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.
Jesus goes from the Jordan River back up in His native region of Galilee, where He begins His work by teaching in the local synagogues. Matthew tells us His original message and theme was like John’s: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. (Matt. 4:17)
Like John, Jesus was well received and news of Him began to spread through the region.
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 [e]book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the [f]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.”
20 And He closed the [g]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 [h]hearing.” 22 And all were [i]speaking well of Him, and wondering at the [j]gracious words which [k]were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
So Jesus returns to His childhood home where His family resides and does the same. He begins to teach in their synagogue and He chooses a passage that invokes the Messiah and which is an interesting summation of Jesus’ ministry.
He came to preach good news to the poor, release the captives, give sight to the blind, free the oppressed, and proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. Does this describe what we do? Does it describe what our churches do?
There is a great deal of compassion in this description: Christ reaching out to help those in need. He addressed the spiritual needs of the people and often the immediate temporal needs, such as illnesses or hunger. Christ could have come as a conquerer, He came instead as a caregiver, because He saw our suffering, saw our isolation, saw our often confused and chaotic world and felt compassion for it. So He came in the Spirit of the Lord to bring good news, deliverance, healing, freedom, and favor or grace from God.
Do we move in that same Spirit or are we quick to condemn others?
The Nazarenes wonder at Jesus’ words and His assumption of the Messianic title. They cannot believe Him. They grew up with Him. They knew Jesus, the Carpenter. Some of them may have had some woodwork or stonework done by Jesus of Nazareth in their homes.
Can you imagine what your reaction would be if the contractor who did your crown molding and who went to the same high school as you, stood up in your church, gave the most eloquent sermon you’d ever heard, and then proclaimed himself the Christ?
It would probably be disbelief. Who is this guy? Who does he think he is? He’s crazy. I know him. I hired him. It’s not possible.
So the Nazarenes couldn’t imagine that Jesus the carpenter could possibly be the Christ.
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. 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 [l]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.”
Jesus challenges the people and charges them with only wanting Him to perform miracles for them. They wanted Jesus the healer, Jesus the magician, Jesus the entertainer, not Jesus the Christ. The Lord chides them for their disbelief, and then tells them that because of it, they will not get what they’re seeking.
He uses two examples here, which I think are interesting, because they’re either mostly prophetic or they are choices that Luke decided to highlight because they fit nicely within the context of what was happening with the church and with Israel at the time of his writing.
Jesus cites two examples of the prophets doing extraordinary things for individuals who also happened to be Gentiles. Elijah was sent to a Gentile widow and ended up feeding her and her family during an extreme famine. Elisha healed a Syrian officer of leprosy. The implication being that the Nazarenes would be passed over for blessing in favor of others. And again, going back to the time of this writing, Luke could have been attempting to support the notion that the nation of Israel was being passed over for the gospel and God’s grace, in favor of the now increasingly Gentile church.
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.
The Nazarenes do not take this message well and run Jesus out of town with the intention of murdering Him. But the Lord simply walks away from them and we won’t be hearing about Nazareth again.