Jesus Goes Home

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lords favor. … And He began to say to them, ‘Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:18-19, 21)

Jesus went public. He began at home, in Nazareth, according to Luke 4. He showed up at the synagogue as was His practice. He opened the Scriptures and set the stage for the announcement of His mission.

His reading is from Isaiah 61. He gets a few words into verse 2 of the chapter and abruptly stops. He hands the scroll to the attendant, and takes His seat.

See what this passage declares at once. Jesus did not come alone. The Spirit of the Lord was on Him and had anointed Him to preach. His Message would be Good News to the poor.

With His declaration that the fulfillment of these words had come, Jesus staked claim to the title of Christ, a term that means “Anointed One.”

Jesus was sent from above as God the Son. He and the Father are One. Freedom and sight now were available to the captives and to the blinded. Release for the oppressed is possible because He was here.

Strong, definitive statements were these words. Jesus employed no parable. This was not a moment for figures of speech.

The people in this congregation knew Jesus in the natural, and for the most part they liked Him. “Gracious words” came from His lips and they were amazing — all were in agreement on this and they approved.

Were they really listening?

Yes, Jesus was good. But anointed?

And Spirit-touched? How could this One say such things about Himself?

The Failing of Familiarity

Those who had witnessed Him as a child and as a teenager and as a young adult got it told to them straight and true. It seems they couldn’t bear the thought.

“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” They muttered contemptuously. “Who is this Jesus to make such high and mighty claims?” This carpenter’s Boy had to be taken down a couple notches and put in His place.

The tide of opinion swung fast and fomented a furious mood. Mob rule raged in the meeting place dedicated to the Lord and His worship.

This would have been a good time for Jesus to beat a hasty retreat. Instead, He kept talking, and with words that revealed the hearts of the townspeople and of the people of Israel as a whole.

The Nazarenes expected perhaps that Jesus would put their home on the map. The place was of little reputation. It was a village situated near major Roman Empire thoroughfares to Egypt and Decapolis; it may have been a spot where people got off the highway to grab a bite to eat or to use the restroom.

News about the stuff Jesus did by the seaside in Capernaum was circulating. Now the thought was that it would be Nazareth’s turn to bask in His glory.

It didn’t happen because Nazareth couldn’t see Jesus for who He is. “…Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in His hometown.” (Luke 4:24).

Familiarity was the problem. The expectation of the people in His hometown had nothing to do with God and His Word. Jesus had said something super significant and they dismissed it.

Good news had been told. Liberty was declared. There should have been rejoicing at the favor of God.

What they projected instead was a sense of entitlement. And this limited the Holy One of Israel, as written in Psalm 78:41. “And He could do no mighty work there. … and He marveled because of their unbelief” (see Mark 6:4-6).

Wrong Expectations

Jesus pointed His finger at the heart attitudes in Nazareth. He didn’t stop there, however. This issue of dishonor toward the Lord infected Israel as a whole.

He called their attention to the original prophets Elijah and Elisha. These men with their voices spoke for God to the nation. Their words and warnings, like those of Jesus, were subjected to scorn, dismissed, ignored. The men themselves were subjected to slanders.

So God sent His prophets to the outsiders.

Elijah raised from the dead the son of a widow in Sidon, the territory from which Jezebel came. Elisha got a healing prescription for leprous Naaman, a Syrian commander who likely had struck down Israelites in battle and who housed an Israelite girl who served as slave to his wife.

Israel had been chosen by the Lord to be His witness; a kingdom of priests was what He assigned this people to be. Somewhere along the line an attitude of privilege sunk deep into them.

Rather than serve the world in the Name of God, the Israelites wanted the world to serve them and bow before them. Even at this time, under the iron grip of the Roman government, the expectation of their Messiah was skewed.

The Jews of the day sought a high-styled hero, a warrior champion. They waited for something of a mighty general, a powerful conqueror who could stand among them and put the rest of the rulers in their places under the chosen ones. They were watching for “the day of vengeance of our God. …” (Luke 61:2).

Jesus did not stage a power play. No thunder. No lightning. He simply walked through their midst and went away. Click To Tweet

Aware of this perception, Jesus precisely stopped His reading before reaching this very phrase. He was come to project the reign of mercy and justice.

The pointed statements of Jesus at Nazareth exposed and enflamed a raw nerve in His hearers. The whole congregation took offense and shoved the Son toward the edge of the cliff outside of town. They were poised to cast Him to His death. Satan had wanted Jesus to take a leap at the Temple of Jerusalem as we read earlier in Luke 4. Now these crazed Nazarenes were ready to provide the kind of moment that the devil wanted to see.

Jesus did not stage a power play. No thunder. No lightning. He simply walked through their midst and went away.

He was there in Nazareth, close enough to touch. He wasn’t what they wanted Him to be, and so He had to leave.

Thankful Spirit

This story should prompt me to think about how I see Jesus. I knew Him in one way for the first 18 years of my life and then was born again as a true believer. Since then I have read the Bible and done my best to live as a Christian.

And yet I can be casual and familiar about Him and His purposes. It wouldn’t take much for me to drift away from Him.

I know friends who were once on fire for God, but now deny His very reality. They have pushed Him away, thrown His message off the cliff.

By grace, I haven’t gone that direction. Still, I have to be wary of my old heart and my sin nature. Bitter feelings could dredge up a fierce unbelief and lead me into shipwreck.

Further on in Luke 4, we can read and see what manner of attitude we should have toward Jesus and His Word. The hearers in Capernaum were astonished and amazed.

Why was this so? His Word possessed authority.

Diseases were subject to the Savior’s rebuke. Peter’s mother-in-law was delivered from fever.

The witness of demons confirmed His power:  “I know who You are – the holy One of Israel. … You are the Son of God!” (Luke 4:33, 41).

And even though we know all of this, we can grow cold and hard in our faith. What’s to be done about this?

I think it is as simple as being grateful. Thanksgiving must flow from me. If I can stay in the habit and thanking Him for all that He has done, I believe I can avoid the familiar spirit.

Jesus preached the good news of the Kingdom of God and what a word this is! I am forgiven and free, enjoying another year of the Lord’s favor.

 

 

 

Steve Andrulonis
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