Quite the Mood Swing.
“Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips … jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff…” – Luke 4:22, 29 NLT
Jesus has made His way back to the village of Nazareth, His hometown. He is back among His neighbors and those who knew Him best. News of His travels and all that had happened in Jerusalem had probably made its way there. In fact, Luke tells us, “Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region” (Luke 4:14 NLT). So when Jesus arrived in town, He made His way to the synagogue on the Sabbath. He was invited to read from the Scriptures and the passage for that day was from the book of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus calmly read the words that those in His audience had heard many times before. But Jesus was going to instill them with significantly new meaning that day.
“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 4:18-19 NLT
Nothing new here. That is, until Jesus sat down and announced, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:21 NLT). Amazingly, Jesus was claiming this passage to be about Him. The Spirit of the Lord was upon HIM. God had anointed HIM to bring Good News to the poor. HE had been sent to proclaim release to those in captivity. HE had been commissioned to bring sight to the blind and freedom to those being oppressed. HE was the manifestation of the Lord’s favor – He was the long-awaited Messiah. The people were amazed and a bit confused. They saw sitting before them, Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph. They had watched Him grow up in their midst. He was one of them. He didn’t exactly fit their concept of what the Messiah would look like and, knowing His family history, they didn’t picture Him as possessing the qualities of leadership a king would require. They naturally ask, “How can this be? Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22 NLT).
Jesus knows what they’re thinking, not just what they’re saying. He knows they want Him to prove who He is by performing a few miracles in their midst. After all, He’s one of their own. He’s a hometown boy and they deserve to have Him do a few miracles for their benefit. But Jesus shocks them by His response. He tells them that the prophets of God were rarely ever received well by their own people. Sent by God as His mouthpieces to warn of coming judgment and call them to repentance, the prophets and their messages were rejected by the people. The same would prove true for Jesus, and He uses two stories from Jewish history to prove His point. One involved the prophet Elijah, who prophesied during a three-and-a-half year drought in Israel. The other story involves Elisha, also a prophet to Israel at another point in their history. The interesting thing is that both of these men, while prophets of God chosen to give the message of God to the people of God, were used to minister to non-Israelites. In both cases, there was a famine in the land, part of the judgment of God against the people of Israel for their stubborn refusal to honor His prophet and heed His call to repentance. Jesus reminds His listeners that Elijah was sent to the widow of Zarephathin Sidon, and Elijah was sent to Namaan, a leper from Syria. Both were Gentiles.
Jesus’ point was not missed on the people in the synagogue that day. They knew exactly what He was saying. Just as in the day of the prophets of old, the people of God were about to stubbornly refuse the God-anointed, God-appointed spokesman standing in their midst. Jesus was bringing Good News to the spiritually impoverished, release to the spiritually captive, sight to the spiritually blind, and freedom to the spiritually oppressed. But they would refuse to believe it or receive it, because they would refuse the messenger, just like their forefathers. And they react to Jesus in anger. Mob rule takes over as they force Jesus from the synagogue and to the edge of a nearby cliff where they intended to push Him to His death.
What had Jesus said that angered them so much? He had inferred that they were just as rebellious and sinful as their ancestors had ever been. He also suggested that God’s message and His messenger, the Messiah, because of their rebellion would end up focused on the Gentiles, their enemies. Yes, the time of the Lord’s favor had come, but it would not do them any good if they refused it. The Good News, release from captivity, restored sight, and freedom from oppression where useless unless they repented and accepted God’s assessment of their need and His solution to their problem. But Jesus, “passed right through the crowd and went on his way” (Luke 4:30 NLT). They had missed their opportunity.
Father, what a sober reminder of what takes place everyday among those we know who refuse to believe in the message of Good News regarding Jesus Christ. They stubbornly refuse to acknowledge their own sin and their desperate need for a Savior. But yet, those of us who know Jesus, can also refuse to believe in Him and trust Him to provide us with daily hope for our spiritual poverty, release from our spiritual captivity, sight in place of our spiritual blindness and freedom from the spiritual oppression in which we stubbornly live. Help us to turn to Your Son each and every day for salvation. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men