Jesus says, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:21)
He is talking about Isaiah 61:1-2 where it says, “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, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”
Luke 4:22 tells us, “Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips.”
The setting for these events was Nazareth, Jesus’s boyhood home.
Jesus was the subject of quite a bit of conversation. Luke 4:14-15 tells us:
14Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
The reports about him included His ministry in Capernaum and around the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Mark 1:45 tells us that he was so popular that he could not publically enter a town anywhere without instantly drawing a huge crowd. Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons and taught the Word of God with authority.
Now, He was in His hometown.
The people of Nazareth swelled with pride as they spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips.
They marveled at Him.
They said, “How can this be? Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
Jesus has just told them that He has been sent to proclaim the time of the LORD’s favor. However, the day is about to go sour. It will end badly.
Let’s jump to the end of the day.
28When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. 29Jumping 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, 30but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.
What could have turned the crowd so quickly? What did He say?
Luke tells us what Jesus said, and it does not seem that bad. However, when we analyze these few words of Jesus that turned the crowd, we will see something about the human condition. He confronts something so basic, so deep down, that we, as humans, will kill to protect it. It is tied to our pride, and it is evil. We all have it. We are born with it. It is part of what we call the sin nature. It is so pervasive that we are all its victims and its perpetrators.
I am talking about judging. The word prejudice fits, but it carries with it all the cultural baggage of our day. The word hatred would work also but it does not seem to be the starting point. At its core, this judging is tied to our pride.
It runs contrary to God’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves.
It keeps many people from coming to the Savior.
It is what kept the people of His hometown from coming to the Savior.
Jesus’s words confront the prejudice of the people of Nazareth. This prejudice concerns the person, the performance and the populace. We are going to consider each of these in turn.
First, Jesus confronts their prejudice in regard to His person.
It all starts with them knowing Jesus. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22)
They had seen Jesus on the street while He was growing up. They had seen Him with His family, in the synagogue, in the market and in Joseph’s carpentry shop. Therefore, they thought they knew Him.
Most of us hear of Jesus while growing up. We may have sung Sunday school songs about Him. We may have even watched the Jesus movie. But, do we know Him?
When we judge another person, we do it with very little information. How much do we really know about another person? James 4:12 says, “God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?”
We have to make up our minds about Jesus. Each one of us is confronted with the truth of who He is. We must choose to either accept or reject this truth. The thing most likely to keep us from seeing the truth here is our pride. We think we know more than we do, and so we do not investigate who Jesus is for ourselves.
The same is true when it comes to judging our neighbor. We think we know the person, but can we really know the other person? God’s law is that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.
We need to give up our preconceived notions concerning the person, and then move on to look at our expectations surrounding performance.
In Nazareth, Jesus could not overcome their expectations for His performance.
“You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’” (Luke 4:23)
The people of Nazareth had certain expectations. They expected Jesus to perform.
We expect Jesus to perform.
I have been guilty of wanting the miracles more than the miracle worker, wanting God’s gifts more than I want God.
What we want from Him is another thing that keeps us from the Savior. We come to Him with preconceived ideas or expectations of what we want. We do not come to surrender, but to get. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by coming to Jesus, but He does not perform according to our expectations.
This is true of other people as well.
This can be illustrated by cultural differences. One culture has the expectation that one should bow when greeting another person. Another culture has the expectation that one should shake hands. The person who bows will be offended by the one who sticks out his hand, and the person who shakes hands will be offended by the one who bows. Of course, we live in a world that understands these cultural differences so they are not much of a problem. However, these performance expectations are a huge problem in marriages, business relationships and race relations. We want or expect certain things from others and they do not give us what we want. Therefore, we judge them. They are rude. They are inconsiderate.
In Philippians 2:3-4 Paul says:
3Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
We should seek to love the person and have humility in regard to performance. There is one more concern that Jesus confronts. It is the populace.
We, as humans, tend to judge in large groups. We will judge the populace of an area. A person who lives in Kansas grows wheat. A person who grew up in Idaho grows potatoes. A person who grew up in the Middle East is a Muslim. A person who grew up in Russia is a communist.
In Nazareth, Jesus confronted this issue with two illustrations.
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. 26Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” (Luke 4:25-27)
In this context, Jesus is talking about the fact that He would not be accepted in His hometown. The people of His hometown had their opinions of His person and His performance and therefore were not willing to accept His role as Savior. Jesus points this out to them, and He would have remained their friend if He had not put His finger on the root of the problem.
The two incidents Jesus refers to involve Gentiles receiving blessings of God in preference to Jews. He was speaking to Jews. These people would not enter the house of a Gentile. They considered Gentiles unclean, impure, sinful dogs. This was so deep-rooted that at Jesus’s words they were furious, jumped up and mobbed Him.
He touched their pride. They thought they were better than others were. Jesus would not let them get away with this. Because of this, they tried to kill Him.
Pride still keeps many from Jesus. To come to Jesus, we must admit we are sinners. This stops many.
God loves Muslims and wants to save them.
To those who hate Muslims, this could be upsetting.
God loves homosexuals and wants to save them.
To those who hate homosexuals, this could be upsetting.
God loves Baptists, and wants to save them.
To those who hate Baptists, this could be upsetting.
As humans, we tend to think that we are better than others. The Pharisee believes he is better than the publican. The Democrat believes he is better than the Republican, and the Republican believes He is better than the Democrat. The straight person believes she is better than the homosexual, and the homosexual believes she is better than the straight person.
Of course, we all tell ourselves we are above this. We know better. However, pride is insidious. It cannot be rooted out except by the Spirit of God.
Romans 8:7 sums it up when it says, “For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.”
Seeing the violent reaction of the people of Nazareth can serve as a wake-up call to all of us. We need to ask God to free us from our pride. We should not recoil from anyone. We should reach out in love to everyone.
Our mission is to proclaim the time of the LORD’s favor. This Good News is for everyone without exception. There is no room for prejudice.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.