have been a bloody mess after tumbling down a set of jagged rocks to the bottom. His time had not yet come. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. They had no power over Jesus. Nothing they could do could stop Jesus. He walked right through the crowd to evade the murder. This wouldn’t be the last time. He walked through another crowd a few years later, that time carrying a cross. That time he wouldn’t try to escape death, but he went right to it. And what they didn’t know is that, just as before, they had no power over him. Nothing they could say or do could stop him or stand in his way from going to his death to save us. He didn’t walk away from our sin. He didn’t walk away from that ultimate murder. He walked right through the crowd carrying his cross…carrying our rejection…carrying our apathy…carrying our doubts…carrying our sins. He saved us. Rejection can’t stop Jesus. The people of Nazareth rejected Jesus and his Word, but that did not change the fact that on that day the prophecy was fulfilled in their hearing. Jesus persisted in speaking the Word of God, a message with authority. Love for the lost kept Jesus persisting. Jesus didn’t give up on his hometown. Jesus returned to Nazareth at the end of the Galilean ministry only to be rejected again. He didn’t give up on his family. He appeared to his brother James after his resurrection and converted him. James later went on to be a leader in the church and wrote a letter we still have in the Bible. Jesus would continue to work their salvation. Jesus went so far as to die for them, for you. Then he sent missionaries after he left to evangelize again and again to them. One of the early recorded evangelists was Epiphanius who went about 300 years later. Today, about 30% of Nazareth is Christian. God never gives up. He never gives up on you, even when you struggle against his teachers or teachings. He loves you. Our Savior has spoken. Time for us to get busy! Don’t give up. God never does.