Tuesday, March 02, 2010



Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

"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."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked. Jesus said to them, "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.' "

"Truly I tell you," he continued, "prophets are not accepted in their hometowns. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed-only Naaman the Syrian."

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.

Why are the people so furious? These are his neighbors from his home-town, so what are they reacting to?

It's important to note that Jesus was accustomed to going to synagogue. And, at the synagogue he was given the opportunity to read the Scriptures. This is still done at the synagogues today. Years ago I visited a synagogue and was asked to read the appointed passage of the week.

But in this case, Jesus is reading Isaiah 61, which is a passage explaining the work of the Messiah would do when He comes. He will proclaim the good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, set the oppressed free and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. This is all Messianic. Now, Jesus comes to Nazareth after having performed many of these same miracles elsewhere. BUT the locals from Nazareth just weren't that impressed.

So, Jesus acknowledges this and gives them two illustrations when God used two of His prophets to do miracles. However these two prophets didn't perform the miracles among the Jews, but among the Gentiles. There were many widows in Israel, but Elijah sought out a Gentile widow in Sidon. And, although there were many lepers among Israel, but Elisha sought out a Syrian, Naaman, to heal of leprosy.

What really ticked off the people in the synagogue was that Jesus compared them to the unbelieving Jews of Elijah and Elisha's time that forced them to go outside the Jewish community to bless and heal those who would really appreciate what God can do.

I've received some of the same fury when I speak of true followers of Jesus who are not Christians, but Buddhists, Moslems or Hindu. What this scene in the life of Jesus says to me is that God is out to touch the world, no matter who they are. They just have to be interested. Well, are you interested?