Updated: Feb 5
The SimplyRevised Podcast: (audio)
After the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, he returns to his hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:14). Following the life and ministry of Jesus through conversations and interactions, we follow him into a local synagogue. He has traveled through the region of Galilee, and news of him has spread. Jesus, in the synagogue, stands to read from the scroll of Isaiah. What do we learn about his purpose as others reject him at Nazareth?
The Power of the Spirit
Through the first chapters of Luke's gospel, he demonstrates Jesus' authority through the power and leading of the Spirit.
The Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism (Lk. 3:21-22)
The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness (Lk. 4:1)
Jesus returns to the region of Galilee in the "power of the Spirit" (Lk. 4:14)
Led by the power of the Spirit, news of Jesus spread throughout the countryside. We can imagine the people's enthusiasm as Jesus' popularity and reputation as a teacher grows. On the Sabbath day (the day of rest following six days of labor. Patterned after creation Gen. 2:2 and commanded by God Ex. 20:8), crowds would have pushed into the synagogue to hear this admired Rabbi. Standing before the multitude, Jesus stands to read from the scroll handed to him.
Reading From the Scroll of Isaiah
Luke 4:18–22 (NIV)
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." 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. He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." 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."
Isaiah (the prophet)
Isaiah was a prophet of God, whose name means: "the salvation of Yahweh"
When kings ruled Israel, God spoke through the prophets.
Prophets did foretell future events. However, they also called God's people back to him. Isaiah pointed to a coming Messiah. The NIV notes that Isaiah pointed to a Messiah "who would bring peace to the nation and to the earth."
Isaiah witnessed the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel and the near similar fate of Judah, the southern kingdom. Isaiah foretells the salvation of God's people, their return from Babylonian captivity, and the eventual return of Yahweh.
THE READING OF JESUS
Isaiah 61:1–2a (NIV)
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor..."
Jesus only reads the first half of (v2). He stops reading as he declares he has come to "proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then, Jesus says, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." What Jesus is saying is clear. He is claiming to be the Messiah who will bring the promised kingdom of God. I would imagine the clamor of people, amazed by his words, could be heard throughout the synagogue.
As Jesus reads from Isaiah, Jesus begins by saying, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me." We have noted the leading role of the Spirit in Luke's gospel. Beginning here, Jesus stresses the present fulfillment of what Isaiah had foretold centuries before.
Jesus has been anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to captives, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. For this, the crowd seems to turn. They want to see some miracle, some proof:
Luke 4:23 (NIV)
"Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself!' And you will tell me, 'Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'"
Pushing Jesus out of town, they take him to a cliff to throw him off (ref. Lk. 4:29). Perhaps we should see the irony in the temptation of Jesus. If the tempter cannot get Jesus to throw himself down (ref. Lk. 4:9-12), he will have others do it for him. Jesus slips through the crowd as he continues proclaiming the kingdom's mission and message (ref. Lk. 4:30).
What had happened? Why was Jesus rejected in his hometown? As Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah, he abruptly stopped mid-sentence. He stopped reading after saying, "to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Jesus stops reading at a significant point. Isaiah 61:2 continues to record, "and the day of vengeance of our God." Is what Jesus saying what others expected? The mission Jesus points to is not one of executing judgment. Instead, Jesus draws on a larger picture of Israel's mission to the world.
Isaiah 60:1–2 (NIV)
"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you."
Israel was to be God's representative on earth, demonstrating His love, justice, and mercy. They were to be a light.
Luke has alluded to this earlier (Lk. 2:32) when Jesus is presented to Simeon.
Luke 2:29–32 (NIV)
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel."
Jesus has not come to inflict punishment but to fulfill the will of God in bringing His love and mercy to the nations. But, unfortunately, to some, this was not the Messiah they expected as they drove him to a cliff. As a result, some rejected Jesus and the message of God's kingdom in Nazareth.
BRIDGING THE CONTEXT
What do we take away from this conversation and interaction with Jesus? I want to consider a few points.
What Jesus is saying is clear. He is claiming to be the Messiah who will bring the promised kingdom of God. However, some rejected Jesus and this claim. The difficulty is that Jesus was different from who some were expecting. Today, our expectations of who Jesus should be can blind us to who he is. The challenge is to set aside our prejudices to understand who Jesus is.
The message of God's kingdom is good news. Jesus has come to proclaim good news. He has come to offer freedom from the bondage of the curse of sin (see, Rom. 6:6; 18). As Christians, we should use our freedom in Christ to share God's kingdom blessing with others, the hope we have in Christ.
Downloads & Resources
study guide: Jesus Rejected At Nazareth
slides (PDF): Jesus Rejected At Nazareth
Scripture quotations: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.