The Perils of Preaching and Prophesy

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. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:16-21

There’s some truth to the proverb “you can’t go home again.” Jesus found this out the hard way. According to the account in the Gospel of Luke chapter 4 Jesus returned to his hometown, Nazareth, at the beginning of his ministry. This was right after he appeared to John the Baptist, was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove and a voice was heard saying “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” Luke 3:22. After which Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days fasting and being tempted by the devil. Then he visited Galilee preaching the gospel. ( Luke 4:14-15)

But he decides to visit the town in which he grew up, where people would still be alive who would know some of his family and childhood history. He seemed to know there would be a different reception here but he was sent for the purpose of preaching the gospel to the house of Israel, so Nazareth was on the tour.

He enters the synagogue and during the service they give him the scroll of Isaiah. He opens the scroll containing hand-printed characters in lines with no spaces between characters nor words, no punctuation, no paragraphs, but he, being the Author of the Word, knows exactly where every syllable is located, and he easily finds precisely where he wants to begin and reads (see above, all caps). And finishing he tells them something no person has ever been told before – that a prophesy has been fulfilled in their hearing!

Then something remarkable started to happen. It seems he got a mixed response. “And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips” Luke records in v. 22. And at the same time they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” and other things indicating their confusion about who this person was. (See Matt. 13:54 and Mark 6:2)

But Jesus, not known for maintaining ambiguity, cuts to the chase and exposes their hearts. Just like the old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt,” the crowd thought they knew him and how could this man who grew up with them be anything special, be anything but someone just like them, poor sinners with the same wants and needs that they’ve struggled with all their lives. So Jesus speaks candidly 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.'” And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. Luke 4:23

But he doesn’t stop there. There are some deeper issues the citizens of Nazareth are dealing with, otherwise, since they’ve heard about the miracles and the gospel he’s preached in Galilee these people would have welcomed him with rejoicing. But instead they keep him in reserve, so they obviously have some issues with him and he knows this. Because he then launches into a scathing rebuke relating the Old Testament prophets that were sent, not to Israel, but to foreigners, because of Israel’s hardheartedness.

“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; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 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.” vv. 4:25-27

Oh, they pick right up on this, there is no mistaking that message! And there is no ambiguity in their response either. With one accord they are enraged and rush him right out of town to the nearest cliff to throw him off! How many times have you seen a church congregation react like that to a preacher’s sermon? Not for a few hundred years I’d guess. At least not in Western Civilization.

And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 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. But passing through their midst, He went His way. v4:28-30

His time had not yet come so by some miraculous means he eludes their clutches. And this is just in the early weeks of his ministry! He had only begun to rile up the masses, not to mention the religious leaders! But it is interesting to see what can happen when people who think they know Jesus Christ give a cursory look at him and don’t really make a careful evaluation of his person and message. They think they know him and based on incorrect assumptions reject him. And rejecting him, lose any hope of life and freedom. Or worse, in hostility, make an enemy of him.

It pays to understand what you believe and not parrot what you have been taught. You must take it to heart and own it. Read the Word. All of it. It is all important. Absorb it. Live it. It will become part of you.

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