Read: Luke 4:14-30
As Jesus went about preaching in Galilee, many received his message and glorified Jesus because of his message, but Jesus’ hometown spurned him when he preached in their synagogue. In the customary manner of synagogue, they would read from a scroll. On this day, Jesus read from Isaiah 61 which is a prophecy relating to how the prophet would preach good news that would be for the foreigner, poor, sick, captives, and brokenhearted. It notes how the one receiving the prophecy would be seen as a blessed people among the nations.
What Jesus says next though raised eyebrows – he claimed that the prophecy was being fulfilled “in their hearing”. There are two reason why. First, Jesus was the one preaching and the one’s hearing the message that was for the poor, captive, blind, oppressed among other traits listed in Isaiah. They took offense because they perceived that Jesus was indicating people of Nazareth were among these undesirable states. Second, they marveled at the “gracious words” coming from his mouth, but questioned his authority, saying he was merely “Joseph’s son” – not a prophet or anyone special for that matter that could fulfill this messianic prophecy. So they demanded a sign. They wanted Jesus to vindicate himself when they said “Physician, heal yourself”.
Jesus replies to their demand for a sign by noting that a prophet is without honor in his hometown, yet is well received by foreigners. He illustrates this from 2 Old Testament examples. The first he gives is from 1 Kings 17:8-16 where Elijah goes and lives in Sidon, which was in Pheonecia. The second was from 2 Kings 5, where Naaman the Syrian is healed from leprosy. In both cases, the prophets preached to foreigners, and in both cases the foreigners received the word from the prophet. In doing so, Jesus implicates Nazareth as being like a hard-hearted Israel, and they were enraged so much so that they wanted to kill by running him off a cliff.
Luke’s emphasis on social outcasts, women, and foreigners is evident here. But at the same time, Jesus’ message was for all that would receive it, even the Jews. The problem with the Jews though is they did not perceive themselves to be in need of a message for the downtrodden because they believed they had it all together. The ones that did receive it though were not from Jesus’ people, rather precisely the ones that Isaiah 61 speaks of. The truth of the matter is that everyone even today needs Jesus’ message because of sin (Romans 3:21-25). The question though is whether or not one will acknowledge that. One can be like the people of Nazareth and outright reject it or be like those from other towns and receive it gladly.
Lord, you bring good news! Let me receive it with arms wide open!