I love this opening verse about Jesus.
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.
23 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.’”
24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 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. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 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.”
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.29 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.30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
The people were speaking well of him. They were amazed at what he was saying. They testify to the words of grace coming from his lips. Here he is – God amongst them – sounding so attractive. Why would anyone not want to embrace Jesus and follow him?
But there is another view expressed, and it quickly becomes the dominant view. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” You can imagine the unrecorded things that also might have been said: “he can’t be the real deal”, “surely he won’t last”, “he won’t amount to much”, “he’s from Nazareth” “he’s just one of us”
All this takes place in the local Nazareth synagogue. Jesus has just taken part in the usual Sabbath Day service and, after reading from the text on that day, he states it is being fulfilled now by himself. He is the one to proclaim the favour of the Lord to usher in this new kingdom, setting prisoners and the oppressed free and opening the eyes of those who are failing to see this.
Jesus responds to the crowd’s criticism of his failure to perform miracles in their midst the way he did in Capernaum. Their attitude reminds him of events in Israel’s history when outsiders like Naaman and a widow from Zarephath were the recipients of God’s grace and favour – examples of people in bondage being set free and having their eyes opened to the truth. God’s favour and mercy were poured out on others in response to Israel’s dullness of heart towards God and the movement of his kingdom.
Now the people are furious and they want to kill him. What a turn around. Before they were talking well of him, now they want him gone. But the kingdom is on the move. Jesus is on the move, and he walks right through the crowd and away from them.
Head: How do you respond to this scene? Do we speak well of Jesus up until that point when he challenges our ideas about him or the way we are living in response to his kingdom? What about the outsider (or someone we define as the outsider)? Are we amazed when the outsider experiences the grace and favour of God when we see the evidence of the kingdom coming in new ways in different people than we might expect – like the Naamans of this world (read his story in 2 Kings 5)?
Heart: What’s going on in your heart as you think these things?
Hands: Where in your life is spiritual blindness still a problem?
Prayer: Heavenly Father I thank-you for sending Jesus. I thank-you that he came with the mission to set the prisoners and the oppressed free and to open the eyes of the blind. We all fall into those categories – prisoners of our sinfulness and unbelief. I thank-you that you open our eyes and set us free. I thank-you for the gracious words on Jesus’ lips that welcome us and show your love. But thank-you also for the challenges that come from his lips that change us more into your likeness day by day.
A song to listen to: See The Man