Many of the people traveling home from Jerusalem after the Passover had their thoughts on Jesus. During that week, he had performed many miracles (John 2:23). Some of them saw those amazing works with their own eyes. Many more heard about them.
After some delay, Jesus finally returned to his home in Nazareth. That Sabbath, he attended worship at the local synagogue where he was invited up to read a passage from the book of Isaiah (Luke 4:16-17). Curious minds in the crowd waited with anticipation to know more about this suddenly mysterious son of a carpenter.
The scroll was opened and Jesus read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2).
Jesus returned the scroll to the ruler of the synagogue and took his seat. Rabbis during that time would stand to read the holy scriptures but sit while teaching. The eyes of the congregation were intently upon him (Luke 4:20). He has just read prophecies concerning the coming Messiah and rumors abounded that he had claimed to be that Messiah.
What might he say next? Surely, he won’t dare make such an outrageous claim in such a sacred place of worship on such a sacred day of the week.
Jesus broke the silence by saying, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
Though Jesus had not said much, the people marveled at his delivery. He was the son of Joseph. They had known him most of his life. How could such a poor and humble man speak in such a way? (Luke 4:22)
Jesus continued, “Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country” (Luke 4:23-24).
If his first statement wasn’t bold enough, surely this was plenty to enrage the crowd. He not only claimed to be the Messiah, but he also presumed to know their future thoughts and deeds. Soon, he would leave for Capernaum where he would cast out unclean spirits and perform other miracles (Luke 4:31-44). At which time, they would be begging for him to come home and do the same for them. Yet, he knew he would never be truly welcome in his hometown again.
Jesus continued speaking concerning a story very familiar to them. He said, “I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of [Elijah], when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was [Elijah] sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of [Elisha] the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:25-27, 1 Kings 17:9).
The Jewish people anticipated the day when the Messiah would come to restore the nation of Israel. However, they had a great misunderstanding of the prophecies and the Lord’s purpose. Christ did not come to take back Israel from the Romans. He came to give life and eternal liberty to those the Father had given him (John 6:39).
Much to Israel’s dismay, this life was extended beyond the family of Abraham. The blood of Christ was designated for both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus confidently reminded those in Nazareth of that fact by referencing their own scriptures.
Elijah, a man also hated by many of his own people, was not sent to heal those in Israel. Instead, he was sent by God to a neighboring region–a region of pagan Gentiles–to perform his miraculous healings. The very thought of God showing favor to those people filled the crowd with wrath (Luke 4:28).
They tried to capture Jesus in that moment so they could take him to the top of the hill and throw him off (Luke 4:29). He managed to escape the hate-driven mob (Luke 4:30).
Perhaps this story teaches us more about ourselves than it does Christ. The nature of man is described in the Bible as an enemy to God (Romans 8:7). Unfiltered truth is harsh and unagreeable to us. Yet, truth is truth.
We will often have moments when the facts are laid at our feet and our impulse will be to reject them. We often rationalize and find ways to justify our disbelief. Even the most sincere among us are sometimes guilty of this. But ignorance cannot be excused forever (Hebrews 10:26-27). The truth matters too much (Proverbs 3:1-6).