Luke 4:16 [Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.
Shortly after he began his ministry, Jesus went to his home town to preach. Many people love their home town, but Jesus had mixed feelings about Nazareth. It was not a great town, by most standards, and did not enjoy a good reputation. Can anything good come from there? (John 1:46), asked Nathaniel.
And Jesus knew Nazareth well. When he was a child, he played with the others, so he knew who the bullies and cheaters were. As a carpenter (Mark 6:3) he may have done work for some who refused to pay on time. And he knew those who made a good appearance at synagogue, but had little love for his Father in heaven.
But Nazareth also knew Jesus. They knew he was conceived out of wedlock, which probably tainted their view of him. They knew he never married, which probably tainted their view of him too. And because he was devoted to God, he did not laugh at their immoral jokes, or fit in as they preferred. Jesus was not their favorite son.
Luke 4:16-17 He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.
Most people did not have Bibles back then, but the sacred scrolls were kept in the synagogue for public worship. The attendant gave Jesus the scroll of Isaiah, and Jesus began to read.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2).
The people heard it many times before, but this time you could hear a pin drop. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him (Luke 4:20). So Jesus continued.
Luke 4:21 Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.
They did not understand him perfectly, but Jesus was saying that he had come to fulfill what the prophet had written. He would preach the good news, give sight to the blind, set people free, and announce the time of God’s favor.
What Jesus did not say, however, is just as important as what he did say. The very next line of Isaiah’s prophecy says, and the day of vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61:2). Jesus concluded with the year of the Lord’s favor, and left out the day of vengeance of our God.
He did not do this because he was the kind of preacher who only preached positive messages. He did it because the year of the Lord’s favor applied to his first coming, and the day of vengeance of our God applies to his second coming.
This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9), wrote Paul.
Jesus’ sermon had gone fairly well so far. All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips (Luke 4:22). But then Jesus did something that became almost typical. He deeply offended his listeners to reveal the badness of their hearts.
Luke 4:23 Surely you will quote this proverb to me: Physician, heal yourself! And you will tell me, Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.
Jesus had a reputation for miracles, and the people of Nazareth were not unclear about their expectations. If Jesus healed in other towns, he would surely heal in his hometown. Backaches, headaches, toothaches, blindness, deafness, and other disorders were all represented. The time for preaching was over. Now it was time for healing.
But instead of doing what the people expected, Jesus told a couple stories in which God’s prophets did miracles for outsiders, but not for Israel. By implication, Jesus would bypass the town of Nazareth and take his ministry elsewhere. He flatly refused to heal anyone who came to the service that day.
Luke 4:28-30 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
There are two important things that we should learn from this. First, Jesus does not owe anything to anyone. We all deserve his wrath because of our sin (Ephesians 5:6). The fact that Jesus does anything, for anyone, is a matter of pure grace. He gives whatever he wants, whenever he wants, to anyone he wants to—or not.
The second thing to learn flows out of the first. We should never make demands of Jesus Christ. Those who came with humility often received what they asked for. But whoever makes a demand has misunderstood the master/servant relationship. We are not the master.
Nazareth knew more about Jesus than any other town, but rejected him most emphatically. The Bible says little more about them until the time of Jesus’ death. Pilate put a sign on the cross that said, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS (John 19:19). The rejection of Christ at Nazareth foreshadowed his rejection on the cross.
Reflection and Review
How do you feel about your hometown?
Why did Jesus refuse to heal in Nazareth?
Why should we come to Christ with humility?