Luke 4:14-30 - EXEGESIS:
BACKGROUND (4:14-44): Luke's account of Jesus visit to the synagogue at Nazareth is based on Mark 6:1-6 (as is Matthew 13:54-58), but there are significant differences that transform Luke's account into a different story with a different purpose.
• Luke moves the Nazareth synagogue story to the beginning of Jesus' ministry, immediately following his baptism (3:21-22) and temptation (4:1-13). He does so for emphasis. Verses 14-44 serve as a paradigm (model) for Luke-Acts. Like an overture to a musical work, they introduce themes on which Luke will expand later, telling us what to expect from Jesus and the early church. In particular, Luke emphasizes Jesus' empowerment by the Holy Spirit (v. 14), the importance of his teaching ministry (vv. 15-30), and his miracles (vv. 31-44).
• Luke adds the quotations from Isaiah. These verses announce the nature of Jesus' ministry and set the tone for Luke-Acts. Jesus' preaching in Luke has a different emphasis than in Mark, where he says, "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News" (Mark 1:15). In Luke's version of this synagogue story, Jesus does not call people to repentance. However, he will have much to say about repentance elsewhere in this Gospel (5:32; 13:3, 5; 15:7; 16:30; 17:3; 24:47).
• Then Luke adds the favorable mention of the widow at Zaraphath (1 Kings 17:8-16) and Naaman the Syrian (1 Kings 17:8-16; 2 Kings 5:1-19)-righteous Gentiles of the Old Testament (vv. 22-30). This emphasizes, at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, God's openness to Gentiles. This favorable mention of Gentiles offends the hometown crowd and leads to an attempt on Jesus' life-preparing us, at the beginning, for the continuing opposition to Jesus and his eventual crucifixion.
• Then Luke tells of the exorcism of a demon (vv. 31-37) and healings at Simon's house (vv. 38-41)-miracles that complement his teachings.
• Then Luke tells of Jesus proclaiming good news in the synagogues of Judea (vv. 42-44)-thus forming an inclusio (a bracketing that marks the beginning and ending of a section) with the Nazareth synagogue story (vv. 16 ff.). Green points out another inclusio-vv. 16a and 30-Jesus' entry into and departure from Nazareth (Green, 208).
In summary, this section re-emphasizes Jesus' empowerment by the Spirit (v. 14; see also 1:35; 3:22; 4:1). It then introduces his teaching (vv. 15-30) and his miracles (vv. 31-44), two primary components of his ministry. It introduces his concern for the vulnerable (vv. 18-19) and his openness to Gentiles (vv. 24-28)-themes that will permeate this Gospel. His short sermon at Nazareth (vv. 18-21) thus serves as his mission statement-given further impetus by his comment at the end of the chapter, "I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other cities also. For this reason I have been sent" (v. 43).
LUKE 4:14-19 JESUS PUBLIC MININSRY
14 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. 15 And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. 16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, 19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD."
"Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit" (v.14a). Luke has told us that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (1:35)-and that Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied of Jesus that God "has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David" (1:69)-and that the Holy Spirit rested on Simeon as he held the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God for allowing him to see God's salvation (2:27-30)-and that the Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism (3:21-22)-but he now deems it important to remind us once again that Jesus' ministry is Spirit-powered.
"into Galilee" (v.14b). Galilee, the northernmost province of the Jewish people, has been at the forefront of this Gospel from the beginning. It was in Galilee that the angel told Mary that she had found favor with God and would bear a son whom she would name Jesus (1:26ff.). Joseph and Mary went from Nazareth of Galilee, where they were living, to Bethlehem to be enrolled in the census (2:4ff.). Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Galilee after Jesus' birth (2:39). Luke tells us that Herod was the ruler of Galilee (3:1). Galilee is significant because of its insignificance. Jesus did not grow up in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life and religious practice. Instead, he grew up in Galilee, the hinterlands, a place where many Gentiles live-a nowhere place as far as the religious elite are concerned. He will carry out the major portion of his ministry in Galilee. Luke will note that the women who observe Jesus' crucifixion and burial are from Galilee (Luke 23:49; 23:55).
"and news about him spread through all the surrounding area" (v. 14c). This is the first of several reports of people being amazed by Jesus and his growing fame (4:32, 36-37; 5:15; 7:17; 9:43).
"He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all" (v. 15). Jewish worship takes place at the Jerusalem temple and at synagogues in each community. Temple worship focuses on ritual and sacrifice; synagogue worship involves prayers, scripture readings, and teaching. For most Jews, temple worship is something that they experience, at best, a few times a year. Many Jews can only hope to make one Jerusalem pilgrimage in their lifetime. Local synagogues meet their need for regular worship. The synagogues placed less emphasis on ritual and more emphasis on teaching spiritual values. Synagogues strongly influenced early Christian worship. This verse makes it clear that Jesus' ministry was well underway before he visited his boyhood hometown synagogue in Nazareth. We don't know which synagogues he had visited or what he had taught, but a comment later in this sermon tells us that he has done impressive work in Capernaum, his hometown as an adult (4:23).
"He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up" (v. 16). Matthew tells us that, early in his adult life, Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum (Matthew 4:13), so his visit to Nazareth is just that-a visit. However, it is the visit of a hometown boy made good. Some people will be proud of him-others curious-others dismissive or jealous.
"He entered, as was his custom, into the synagogue on the Sabbath day" (v. 16a). Luke establishes Jesus' deep rootedness in Jewish religious tradition and his faithfulness to the synagogue and Sabbath observance. The center of Jewish worship historically was the temple in Jerusalem. However, during the Babylonian Exile and the Diaspora (the geographical scattering of the Jews), Jews established local synagogues so that they might worship regularly. While the emphasis of temple worship was animal sacrifice, synagogue worship focused on teaching and prayer.
"as was his custom" (v. 16a) is a phrase pregnant with preaching possibilities. With the circumcision, purification and presentation in the temple (2:21-24) and the annual visits to the temple (2:41-51), Luke has established that Mary and Joseph were observant of Jewish religious traditions. They surely raised Jesus from infancy in the synagogue, connecting him with Jewish tradition in a way that made the synagogues a natural starting place for his ministry. Their faithfulness in raising Jesus within this tradition helped to shape the person that he was, and is an important part of our salvation history.
Jesus' lifetime immersion in the synagogue has already paid dividends. Earlier in this chapter, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. He responded to the tempter, "It is written!" He had learned the scriptures in the synagogue, and they became his sword and shield when confronted by the devil. There is an important lesson here. All of us have wilderness experiences, whether temptation, grief, or some other adversity. Wilderness experiences seldom telegraph their coming-we cannot expect a week to prepare. Their outcome will depend on the state of our readiness at the moment that the challenge comes. In some cases, our very lives-spiritual and physical-will be at stake.
▪ Mary and Joseph provide an excellent model for us to follow in raising our own children. Parents who bring newborn babies to worship in plastic infant carriers do a good work. They come to church against the odds, because it is not easy to get themselves, the baby, and the necessary paraphernalia ready for church. During worship, the baby will sometimes distract the mother. Parents are tempted to ask if it is worth it, but great oaks from tiny acorns grow. Parents who worship regularly give their children great faith-advantage. The baby who becomes accustomed to church in infancy is likely to enjoy strong faith as an adult.
"and stood up to read. The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him" (v. 16c-17). This is our oldest detailed account of synagogue worship. The language would be Aramaic, the language of ordinary Jewish people during Jesus' lifetime. A portion of the Torah would be read in Hebrew, and a Targum or explanation would be given in Aramaic, followed by a reading from the Prophets with explanation. Other elements of worship would include the recitation of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:49), the Eighteen Benedictions, a psalm, and a benediction (Evans, NIBC, 73; Bock, 88; Stein, 155)
▪ There is some question whether Jesus follows a lectionary or selects his own text. There is some evidence that the Law is read in a cycle, but that the reader chooses the reading from the Prophets (Gilmour, 90). "He...found the place where it was written" (v. 17) sounds as if Jesus chooses his own reading.
In the synagogue, there is no professional clergy. The president of the synagogue invites someone to comment on the scriptures. While the people are more biblically literate than most churchgoers today, most commentary would probably be rote recitation of lessons learned in synagogue school. The main question would be whether the reader will get it right. The main suspense would be whether someone will have to correct him. When Jesus speaks, it is a very different experience, because he speaks with authority (4:32).
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me" (v. 18a; see also v. 14). Jesus quotes primarily from Isaiah 61:1-2. The phrase "recovering of sight to the blind" is not quoted directly from the Old Testament, but appears to be inspired by Isaiah 35:5 or 42:7. The phrase, "to deliver those who are crushed," is from Isaiah 58:6. Jesus omits Isaiah 61:2b, which speaks of "the day of vengeance of our God," because the emphasis of his Nazareth homily is salvation, not judgment. Judgment will come later.
"he has anointed me" (v. 18). Jesus was anointed at his baptism, where the Spirit descended upon him like a dove and the voice from heaven said, "You are my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased" (3:22).
"to preach good news to the poor" (v. 18b). Is Jesus talking about spiritual or economic poverty? He is almost certainly talking about outsiders, people of low status, vulnerable people-whether their problems stem from economic poverty or other causes. Jesus has a mission to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed, categories that indicate the breadth of his concern for people in need.
"to proclaim release to the captives" (v. 18c). Luke illustrates what this means by the first of Jesus' miracles in this Gospel-the cleansing of a man possessed by a demon (vv. 31-37). While we tend not to believe in demons today, we are confronted daily with stories of demonic behavior. Captives would also include people imprisoned for debt, another outgrowth of poverty.
"recovering of sight to the blind" (v. 18d). In this Gospel, Jesus will restore the sight of blind people (7:21-22;18:35-43), and will also tell prideful people to "ask the poor, the maimed, the lame, or the blind" to come their banquet table (14:13).
▪ Jesus' interest is not limited to physical sight, but encompasses spiritual vision as well (6:41-42; 7:44; 8:16; 9:27; 10:23; 11:33; 12:54-56; 17:22; 21:27-31). Later, Jesus will give Saul/Paul his mission-"to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26:18-also written by Luke). The emphasis in that verse clearly has to do with spiritual vision.
"to proclaim release to the captives" (v. 18e). Is it too much to say that only those who have experienced oppression can fully appreciate what it means to be free? Archbishop Desmond Tutu who grew up under apartheid in South Africa says, "There's nothing ever to equal being free. You can't put a money value to being free, to be able to wake up in a country and not have to say, 'Do I have my pass on me?' 'Am I allowed to go there?' 'Can I take my children to that school?'" He tells of walking past a playground with his daughter and having to stop her from playing on the swings. She would protest, "But there are other children there." He says, "You got quite sick having to say, 'Yes, there are other children there, but they are not quite children like you'" (Tunku Varadarajan, "The Archbishop," The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 30-31, 2006).
"and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (v. 19). Isaiah wrote these words originally as encouragement for Jewish people in exile. The salvation of which Isaiah spoke is now to be found in Jesus (Fitzmyer, 533).
▪ The acceptable year of the Lord could refer to the Jubilee year. The Torah requires Jewish people, every sabbath year, to let their land lie fallow, to forgive debts, and to free slaves (Exodus 21:1-6; 23:10-11; Deuteronomy 15:1-18). The Jubilee year is a sabbath-sabbath year-seven times seven years. The Torah requires Jewish people, in the Jubilee Year, to return ancestral lands to their historic owners (Leviticus 25:8-17). With this requirement, God showed his concern for people at the lower end of the economic spectrum. These provisions are designed to reduce the disadvantage of the poor-to insure that the wealthy cannot accumulate all the land and consolidate all of the power. It is a provision that should gladden the hearts of anyone in need, but "the year of the Lord's favor" suggests that the opportunity is time-limited. They/we must accept grace while it is available.
▪ These Isaiah verses give Jesus his commission-his mission statement-his guiding beacon. Isaiah 61 is a servant song, and proclaims that the Messiah will bring relief to the disenfranchised. It is also the church's commission. Throughout Luke-Acts, we will see Jesus and the church bringing good news, proclaiming release, restoring sight, and freeing the oppressed. It is also our commission. Jesus calls his church to love the unlovely and to serve the undeserving. It is not a comfortable discipleship.
▪ The good news is not the exclusive possession of the poor, the blind, and the oppressed. They will, however, hear the Gospel more gladly than others, because they have much to gain and little to lose. The status quo has no hold on them. The rich, the powerful, and those who perceive themselves to see clearly, will not be nearly as receptive. They will, in fact, be the ones who kill Jesus. In this Gospel, Jesus will speak often about rich people (1:53; 6:24; 12:16-21; 14:12-13; 16:1-9; 16:19-31; 18:18-25; 19:1-10; 21:1-4). With the exception of Zacchaeus (19:1-10), such references are negative. Jesus will warn: "For it is easier for a camel to enter in through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God" (18:25).
▪ As we read these words from Isaiah, we must remember that poverty, captivity, and blindness have both physical and spiritual dimensions. It is bad to have an empty wallet, but worse to have an empty soul. Captivity is terrible, but Bonhoeffer and others have shown that it is possible to remain free in the midst of horrific confinement. Athletes and actors, struggling to free themselves from drugs, manifest true slavery. Helen Keller was blind from infancy, but her words and actions demonstrate a clear vision that sees to the very core of life.
▪ These verses from Isaiah hold promise, not only for the poor, but also for all Jewish people. Roman soldiers are garrisoned in their land to insure that Roman law is honored and Roman taxes are collected. The Jewish people are not in a position to chart their own course or to determine their own destiny. With regard to political power, the nation is poor, captive, and oppressed. They desperately need the salvation that Jesus promises.
▪ However, the people of Nazareth will reject Jesus' gospel because his vision extends to Gentiles as well as Jews (vv. 22-30). Jesus has come to restore the sight of the blind (v. 18), but the people of Nazareth insist on preserving their narrow vision.
LUKE 4:20-21. TODAY, THIS SCRIPTURE HAS BEEN FULFILLED
20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
"and sat down" (v 20). In the synagogue service, people would stand to read the scriptures and sit to teach.
"Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (v. 21). Jesus' preaching begins with the word "Today."
▪ This is one of the world's shortest sermons, but it packs lots of punch. The people of Israel have waited for centuries for the fulfillment of promises that God made throughout their history, beginning with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). Now Jesus declares that the wait is over-that the day has come-that the promises are fulfilled-that salvation is nigh! This is indeed good news (v. 43).
▪ The fulfillment of this scripture began with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus but continues in the life of the church today. All over the world, the church is bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives, helping the blind to recover their sight, helping to free the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor (vv. 18-19). Whether championing human rights or providing relief funds for hurricane victims or drilling a well for the people of a primitive village or training indigenous people for ministry, the church is helping Jesus to fulfill what he identified in these verses as a core part of his mission.
NOTE ON LUKE 4:14-30 - JESUS' VISIT TO THE NAZARETH SYNAGOGUE: The common lectionary divides the story of Jesus' visit to his hometown synagogue: • Verses 14-21 (Epiphany 3C) tell of Jesus' initially favorable reception and his reading from the scroll of Isaiah. • Verses 21-30 (Epiphany 4C) continue Jesus' remarks and record the hostile response of the congregation.
Luke places this story at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry, not because of concern for chronology, but because this story is a paradigm for Jesus' ministry and for the ministry of the church in the book of Acts (also written by Luke). It is the story of Jesus and the early church writ small so we might see it at a glance.
LUKE 4:21-24. TODAY-SCRIPTURE FULFILLED!
21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." 22 And all were speaking well (Greek: emarturoun auto-testifying or bearing witness to him) of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, "Is this not Joseph's son?" 23 And He said to them, "No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.'" 24 And He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.
"Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (v. 21). Jesus' preaching begins with the word "Today." The prophets conveyed promises for the future, but Jesus conveys promises for today. The waiting is over. The time has come. The Spirit of the Lord is upon Jesus now. He brings good news to the poor today. He proclaims, at this very moment, release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. He has already begun to let the oppressed go free to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor (v. 18). In this Gospel, Jesus will speak on several occasions of the kingdom of God as being already present (11:20; 16:16; 17:20-21).
▪ The Jewish people have waited centuries for the messiah. They have seen God work miracle after miracle throughout their history, from the parting of the Red Sea to the incineration of the prophets of Baal, so we would expect them to be ready to receive the messiah -but we would be wrong. As we will see in this Gospel lesson, they are anything but ready. It has been four hundred years since they have seen a prophet, except for John the Baptist who is now preaching in the wilderness, and they don't expect today to be the day. It has been a long time-centuries-since God promised a messiah, and they have grown weary of waiting-like a guard fallen asleep at his post. Jesus says, "TODAY this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." TODAY! But they aren't ready today! They begin by speaking well of Jesus (v. 22), but almost immediately turn on him and try to kill him (v. 30).
▪ This story should be instructive to us. Jesus has promised to come again. It has been a long time since he made that promise, and our guard is down-we have grown weary of waiting. The day will come when Jesus will announce, "TODAY!"-and everything will hinge on our readiness to receive him.
"All testified about him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth, and they said, 'Isn't this Joseph's son?'" (v. 22). Some scholars think of this comment as negative. Who does Jesus think he is? Has he gotten too big for his britches? The reference to Joseph could point to the embarrassing circumstances of Jesus' birth. Matthew 13:54-56 and Mark 6:2-3 reinforce this by characterizing the people's response as negative from the beginning. However, in Luke's telling, this hometown crowd "wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." It seems that they are surprised at the kid from down the block who has begun an exciting work and whose presence now fills their pulpit.
"Isn't this Joseph's son?" (v. 22b). Green characterizes this as a "subtle joke between narrator and reader, (because) we (Luke's readers...)... know that Jesus is Son of God, not son of Joseph; he comes to fulfill the purpose of God, not to be restricted either by the demands of the devil (4:1-13) or, now, by those of his own townspeople" (Green, 215).
"Doubtless you will tell me this parable, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done at Capernaum, do also here in your hometown'" (v. 23). Luke has not yet reported on the things that Jesus did in Capernaum, but instead has Jesus going to Capernaum immediately after this visit to Nazareth (vs. 31). However, as noted above, Luke places the story of Jesus' visit to Nazareth earlier than do either Mark or Matthew because his interest is emphasis rather than chronology. Matthew tells us that Jesus left Nazareth "and lived in Capernaum, which is by the sea" at the very beginning of his ministry, even before he called his disciples (Matthew 4:13). Mark has him teaching and working miracles in Capernaum at the very beginning of his ministry (Mark 1:21-34). John has him going to Capernaum immediately after working his first miracle in Cana (John 2:12). It seems almost certain that, by the time Jesus addresses the Nazareth congregation, he is living in Capernaum rather than Nazareth.
▪ Jesus' comment makes it clear that he has done wonderful things in Capernaum, and the hometown folk expect him to do at least as much for them. It is a call for Jesus to match his "gracious words" (v. 22) with great deeds. Capernaum has many Gentiles among its population and is thus (in Jewish minds) less deserving.
▪ Now that Jesus is among his own people-God's people-Nazareth expects great things of him. In context, the phrase "Physician, cure yourself!" (v. 23) appears to mean, "If you were able to heal the undeserving people of Capernaum, you should be able to do even better for your own people." It is a call for loyalty to the in-crowd. At the cross, scoffers will respond to Jesus in much this same way. They will jeer, "He saved others. Let him save himself, if this is the Christ of God, his chosen one!" (23:35).
"Most certainly I tell you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown" (v. 24). Jesus cannot accept the narrowing of his mission that the people of Nazareth would impose on him. He cannot reserve his generosity for hometown folk. He cannot devote himself to the local arena. Instead, he must tell these hometown folk a truth that they do not want to hear, and he can predict their response. They are not going to be happy. Indeed, Israel has a long history of rejecting prophets (2 Chronicles 36:16; Jeremiah 2:30; Amos 2:12; Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34; 1 Thessalonians 2:15; Hebrews 11:32 ff.). Prophets are seldom popular, because God sends them to say unpopular things. They tell of judgment and call people to make changes that they don't want to make.
LUKE 4:25-27. THERE WERE MANY WIDOWS IN ISRAEL
25 But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian."
"But truly I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah...Elijah was sent to none of them, except to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow" (vs. 25-26). This story from 1 Kings 17 would be familiar to this crowd. In the midst of a life-threatening drought, God sent Elijah to Zarephath to ask a poor widow for water and bread. She protested that she had just enough for one loaf for herself and her son, and then they were going to die. Elijah asked her to obey in faith, promising, "The jar of meal shall not empty, neither shall the jar of oil fail, until the day that Yahweh sends rain on the earth" (1 Kings 17:14). She responded as requested, and was duly rewarded. Later her son died, and Elijah prayed successfully that his life might be restored. There is only one problem with this lovely story. The widow was a Gentile. The people listening to Jesus would know that.
"There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed, except Naaman, the Syrian" (v. 27). This story from 2 Kings 5:1-14 is equally familiar, but subject to the same flaw-Naaman was also a Gentile. Jesus' mention of Naaman must be especially galling to this Nazareth crowd, because Naaman was a Syrian army commander, and the mention of his name would bring to mind the Roman soldiers who now occupy Israel.
▪ Luke already reported John's warning to the Jewish crowds in the wilderness, "Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and don't begin to say among yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father;' for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones!" (3:8). The Jewish people must not consider their relationship with God to be an exclusive franchise. Jesus reinforced that message by beginning his work in Capernaum (see Matthew 4:13), a place where many Gentiles live. The Nazareth crowd has not yet rejected Jesus, because they expect that he will do even more wonderful things in Nazareth. Now, however, he speaks clearly and decisively, drawing from their own scriptures to dash their expectations. They cannot expect exclusive privileges just because they are Jewish.
LUKE 4:28-30. THEY WERE ALL FILLED WITH WRATH
28 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.
"They were all filled with wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things" (v. 28). Jewish people think of Isaiah 61:1, which Jesus quotes at Nazareth (vv. 18-19), as a promise to Israel-that the messiah will bring good news to oppressed Israel, will bind up the brokenhearted of Israel, and proclaim liberty to captive Israel. They think of the phrase, "the day of vengeance of our God" in Isaiah 61:2-which Jesus did not include in his quotation-as promising judgment on Israel's enemies. In other words, they expect the messiah to deliver Israel and to wreak vengeance on Israel's enemies. However, Jesus reminds them of a low point in their history, when God brought famine on Israel as a judgment but saved a Gentile widow. Jesus also reminds them of God's mercy on Gentile Naaman. His message is the opposite of the one that they expect to hear, and they are furious. We should not judge them too harshly, however, because we, too, are easily angered when someone tells a truth that we don't want to hear.
"They rose up, threw him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill that their city was built on, that they might throw him off the cliff" (v. 29). This could be a stoning procedure-accomplished by pushing a person over a cliff or into a low place so that the crowd can stand above and throw stones. Leviticus 24:14 required such stonings to take place outside of town (see also Acts 7:58; 14:19). Stoning is appropriate for a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1-11). However, it is also possible that the crowd is simply functioning as an enraged mob with no agenda other than venting rage and eliminating its source. As stated above, this story is a paradigm for the rest of Jesus' ministry-and also for the ministry of the early church in the book of Acts. It prepares us for:
"But he, passing through their midst, went his way" (vs. 30). Luke will tell other stories of miraculous escapes:
Perhaps we could summarize by saying that, when a person responds faithfully to God's call, God will not allow interlopers to thwart that call. That falls short of total protection. God's servants have been imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, beaten, and even martyred-but they have not been stopped.
Luke 4:14-30 - ADDITIONAL NOTES
COMMENT ON POPULARITY: being popular is not necessarily a bad thing. Wanting to be popular is not a bad thing. But we must always watch very carefully who we are trying to be popular with, and what we are doing to become popular. To keep popularity in context, we must always focus on being popular with God first and foremost. We must always please him above everybody else. We must make sure that we do what He wants the way he wants it done rather than do what people want the way they want it done. Whatever we do, think or say, it doesn't matter too much what other people think about it. The only thing that really matters is what God things. We should always be asking ourselves one question: "Am I being faithful to God?"
Jesus is the perfect example of this. He set out in His earthly ministry to please God rather than men. Previously in Luke, we looked at Luke 4:14-15. There we learned about Christ's first year of ministry, and during that time, He did gain some popularity. But now, in Luke 4:16-30, Jesus puts that popularity in context. In Luke 4:16-30, Jesus' popularity with people comes into conflict with His popularity with God, and so Jesus has to make a choice between the two. This all begins to develop in Luke 4:14-15. We looked at these two verses earlier, but just for context, let us look briefly at them again. We see in Luke 4:14-15 Jesus' preaching and popularity.
1. Jesus' Preaching and Popularity (Luke 4:14-15)
Luke 4:14-15. 14 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. 15 And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.
As Jesus went about preaching in the power of the Spirit, we see in these verses that news of Him spread and He was being glorified by all. Jesus was gaining in popularity because of His teaching. People were talking about him over dinner. Rather than talk about what was happening on their favorite television show, they were talking about what Jesus was teaching. People wanted to be with Him. They wanted to hear Him. He was gaining quite a following. He was growing in popularity.
• Now remember, Luke 4:14-15 summarize a whole year of ministry. During that year, Jesus had performed some miracles, he miraculously fed a lot of people, he healed some others, he preached some parables in the countryside, and as we read there in Luke 4:15, He taught in their synagogues. Every week, Jesus could be found in a local synagogue, a local church, teaching the Word of God to those who had gathered to hear it. It is all of these things together that gained Him His popularity, and it will be all of these things which will later make enemies for Him also. But it is His preaching that makes enemies the quickest.
• Everybody loves a good miracle. You'll bring in the crowds for a free meal. Interesting stories and parables never offended anybody. But when you open up the Word of God and teach it, when you state the uncompromising, simple and clear message of God's Word, when you preach the Bible, people begin to get upset. This is what happened with Jesus.
• On this particular Sabbath, He goes to His home town of Nazareth to preach the Word, and He preaches a message from the book of Isaiah. He tells them that this prophecy from Isaiah is fulfilled in Him.
2. Isaiah's prophecy fulfilled (Luke 4:16-21)
Luke 4:16. 16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.
Luke 4:16 says that it was His custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath to teach the Word. The synagogues, you remember, were like a Jewish church. They only needed ten men to faithfully attend and support a synagogue in order to start one, so nearly every town had at least one synagogue. Some of the larger cities had quite a few synagogues. For example, Jerusalem had over 400 synagogues at the time of Christ.
• The main purpose of the synagogues was for the education of the people in the truths of God's Word. When they gathered, they basically did only two things, they prayed and they taught the Bible. They gathered at least three days a week - on the Sabbath, which is Saturday, and then also after work on Monday and Thursday. The goal of all three meetings was to teach the entire Word of God. On the Sabbath, they taught the Bible in such a way so that the Pentateuch, which is what we call the first five books of the Bible, was taught straight through every three and a half years. Generally the selection for the day was divided up into at least seven sections, and each passage was assigned to a different men.
• During the service, the man would stand up and read the text, then sit down and explain the text. And as I said, there would be at least seven of these sermons. You say, "They must have been short, if there were seven sermons." No, actually, they didn't have short sermons, they had long services. The Sabbath day was for rest and reflecting on God's Word. And so, the services could take up much of the day. Now sometimes, if they had time, along with the study of the Pentateuch, they might take some time to study additional passages of Scripture that were related to the passages from the Pentateuch they had studied that day.
• This is why Jesus, when He teaches on this Sabbath, is teaching from Isaiah. Look at Luke 4:17-19.
Luke 4:17-19. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, 19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD" (Isa. 61:1-2a).
To comfort all who mourn, Jesus sermon text comes primarily from Isaiah 61:1-2. Now this was certainly not the whole text that Jesus taught from that day. But Luke records here the highlights, or maybe the portion of the text Jesus focused on the most. Jesus taught from this passage and explain to the people in Nazareth what he came to do. The six statements in this passage very aptly summarize Christ's earthly ministry and what He came to do. In the Hebrew, which Jesus was reading from, the word Messiah means "the anointed one." And so when Jesus reads of the anointing in the first part of verse 18, that is a clear reference to the Messiah. The rest of verse 18 and on into 19 tell us six things that the Messiah would focus on, why He came:
(1) To preach the gospel to the afflicted (poor). The Gospel, the good news is that God has provided a Savior from sin, and that those who believe in Jesus Christ will be delivered from death, and given eternal life. The reference to the "poor" is not a reference to those who lack money and material goods. It means those who are spiritually bankrupt, the poor in spirit, as Jesus says in His Sermon on the Mount. And since all of us are sinners, all of us are spiritually bankrupt, all of us are poor in Spirit, this good news of eternal life through faith in Christ is for all of us.
(2) to bind up (heal) the brokenhearted. This phrase is not in all Bibles, but it is in the majority of the ancient texts, and is also found in Isaiah 61:1, so I think it belongs there. And I'm thankful it is there, because all of us are brokenhearted at times, and Jesus came to comfort us and help us through our sorrows. Jesus constantly proclaimed throughout his ministry that there is a God who cares about you and is ready to help you. So keep praying and trusting. And even if things don't all work out in this life, remember that there is a life to come in which everything will be set straight, and every tear will be wiped away, and there will be no more pain or death. Do you need comfort today? Jesus is there to heal your broken heart.
(3) to proclaim liberty to the captives. This is liberty from spiritual bondage to sin. All of us, even when we are Christians, find ourselves in bondage to certain sins. In Christ, you have been set free. There has been an "Emancipation Proclamation" so that you are a free man. A free woman. But too many of us keep walking around as if we were still slaves. But as we get into the Word of God, as we pray, as we attend church and fellowship with other Christians, we not only become positionally free from sin, but practically also. That Setting Captives Free Ministry which we watched a short video of this morning is a great help to being set free from whatever sin you might be in bondage to - whether it is overeating, alcohol, smoking or pornography. Jesus came to set you free.
(4) to give sight to the blind. He did this physically by healing blind people, but more importantly, He came to give sight to those who are spiritually blind. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Satan has blinded the minds of the unbelieving. Jesus came to give sight back to those who were blind. He gives spiritual understanding to used to walk in darkness.
(5) to liberate those who are oppressed. The word oppressed could also be translated "bruised." It has the idea of being crushed, shattered, broken down, mistreated in life. Is that how you feel? Broken, mistreated, shattered, overlooked, lacerated by life, distressed, downcast, exhausted, ready to quit? He came to set you free too. To heal your wounds, and set you free, and give you liberty and joy and peace. It is all found in Jesus. He said, "Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
(6) to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. This is first of all a reference to the Jewish Year of Jubilee. It was a year when all debts were forgiven, all land was returned to its original owner. Everybody got a brand new start. A fresh beginning. And that is what we get in Jesus Christ. He makes everything new. We are a new creation in Christ. The old is gone, the new is come. The old is washed away, the new is put on. This is why Paul tells us to forget the past, and press on toward the future. In Christ, we have no past mistakes and bad decisions. Everything is brand new.
• But Luke 4:19 also is a reference to the Jewish expectation and hope for a Messiah. The Jews had been praying for the Messiah for years, and the timing was never quite right in God's time frame. But now, after hundreds of years of praying and waiting and watching and looking, now was the acceptable year of the Lord. Now was the time when God's promises would begin to be fulfilled. Now was the time when Israel's Messiah had come. And we see this also throughout the ministry of Jesus. God's timing is always perfect. It may seem at times like He waits too long for something, but when He acts, we see that He was not too soon or too late.
• Are you waiting for something? Praying for something? Trusting in God's promises for something? But nothing seems to happen. Well, wait on the Lord, He will fulfill His promises and answers your prayers in His time.
• These are the six things Isaiah 61 talks about, and the six things that Jesus fulfilled in His first coming. The six statements in Luke 4:18-19 form the mission statement for the ministry of Jesus. If we are going to follow Jesus, these are the sorts of things He will ask us to do. And there's really nothing here that is too offensive, right? Nothing to get worked up about. Nothing to get mad at Jesus, over. Maybe what the people of Nazareth got mad over is what Jesus did not say. You see, Jesus stopped reading mid sentence. He stopped reading right at a comma right in the middle of Isaiah 61:2. Look at Luke 4:20.
Luke 4:20. 20 And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
Some of them are thinking, "Hey, wait a minute! You skipped the best part. You forgot the last part of the verse." They are wondering why Jesus skipped the last clause of Isa. 61:2: "TO PROCAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD AND THE DAY OF VENGEANCE OF OUR GOD." Why He didn't read it? Because the rest of verse 2 and on into verse 3 talks about His Second Coming. It talks about the day of vengeance. It talks about setting Israel back in her rightful place among the nations (in the end-times). It talks about giving them beauty for ashes.
• Answer: Jesus did not come to do all of this in His first coming. But He will fulfill the rest of the verse in His Second Coming. We are right now living in the AND. The AND in the middle of Isaiah 61:2 separates Christ's first coming from his second coming.
• That AND is the church age-the here and now. Jesus said that the Word of God would be fulfilled, down to the very jot and tittle, and here we see it being fulfilled down to the very comma. Now, so far, this comma has lasted about 2000 years, but a time is coming, very soon I believe, when God will pick back up with the second half of Isaiah 62:1 and resume with His plan for Israel. That is why we must be ready. God's plan is only half completed, and the rest is coming soon.
• But the Jews in Christ's day wanted it all--they wanted it right now. They didn't want to wait. They not only wanted Isaiah 61:1, but they wanted all of verse 2 and all of verse 3 also. But Jesus stopped in the middle of verse 2, and look what He says in Luke 4:21.
Luke 4:21. 21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Now we must understand that Luke 4:21 isn't the entire sermon. His sermon was not just eight words long (actually nine in the Greek). Have you ever heard the song called, "This song is just eight words long"? Well, this sermon was not just eight words long. It says that He began to say to them.... This statement was simply the attention grabber, the hook, the introduction to His sermon. Here is what happened.
• He read the passage. Then he began His sermon with an attention grabber. He said, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." This was just the beginning of His sermon. Following this introductory statement, He went on to explain to them how this passage was fulfilled in Him. He explained in much greater detail some of the things I explained to you as we went through Luke 4:18-19. And He probably explained to them why He stopped half way through Isaiah 61:2.
• The custom was that they would let the teacher finish his lesson before any questions were asked or comments were made. So Jesus finished his teaching, and when He was done, look at how the people responded in Luke 4:22. Their initial response was very positive.
3. The positive response of the people (Luke 4:22)
Luke 4:22. 22 And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, "Is this not Joseph's son?"
They were amazed at his teaching. They marveled at the words which came out of his mouth. The reason they marveled at His teaching was because He taught as one who had authority, and not as the scribes and teachers of the law (Mt. 7:28-29). You see, the scribes and teachers of the law, when they got up to teach the Bible, most often said a bunch of nothing. Oh sure, they would read a passage from Scripture, just like Jesus did, but then, instead of explain it, they would just start quoting other teachers.
• They would say things like, "Now, Rabbi Hillel says such and such about this passage, but Rabbi Shimei says this. And over in the Targum, we read this." And basically, when they were done, all they had done was tell people what the various big name teachers and commentators had said about the passage. Oftentimes these teachers and writers contradicted each other, and so nobody ever really learned what the passage truly meant. All they got were a bunch of man-made opinions on the passage which conflicted with one another.
• But Jesus didn't really care what Rabbit Hillel or Rabbi Shimei said about a certain passage. He just wanted to simply explain the Word of God simply. He said, "Here is the passage, and here is what it means, and here is how it applies to you." And the people were astonished at this teaching because they understood it. They marveled at it, because it was so simple. It was authoritative because it was the unadulterated Word of God. And they loved it. And they wanted more. At least, some of them did, initially.
• You see, there were others, at the end of verse 22, who realized who Jesus was. And they became critical of who He was, and maybe even how young He was. Remember, Nazareth was His hometown. Although they were amazed at His teaching, they said, "Is this not Joseph's son?" They all remembered Jesus as a boy. They remembered Him growing up. And they had a hard time reconciling their memories of Jesus as a boy, and this great teacher that sat in front of them now who was just 30 years old. They had trouble seeing Him as One who was sent by God to teach the Word of God to them. Many of them had probably been attending the synagogue before Jesus was born. And now, He wants to come and teach them? They wondered how He could have learned so much and yet be so young. They wondered how a son of a carpenter could have become so wise and strong in the Word and become such a great teacher. And aside from all of this, some of them, we can be sure, were a bit offended by the content of the sermon. They were looking for a ruling Messiah. A Messiah who would make Israel into the leading nation in the world and would throw off Roman rule.
• But Jesus left all that out of His sermon and instead, indicated that He had come to be a light and blessing to the Gentiles. This definitely would have offended their Jewish pride. The average Jew viewed the Gentiles as the scum of the earth. As dogs only fit to be kicked around. Some Jews in that time thought that the only reason God created Gentiles was to be fuel for the fires of hell.
• And so some of them must have challenged Him. Some of them must have started muttering. Some of them maybe thought about getting up and leaving the synagogue. At first, they thought Jesus was here to usher in the kingdom. They were proud that a local boy was going to be the Messiah. But now, after hearing Him preach about God's love for the Gentiles, they began to question whether Jesus was even a prophet. They began to wonder if He truly was the promised Messiah or not. Jesus, knowing what they were thinking, tells them in verses 23-27 that prophets are never popular in their own country. Especially not in their hometown.
4. "Prophets are never popular" (Luke 4:23-27)
Luke 4:23. 23 And He said to them, "No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.'"
Apparently, some of them wanted proof that Jesus was a Prophet of God and not just the son of Joseph that they remembered. They wanted to see some of the signs and miracles that He had performed elsewhere. They say, "So, you're really this prophet and teacher we've been hearing so much about? Alright, prove it to us. Show us. Give us a sign. Give us a miracle." That's what the proverb is meant to convey. Physician, heal yourself, is like saying, "Never go to a sick doctor" or "Never trust a skinny cook." They are saying, "prove to us that you are a prophet."
• Now understand. This was not really an unreasonable request for a Jew to make. Signs were meant for the Jewish people to be able to discern between true and false prophets. God told them that if two prophets came into town, and one said one thing, and the other said something different, the way to tell who was the true prophet was by which could perform signs and wonders and give genuine predictions about the future. This is why the prophets of the Old Testament performed signs. This is why Jesus and Peter and Paul performed signs. To prove to the Jewish people that they truly were from God. Today we don't need such signs because we have the entire Word of God. We judge a teacher to be true or false by whether he agrees with Scripture or not. Signs and wonders play no part in the proclamation of the Word today.
• But in Jesus' day, they did. So the request of the people of Nazareth was a very theologically correct request. He claims to be a prophet, yet He has some teachings about God's love for the Gentiles that they are not sure they agree with, so they ask for a sign. They want proof. And does Jesus give it to them? Well, let's see. In Luke 4:24-27, Jesus first responds by doing exactly what all of us should do. He turns to the Word of God first and foremost for proof of His teaching.
Luke 4:24-27. 24 And He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. 25 But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian."
Here were two prophets of Israel. Elijah and Elisha. Jesus says, "Look, these were two prophets, and they came with the Word of God, but they did not perform miracles or signs among the Israelites. Why not? Because your hearts were too hard; you were hardened in sin and unbelief. The only people these two prophets did go to were two Gentiles. A Gentile widow in Sidon, and to Naaman the Syrian, who was a leper." In the eyes of the average Jew, Gentiles were bad enough. But the lowest of the low, the bottom of the barrel, were the Gentile widows and Gentile lepers. Yet these two prophets of God, Elijah and Elisha, went to them rather than to all the sick and needy of Israel.
• Jesus is not telling them He can't do miracles there. Jesus is not telling them He won't do miracles there. For He can, and He does. What Jesus is doing is going right for the root of the issue. He is going for the jugular. He sees through their silly request for miracles and healings, and gets right to their heart condition - their hardness of heart and their hate for the Gentile people. And He tells them that unless they deal with their heart issues, unless they repent of their hate, they will miss out on the blessings that Jesus brought with Him, and He will turn to the Gentiles just as Elijah and Elisha turned to the Gentiles. If the Israelite people did not accept Jesus for who He was and what He was here to accomplish, they would miss a great blessing. Jesus said, "People of Nazareth, God loves your enemies, just as much as He loves you. But if you don't turn from your sin, God will bless your enemies, and not bless you." There is a always such a choice when we are confronted with Jesus.
• Do we choose Him by believing in Him, or do we continue to selfishly choose ourselves and reject Him? Blessings follow trusting in Jesus, punishment follows a rejection of Him. But He leaves the choice up to us. Jesus hints to His hometown crowd that if they reject Him, the blessings that were due them will go the Gentiles, and the judgments that they all felt belonged on the Gentiles, would fall an their own heads instead. You can imagine how this went over with His audience. A message like this doesn't make many friends. It doesn't make a prophet popular with people. And the people respond in Luke 4:28-29 by trying to kill Him. He goes from praise to the precipice.
5. From praise to the precipice (Luke 4:28-30)
Luke 4:28.-29. 28 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.
Their actions here show how deep-seated their hate really was. Jesus had grown up in their town, and now they were trying to kill Him because He told them something they didn't like to hear. It says that all those in the synagogue...were filled with wrath and tried to throw Him off a cliff outside of town. There's nothing like a good murder after church.
• I wonder how many of you murder somebody after church? I'm serious. How many of you go home and say things like, "Can you believe what so and so said during Sunday school? I don't know why they ever open their mouth." Or, "Did you see what she was wearing in church? God couldn't have been pleased with that." You know what these are? These are hateful comments, and Jesus said in Matthew 5 that hate is basically the same as murder.
• These churchgoers in Nazareth came to the synagogue on the Sabbath. They sat there looking holy and pious. They prayed. They listened to several sermons from the Word of God. Then they went out to murder Jesus because they didn't like what He said. The order of events is ludicrous to think about, but I fear it happens all the time in churches across America, and even in this church here. We come. We sing. We pray. We smile and shake hands. We listen to a sermon. Then we go home and murder people with our words.
Well, the people in Nazareth tried to physically murder Jesus. They hated what He had said so much, that they took Jesus outside of town to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, where they tried to throw Him off from the cliff. What they were probably trying to do was stone him. There were two different kinds of stoning. One was the type we think of where they throw stones at a person until he or she dies. But another kind was what they were attempting to do to Jesus here. They would take the person out of the town to a cliff, and throw him off of it so that the legs broke. Then they would throw stones down on top of the person until they were crushed. That is what they were trying to do to Jesus here. To stone Him.
• But why? Why are they trying to kill Jesus in this way? Because they thought he was a false prophet. He came into town. He preached a sermon. They disagreed with his sermon, so they asked for a sign to prove He was a prophet. Rather than give them one, He used the Word of God to correct their thinking. Well, they didn't like this very much. Nobody likes to be corrected. Nobody likes to be told they are wrong. In their minds, Jesus was a false prophet. And what do you do with false prophets? You stone them. So they took him outside of town to throw Him off the cliff.
• But look what happens in Luke 4:30.
Luke 4:30. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.
Do you see the humor here, the irony? What is Luke 4:30? It's a miracle. It's a sign-He gave them a sign! The Jews in Nazareth had asked for a miracle, and now Jesus is giving them one when they are trying to kill Him. A mob of people take him up to kill Him, to stone Him, and somehow, miraculously, He simply passes through the midst of them. They get up to the brow of the hill and say, "Where's Jesus?" "I thought you had Him." "You were the one who had Him by the arm. Why'd you let go?" It's an amazing miracle that Jesus performed here. To show them that everything He had said was true.
• I see two truths from this miracle: (1) we previously saw three temptations of Christ. The third one was for Jesus to tempt God by throwing himself from the pinnacle of the temple. Satan had twisted Scripture, remember, and told Jesus that God would not allow Christ's foot to touch a stone. But Jesus stood His ground against the devil. (2) But here, now that Jesus is doing God's will in God's way, God does protect Him in nearly identical scenarios. The people are going to cast Jesus from a cliff, but God keeps Christ's foot from touching a stone. God performed a miracle, and Jesus passed through the midst of the mop unharmed. God works when we do His will in His way.
• But do you know what else is interesting about this miracle? Later in Christ's ministry, about two and half years later, another mob comes to arrest Jesus with the intent of killing Him. But rather than escape from them, as He does here, He gives Himself up to them. He lets Himself be arrested and carted off. What is the difference? The reason He escaped here is because His time had not yet come, whereas at the end of Christ's ministry, the time was perfect. You see, to be popular with God, we not only have to do His will, in His ways, but also in His time.
• This is the lesson Jesus shows us, and the lesson He tried to show the people in His hometown of Nazareth. Life and ministry is not about getting the blessings and honor you think you deserve. God might give them to someone you hate with the hope that you may learn to love them. Life and ministry is not about getting fame and popularity among men. You may not get these at all - especially if you are trying to be popular with God.
• Like Jesus, we should not care about our latest popularity poll among men. Rather, if you were to die today, when you stood before God, would you hear Him say, "You pleased me. You obeyed me. You were popular with me. Well done good and faithful servant"?
• You've heard the story before, but let me tell it again: A missionary couple who had been gone from the US for years on end were finally coming home. They had faithfully served God and ministered among the poor, and had seen many lives brought into the kingdom of God. When they got off the airplane, there was a crowd of people cheering and waving "Welcome home" banners. At first, the missionaries were overwhelmed that so many had turned out for their homecoming. But then, they realized that the banners and crowds of people were not for them at all, but for somebody else on the plane. As a matter of fact, nobody at all had turned out to welcome these old missionaries home. Nobody was there to thank them or even shake their hand. But then the husband turned to his wife and said, "It doesn't matter. Remember, although we've come back to the United States, we are not truly home yet. There will be a wonderful welcome and a great reception when we enter our eternal home in heaven." That couple had it right. Like Jesus, their goal was to be popular with God.