Jesus was no hometown hero. In Nazareth, the people took offense at His words and His works. Their familiarity with Him and His family hardened their hearts to the message He came to deliver. His upbringing, apparently, was rather ordinary – save for the scandal that revolved around Mary’s premarital pregnancy. The neighbors, relatives, and friends who knew Him as toddler and teen wrestled with His way as a man of message and mission.
He returned home for a visit and went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was His practice. News of His preaching had reached the ears of those in Nazareth. All in the room sat at attention as He was handed the scroll of Isaiah. He settled on this passage and read:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-3).
An announcement had come forth from the Son with this reading. Here, from the Scriptures, Jesus defined His mission for those who knew Him better than most. The Spirit anointed Him to preach. This is the central point of why He came to earth. The words that came from Him were and are the secret of life. And, He told them so: “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
In essence, Jesus said, “I AM the Gospel.” Here He was — the Good News, the sweet song of salvation, the holy Lamb of God.
Familiarity and Contempt
This message should have been a hit in Nazareth. It was a gritty city – something of a highway truck stop along one of the well-worn roadways that ran from Egypt to Persia and beyond. It was a town full of the poor, the brokenhearted, and the captive.
His phrases should have brought forth praises. Where were the shouts and cheers in the joy of the Lord?
Instead, the hearers murmured. His identity and authority were called into question: “Is this not Joseph’s son?” This sounds like an innocuous question – an innocent expression of marvel. Really, the statement was said with a sneer. Like most bits of gossip, the tales about Joseph and Mary never died out. In fact, the Pharisees spoke to the question of Jesus’ legitimacy right to the Savior’s face in John 8:41, calling Him a “son of fornication.”
The people of Nazareth wanted more than words, but Jesus was having none of it. Small hearts with little faith demand spectacle – the Nazarenes wanted something to see. His response to the grumbling among them was this: “No prophet is acceptable in his hometown.”
He provoked the mob even further with two stories from the books of the Kings. Through Elijah, God gave bread to a widow in Sidon – Jezebel’s homeland. Through Elisha, the Lord healed the leprosy of Naaman, a Syrian soldier who had attacked Israel and taken prisoners. No mighty work could be done in Nazareth that day – nothing could help their unbelief.
Things turned ugly. The crowd rushed at Jesus and was ready to cast Him off of a cliff. He passed through their midst and moved on to Capernaum.
Opportunities Come and Go
What can we take for our lives from this account? It is this: Be wise, be ready, be faithful.
Jesus was there; now He was gone. Opportunity lost. The Nazarenes missed out. They missed out like the unwise virgins in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25. In that story, five wise virgins were ready for the moment. Their lamps were prepared and they had oil to spare when the bridegroom showed up to throw the wedding party. The wise got to enjoy the celebration, the unwise did not.
Let’s hold fast to the promise of His presence. Where two or three are gathered, He is in their midst.Let’s hold fast to the promise of His presence. Where two or three are gathered, He is in their midst. Click To Tweet
Wisdom comes to us as we meditate on the Word of God. The passage that Jesus selected makes clear His mission. We should think about this often.
His message is good news for the poor. And there are all kinds of poverty today. Some have little money. Some have seemingly few gifts and talents. Others wallow in loneliness – they have a poverty of friendship. Jesus was anointed to speak to such as these – to all of us really. By the Spirit, He touches anyone ready and willing and desperate enough to call upon His Name.
Are you brokenhearted? Jesus, the anointed One, came to heal.
Are you prisoner to someone or something? Jesus, in the Spirit of the Lord, sets free.
Are you blind? Jesus, the Light of the World, opens eyes.
Are you bruised? Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Gospel Himself, makes whole.
Jesus – He came to preach. It is an acceptable year. That is, it is a time of grace, a season of the Lord’s favor. He is waiting to be gracious, to pour out His love on us all.
Do you doubt? Ask Him to fill you with fresh oil. He hears your cry and will help your unbelief.
His Mission goes on. Miracles are possible. Be wise. Be ready. Be faithful.