John T. Willis

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Religious People try to Kill Jesus--Luke 4:15-30

When I first begin preaching at a very young age, I naively assumed that church people would openly accept the message of God based on the Bible and kindly help me change when I misunderstand the message of God. For a while this worked well. But it did not take long to realize that people are people. We all carry a huge amount of spiritual baggage which is ungodly. Oh, we do not realize this. But it is as true as the Bible teaches. Early in Jesus' ministry, he went to his home town, Nazareth, and preached in the synagogue there. His message was contrary to the earlier beliefs and understanding of the people of his own home town, so when they heard his message from God, they tried to kill Jesus. This account is in Luke 4:14-30. This paragraph falls into four parts.

I. Introductory Summary. Luke 4:14-15.
a. After relating Jesus' encounter with the devil in the wilderness south of Jerusalem in Luke 4:1-13, Luke now summarizes what Jesus did for the next several weeks. This is an overview of the Galileean ministry of Jesus--see similar statements in Luke 4:32-32, 40-41; 6:17-19.
b. After Jesus defeated the devil, Jesus was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, calling to mind his baptism in Luke 3:22 and the initial statement about his conflict with the devil in Luke 4:1. Jesus returned to Galilee, where his public ministry began--Luke 23:5; Acts 10:37; 13:31 reiterate this fact. A report about Jesus was spread abroad through all the surrounding country in Galilee. 4:14.
c. Jesus began to teach in the synagogues in the cities of Galilee. At first, everyone praised Jesus for his teaching. Throughout the Gospel of Luke, Luke describes Jesus as the great Teacher--Luke 4:31; 5:3, 17; 6:6; 11:1; 13:10, 22, 26; 19:47; 20:1, 21; 21:37; 23:5. Most scholars think the origin of the Jewish synagogue was in the Babylonian Captivity (587 BCE following) when Jews could not return to the Jerusalem temple. The term "everyone" indicates that Jesus desires to proclaim his message universally. 4:15.

II. Jesus read and Old Testament Text in the Nazareth Synagogue. Luke 4:16-20.
a. Luke tells his audience that Jesus went to his home town of Nazareth, "where he had been brought up" (see Luke 2:51-52; 4:24) went to the synagogue on the sabbath [and early Christians followed Jesus' example of doing this--Acts 2:46; 3:1; 4:1; 5:12, 42; 21:26] there with which he was very familiar, "as was his custom," and stood up to read an Old Testament text. The verb "read" has nothing to do with "silent reading" as in a library or a carrel or private room, but means "oral reading" so the audience might "hear" the message declared. 4:16.
b. Someone [probably the president of the synagogue] gave Jesus the only scroll in extant in that synagogue, the scroll of Isaiah. Jesus unrolled the scroll and "found" the passage in Isaiah which he wanted to read to the audience. 4:17.
c. Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1a, b, d; 58:6d; 61:2a. This passage says the Spirit of the Lord is upon me--obviously Jesus applies "me" to himself, a reference to his baptism, since "he has anointed me" refers to his baptism. God anointed Jesus to accomplish FIVE things in his ministry: (1) bring good news to the poor; Luke emphasizes God's concern and care for the poor--Luke 6:20; 7:22; 14:13, 21; 16:20,
22; 18:22; 19:8; 21:3; taking care of the poor is NOT a SOCIAL message; it is a RELIGIOUS CHRISTIAN message--James 1:26-27 emphasizes this truth; (2) proclaim release to the captives; God is concerned with people imprisoned; (3) recover sight to the blind; God is concerned with blind people--see Luke 7:22; (4) let the oppressed go free; unfortunately, often the church oppresses honest, upright, godly people; (5) proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. 4:18-19.
d. After reading this text orally in public, Jesus rolled up the scroll again, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue fixed on him to see Jesus' comments on this text. 4:20. Fixing the eyes on someone is a continual gaze of esteem and trust--Acts 1:10; 3:4, 12; 6:15; 7:55; 10:4; 11:6; 13:9; 14:9; 23:1. 4:20.

III. Jesus declares that his message is for all people of all nations. Luke 4:21-27.
a. First Jesus tells his audience that this text in Isaiah 58 and 61 has been fulfilled in their hearing. 4:21.
b. All the people in the audience spoke well of Jesus and were amazed at the gracious words he had uttered. They said to each other, "Is not this Joseph's son?" They knew Jesus very well, and thus he had nothing to offer; this is why they were amazed at this message thus far. 4:22.
c. Jesus anticipates what his audience think: they will quote to Jesus the proverb: "Doctor, cure yourself" [Euripides, Fragment 1086; and Genesis Rabbah 23 [15e] contain the same proverb] and say, Do in Jesus' hometown of Nazareth what Jesus did at nearby Capernaum, a town in Galilee (Luke 4:31) on the western shore of Lake Gennesaret, which most scholars identify with Tell Hum. Capernaum probably means "village of Nahum". 4:23.
d. Jesus responded by quoting a well-known proverb: "No prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown"--see the Oxyrhynchus Papyri P1 1:29-35: "Jesus says, 'A prophet is not acceptable in his own homeland; and a physician does not work cures on those who know him,'" and the Gospel of Thomas paragraph 35 87:5-7: "Jesus said, 'No prophet is accepted in his own town; a physician does not heal those who know him.'" The same proverb also appears in Mark 6:4; Matthew 13:57; John 4:44. Here Jesus identifies himself as a PROPHET. In Luke 4:14-30, Luke underlines the fact that Jesus is a TEACHER and a PROPHET. It is quite possible that "teacher" and "prophet" are synonyms. 4:24.
e. Jesus cites two examples from the Hebrew Bible about events in the lives of the prophets Elijah and Elisha to emphasize that God's purpose is to deliver ALL people, not just God's chosen people. First, Jesus cites the story of Elijah when Yahweh told him to go to Zarephath, a Phoenician town, to live with a widow and her son during the three and half years of drought in the days of King Ahab of North Israel. This story is in 1 Kings 17:8-16. The widow of Zarephath was not an Israelite, not a member of God's chosen people, but this woman made a home for the prophet Elijah and Yahweh sustained her and her son while Elijah was there. Second, Jesus cites the well-known story of Elisha when the Syrian commander named Naaman went to Elisha when Naaman was a leper wishing to be healed. Yahweh healed Naaman. Naaman was not an Israelite, not a member of God's chosen people, but Yahweh healed him, and then Naaman turned away from his own god Rimmon and worshipped Yahweh. This sets the stage for Jesus to launch his mission to deliver people of all nations from their desperate situations. 4:25-27.

IV. The Members of the Nazareth Synagogue try to Kill Jesus. Luke 4:28-30.
a. The people in the Nazareth synagogue were Jews. They were "religious" people. But they did not know God. Their heart did not resonate with the heart of God, because God loves and is concerned with all people, not just his chosen people. So, when these people "heard" Jesus' message in the synagogue at Nazareth, they were "filled with rage." They acted like the true prophets described in the Hebrew Bible. Many people become angry when they realize God loves all people, not just themselves. 4:28.
b. The people of the synagogue at Nazareth drove Jesus out of the town, led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built so they might hurl Jesus off the cliff to kill him. This foreshadows the location of the crucifixion of Jesus--Luke 23:26. 4:29.
c. Jesus "passed through the midst of" the members of the synagogue at Nazareth. No one knows HOW Jesus did this, but this text suggests he did something unique or miraculous so he would escape. This was important so Jesus would spread the word of God. See Acts 13:46; 18:6; 19:9. Jesus went on his way--in time, this way will lead to the cross in Jerusalem. See 4:42; 7:6, 11; 9:51, 52, 53, 56, 57; 13:33; 17:11; 22:2, 39; 24:28.

How do WE respond to Jesus when he proclaims his message from God? Do WE have baggage which makes US behave like the members of the synagogue at Nazareth?

Share YOUR attitude toward the message of Jesus. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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