The Gospel of Luke - Part 14: Jesus' Rejection, Nazarene Winter
Luke 4:14-30
--Terry Heames

(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for Connection Class Leaders at Hoffmantown church.)

Review:

Two weeks ago, we began our study of Luke 4. This chapter marks the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. Beginnings are always significant. In this chapter, we can see themes that we'll follow throughout His entire ministry - the prominent role of the Spirit, the spiritual opposition of the devil, His commitment to speak truth regardless of how people choose to respond, His compassionate concern for people and commitment to help in whatever way He can, His preaching of the good news of the kingdom.

In Part 1 of Chapter 4, Larry focused our attention on Luke 4:1-13. In particular, he considered what we can learn about being filled with the Spirit (v.1,14) and what we can learn about resisting temptation (v.2-13).

This week, we continue our study of Luke 4. We shift our focus to Jesus' public ministry: what He said and did. As mentioned in the previous study, there's a verse in the Book of Acts (also written by Luke) that does a good job of summarizing this chapter:

You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. --Acts 10:38
One thread we see in this chapter is Jesus and how "He went about doing good". We need to remember that often the good we do will often determine whether or not people listen to the good news we share.

A.   Resist The Devil - (1-13)

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. --Luke 4:1-2
Larry covered this section over the past two weeks, and focused on Jesus and two spiritual beings: the Holy Spirit and the devil. There are three things which have been shown in this section:

B. Today:   Jesus Returns to Nazareth - (14-22)

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 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, and 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. --Luke 4:14-22
   1.   Jesus Returns to Galilee:
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. --Luke 4:14-15
He wasGod wants us to understand that what Jesus did was not simply rooted in personal charisma or ambition or effort. Jesus was filled, led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. There are many references to the Spirit's power:
...how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. --Acts 10:38

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being... --Ephesians 3:16
Application: - The Lord's desire is that we follow His example, that each of us be filled, led and empowered by His Spirit:
Oswald Chambers wrote: "Beware of worshiping Jesus as the Son of God, and professing your faith in Him as the Savior of the world, while you blaspheme Him by the complete evidence in your daily life that He is powerless to do anything in and through you." --Christianity Today, Vol. 37, #11

   2.   Jesus in Nazareth, Reads Isaiah:

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom... --Luke 4:16
Luke skips over the first year of Jesus' ministry between v.15 and v.16. During this time the Lord ministered in Judea and Samaria. The only record of this ministry is in John chapters 2-4. This first third of His public life has been called the "Galilean Springtime". He is now returning to Nazareth as something of a celebrity, after all, the news of Him had spread throughout all of Galilee. Because of the "local boy makes good" concept one can assume that the synagogue was packed.

Notice that Jesus went to the synagogue "as was His custom". There were two other things which we read that he did regularly.

So on this Sabbath day he had probably been asked by the local synagogue leader to do the reading from the prophets and deliver a sermon, hence He probably requested that the Isaiah scroll be made available. What happened in a typical synagogue service was this: The attendant handed Him the scroll on which Isaiah's prophecy (61:1-2) was written.
And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me:
   -to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   -and recovery of sight for the blind,
   -to release the oppressed,
   -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, and he began by saying to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." --Luke 4:16-21
He was saying in the clearest way that He was the Messiah.

It is significant that He stopped reading the words from Isaiah 61:2 when He did.  The people would have known what should have followed so He would have had their undivided attention. The verse goes on to say "...and the day of vengeance of our God". The purpose of His coming was to proclaim the year, or season, of the Lord's favor. This current age of grace is the accepted time for salvation. When He returns the second time it will be to usher in the day of vengeance. (Note that it is a year of grace and a day of vengeance)

Notice the He came to address the four classes of people that would benefit from His ministry:

The poor: - This word covers a wide range of people, but the emphasis here is on moral and spiritual poverty. The Greek word here is πτωχοις [ptochois] the same one He used in the first beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". (Matthew 5:3) It is usually when we are down (poor) when we are most open to receiving Christ's teachings.

The prisoners: - Technically the word means "prisoners of war" and there were none in Nazareth. But it can also mean spiritual bondage, i.e.

Christ is the way to break those bonds, (Philippians 4:13) "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength".

The blind: - The spiritual darkness that many have. In Acts 26:16-18 Jesus tells Paul his new mission after getting his attention on the road to Damascus.

But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me. --Acts 26:26-28
The oppressed: - The basic idea of oppressed is "broken in pieces". Jesus comes to those who have been overwhelmed by life, who see no way out, and offers them freedom. Where man's freedoms end in more bondage, His freedom lasts forever.

...to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor:

The dawning of a new age for the world's multitudes. He presented Himself as the answer to all the ills that torment us. And it is true, whether you think of these ills in a physical or a spiritual sense, Christ is the answer.

   3.   Jesus is Somewhat Accepted:

At this point the congregation was enthralled with the insight and logic of His words.

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. --Luke 4:22
Gracious words - literally "words of grace"; When Jesus spoke, there was always a spirit of grace.

Application: - When we talk to people (Christians or non-Christians) we need to be sure that we communicate "words of grace", a spirit of grace. A verse that really challenges me in this area of gracious speech is found in Ephesians:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. --Ephesians 4:29
Everyone liked the first part of Jesus' message. But they had some doubts. They had known Jesus since He was a small child, He was Joseph's son, the nice kid that lived down the street. They did not see themselves in the metaphors, or perhaps they did not want to. Perhaps they simply said "We need to see to see some signs here in Nazareth". In any case it was obvious he was being rejected.

C.   The Sermon in Nazareth - (23-27)

Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.' I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed -- only Naaman the Syrian." --Luke 4:23-27

Do here in your hometown ... what you did in Capernaum. - (v.23-24)

People in Nazareth had heard of the all the miraculous things Jesus had been doing in other places, especially up in Capernaum some 30 miles away. Even though the evidence was readily available, since all of Galilee is only 25 by 45 miles, there was an emotional response on their part. They wanted to see miracles, too! So Jesus set the evidence to the side and went to the heart of the problem, their pride and self-sufficiency. They were sons of Abraham.

Jesus used Old Testament examples to show the problem. The first involved Elijah and a starving widow.

I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. --Luke 4:25-26
The story related in 1 Kings 17:8-16 tells how Elijah encountered a woman gathering sticks to make a last meal and how he tells her to not be afraid but to go home and bake a meal for her son, herself, and a small cake of bread for him. If she would do this and continue to feed him then the jar of flour and oil would never dry up. Amazingly she obeyed.  If she had been like the people of Nazareth it would have been -- "let's see the miracle first". Why had she believed?  Perhaps because she was so desperately poor, a Gentile as it were.

The lesson was simple.  If they wanted miracles all they had to do was trust him and the evidence would be forthcoming. But they were not poor in their minds.  They were the good, respectable, Jewish citizens of Nazareth.

The second involved Elisha and Naaman the Syrian.

"And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed -- only Naaman the Syrian." --Luke 4:27
This story is related in 2 Kings 5:1-19 and tells of a time when the Syrian king sent his commander to Israel to be cured. The king of Israel thought it was a pretext to war but Elisha calmed him down and told the commander to go and wash seven times in the river Jordan. The commander was insulted but his servants convinced him to do the humiliating thing and be cured.

Both Naaman and the widow in Zarephath were not Jews. Jesus makes two points clear by what He says:
   (1) God has not reserved His blessings for only the Jews, His loving concern extends to all people everywhere. He reads people's hearts; and
   (2) God asks us to have faith.

Notice how offensive this message was to the good people of Nazareth (v.28-30). It was bad enough to be accused of being poor, blind, captive, and oppressed, but to now be told that Gentiles were at least as spiritual and as wise as they were.  Their response shows that though they may have been very religious (they were in the synagogue), their hearts were hard toward the Lord.

Application: - We need to judge people by the same standard God does. He doesn't care if people are Baptist or Catholic, male or female, rich or poor. He cares about the heart. Just because we are in church on Sundays doesn't mean we have a heart for God (any more than it did for these Jews who went to the synagogue every Saturday!). How committed are you, how submitted are you, to the Lord? When He says something different in the Bible than you expect or want, how do you respond?

D.   Jesus Rejected - (28-30)

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. --Luke 4:28-30
The people were "furious" at Jesus, to the point of trying to kill Him. They wanted to hear how they were God's chosen people but Jesus highlighted God's heart for Gentiles whose hearts were open to Him.

But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way. - (v.30)

Back in verse 23, Jesus indicated that the people wanted a miracle - well, they got one here, just not the one they wanted! Here we see the miracle of God's sovereign protection. John often referred to events where Jesus time "had not yet come" - (John 2:4, 7:6, 7:8, 7:30, 8:2). Jesus' death was in God's timing.

And notice Jesus - no anger, no harsh words.  Just a quiet, courageous response to the enraged crowds.

Sometimes the gospel provokes the "Galilean Spring" other times the "Nazarene Winter" in people. It is interesting that one sees more of the later with those who consider themselves "religious".

There are many who do not realize that they are spiritually poor, spiritually blind, spiritually captive. They have become insulated because of their years of service at their fine church traditions. They have become like the people of Nazareth not realizing that they too must have faith, must have mercy, and must have Christ within them.