February 16, 2020
Imagine living in Nazareth, and one of the local guys makes it big. You hear that He is now a famous teacher who travels town to town with followers. There are rumors about a miracle He did in Cana. Some say He is a prophet of God in the spirit of Elijah. He baptizes people, just like John the Baptist.
The word on the street is that Jesus is coming back to Nazareth; His hometown. Maybe the local Rabbi will ask Him to speak at Synagogue on the Sabbath. You have a table that His father Joseph made in your kitchen. Your neighbor has a few chairs. You feel a little special because you know Him.
People call Him Jesus of Nazareth. Finally, someone from Nazareth is getting well known. Maybe the next time we go to Jerusalem, and say we are from Nazareth, people will show us a little respect.
News of Jesus Spreads
After Jesus’ baptism and temptation in the wilderness, Luke picks up his account with telling us that Jesus is returning to Galilee ministering in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Luke will often remind His readers of Jesus’ anointing.
The baptism and temptation take place in the fall of 28 ad (scholars best estimate). Luke fast forwards in the life of Jesus to the summer of the following year, approximately 4-7 months later.
From John’s gospel, we learn what takes place, which Luke does not include in his account. Jesus has at least five disciples (John 1:35-41). Two disciples were following John the Baptist, one of which is Andrew. Andrew tells Simon Peter, his brother about Jesus and Peter follows Jesus. Jesus sees Philip on the way to Galilee and calls him. Philip finds Nathanael and tells him they found the Messiah.
Jesus performs the miracle at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12). And, He also attends Passover in Jerusalem and gets into a skirmish with the religious leaders as He cleanses the temple of the moneychangers (John 2:13-25).
In Jerusalem, a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) visits with Jesus. Jesus’ ministry becomes very popular, and it gets to the point that He is baptizing more converts than John the Baptist (John 3:22-36).
After gaining more followers, Jesus and His disciples head north to Galilee. Along the way, they spend a few days in Sychar, near Jacob’s well, and Jesus ministers to the Samaritan woman, and the people of Samaria (John 4:1-42).
As Jesus goes from town to town with His disciples, He is invited to speak at synagogues along the way. News about Him spreads through all the surrounding district of Galilee. Everyone is praising His teaching. The child who studies the Scripture is now an accomplished theologian.
Application: Are you spreading the news
In Jesus’ day, people spread the word about Him to other people. A prophet sent by God is far too important news to keep secret. Imagine living in Nazareth, and your neighbor knows about Jesus but never tells you. You might say, “Hey! Why didn’t you tell me about Joseph and Mary’s Son?”
What about us? Are we spreading the news about Jesus? There are so many interesting things to tell people. Instead of starting off by telling them about sin and the cross, (of course, eventually you need to get to the cross), why not talk about the amazing temptations in the wilderness. Perhaps start a conversation about Him walking on water or speaking to the wind and the waves. Talk about the Sermon on the Mount. Think of things that if He did them in Windsor, VT, we’d hear about them the next day here in Plainfield.
Jesus is far too important to keep secret. The people of His day spread the news about Him throughout the region (and they didn’t have telephones social media).
Proclamation of Jesus’ Ministry
Jesus enters Nazareth and, as is His custom, He attends the gathering at the synagogue on the Sabbath.
Since Jesus is now a teacher with disciples, the local Rabbi invites Him to speak. Perhaps he knew Jesus when He was a boy in Nazareth. The book of Isaiah is handed to Jesus, and He finds Isaiah 61 and reads.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Everyone in the synagogue knows the passage is about the Messiah.
Luke intends that his readers see the connection between Isaiah and what he writes about Jesus being anointed by the Holy Spirit. Luke says the Spirit of the Lord rests on Jesus, as does Isaiah. God’s Spirit is always present when God is at work. The Spirit is God’s agent. The Spirit of the Lord is the person of the Trinity Who empowers. He speaks, leads, convicts, teaches, reveals, gives life, regenerates, sanctifies, helps, indwells, and much more. The Spirit gives the Messiah strength, wisdom, and guidance for His ministry.
Isaiah says the Messiah brings good news of the gospel to the poor. The good news is that God cares and wants to bring comfort. God sees our hurt and pain. Jesus will bring the good news.
The Messiah is sent to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. Jesus expands on Isaiah 61:1 by including what Isaiah says about the Messiah in Isaiah 42:6-7. He is sent to open blind eyes and set free the oppressed.
People are not set free from a literal prison, but from sin and darkness. Sin enslaves us in the kingdom of darkness. Sin makes us blind, so we cannot see or understand the truth.
Isaiah proclaims that the Messiah brings the favorable year of the Lord, the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:9-10). The favorable year of the Lord is a sabbatical year. It occurs every 50 years, after seven cycles of seven years (49 years). A trumpet is blown, and liberty is proclaimed throughout the land.
In the year of Jubilee, prisoners and captives are set free, slaves are released, debts are forgiven, and property is returned to its original owners. All labor ceases so that people and the land will rest for a year.
I am the Messiah
After he finishes speaking, Jesus closes the book, gives it to the attendant, and sits down. Everyone in the synagogue is looking at Him.
Jesus just spoke a “feel-good” message. The Nazarenes are encouraged. Everyone likes to hear about the Messiah. The people in Nazareth during Jesus’ day, especially like to hear about being set free because there are many oppressed people in Galilee.
As all eyes are upon Him, Jesus then says something astonishing, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus might as well say, “I am anointed and sent by God. Isaiah writes about me.” It is a remarkable claim! The people know Jesus is a prophet. Word of Him reaches their ears of miracles He has done before He arrives. They just heard Him speak.
The people are pleased to hear salvation is at hand! They are going to be set free.
Application: Are you set free by Jesus?
The people are glad to hear they will be set free. What about you? Are you glad to hear the good news that you may be set free by Jesus?
When Jesus sets us free, we are no longer a prisoner of sin. We may escape the darkness of lies and deceit as our eyes and ears are open to God’s truth. When we are set free by Jesus, we live according to the Bible, and the truth of the Bible sets us free (John 8:31-32).
Jesus sets many people free in many different ways. People are set free from addictions. The monkey on our back is taken off. We are set free from cursing, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, pornography, greed, lying, and a host of evil pursuits. We are free from the despair of facing eternal death.
Jesus opens our cell door of the dungeon of darkness, and we walk free into His kingdom of light. We feel the grass between our toes and smell the fresh air. We walk in the light in the presence of our Creator, just as Adam and Eve once did in the Garden. We feel the love of God and enjoy His goodness. Anxiety lifts from our shoulders, and peace covers us like a blanket. We are free from sorrow and we are given joy. We are free from hate and given love. When Jesus sets us free, we are free indeed (John 8:36).
Those set free by Jesus live in the favorable year of the Lord. We rest in our salvation. Jesus carries our yoke. His burden is light. The debt which we could not repay is canceled and replaced with the treasures of Christ. The poor become rich.
Jesus is anointed by God to set us free. Give your life to Him and be set free. Do it today. Be set free. The people of Nazareth want to be set free, and they are glad to hear this news.
When Jesus is done speaking, there is a buzz in the synagogue. Luke tells us that everyone is speaking well of Jesus. They are in wonder at the gracious words falling from His lips.
It is helpful to know what takes place in a typical synagogue service in Jesus’ day. We presume Jesus speaks during the exposition part of the service because the people would not be amazed just by His reading skills.
To have a service, ten men must be present. The congregation recites the Shema:
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
Then they share in prayer—some of them are set prayers. Then comes a reading from God’s Law, the Torah, followed by a reading of the Prophets.
After the scripture reading, an exposition of the Scripture follows that ties together the reading of the Torah and the Prophets. Jesus mixes references in Isaiah and does not only speak about Isaiah 61:1-2. 
The people speak well of Jesus' exposition of the Scripture. He is very eloquent. Words of grace fall from His lips. He is the son of a carpenter, Joseph, who is not a theologian. Perhaps they are thinking, “Jesus is the kid who got lost when we were traveling back to Nazareth from Jerusalem after celebrating the Passover? Where did Jesus learn how to speak with authority? When did He become a theologian? He’s a better speaker than the Nazareth synagogue speaker.”
Placing Expectations on Jesus
Things in the synagogue become very interesting. Jesus, being led by the Spirit, recognizes the people are expecting more than Jesus speaking a few words in the synagogue. They expect Him to do miracles.
He says to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’”
Jesus is not referencing a proverb of Solomon, but a common saying. In other words, Jesus knows that they expect a physician to heal those in his own home. All the things they heard that He did in Capernaum, He needs to do here in Nazareth.
If He is the anointed of God, like He just claimed, He ought to help His hometown folk. There are sick, lame, deaf, and blind in Nazareth. Jesus needs to help them out. There is a sense of entitlement in Nazareth that day. Jesus just said that He is come to set the captives free. He is come to give sight to the blind. There are sick people in Nazareth.
It’s not enough for them to hear about being set free spiritually. They want practical help. They expect more from Jesus.
God’s Sovereign Love
Jesus shocks the people of Nazareth with what He says next. Despite them expressing admiration, He tells them that a prophet is not welcome in his hometown.
He explains what He means by speaking about the work of two prophets in the history of Israel. Both minister to Gentiles and not Israelites.
During Elijah’s time, there is a great famine in Israel. Many people are hungry. There are suffering and hungry Israelite widows. God does not send Elijah to the widows of Israel, but instead, God sends Elijah to a Gentile widow in Sidon.
Likewise, during Elisha’s time, there are many lepers in Israel. However, God does not cleanse them. Instead, God chooses to cleanse a general of the Syrian army, Naaman, another Gentile.
Jesus’ message is starkly clear. The prophets Elijah and Elisha did not minister to hometown Israelites, but God sends them to Gentiles instead. Jesus will do the same.
The people of Nazareth are full of rage. Jesus compares them to the Israelites in the times of Jezebel and Ahab. Jesus will not perform miracles for the people of Nazareth, but He prefers ministering to the Gentiles. It is hard to imagine Him saying anything more offensive.
The stories of Elijah and Elisha are no longer wonderful when they are the ones being left out. They didn’t mind how the Israelite widows and lepers are neglected by God in history. That was then. “The sufferings of Job are fine for Job, but not for us. We don’t mind how God works, in the Bible, as long as our needs are met.”
Application: Are you satisfied with God’s sovereign work?
The Nazarenes expect God to work in their midst, and they get angry when He does not.
What about us? Are we okay with how God works?
What if God completely neglects our needs, but chooses to heal the people of Iraq? What if we hear of how God heals a Muslim woman of cancer in Iran, but He chooses not to heal one of the people in our church?
Are we okay when God allows an unbeliever at our company to receive a promotion, while we are overlooked year after year?
Do we think God’s sovereign works are wonderful, so long as He is taking care of us?
What if an unbeliever at work complains that their child gets saved? We pray year after year for our children, and our child may not get saved. How do we respond? Do we think it is unfair for God to show mercy on who He chooses to show mercy?
How do we respond when God does not work as we hope?
There are people in need in Nazareth, but Jesus will rather minister to the Samaritans. The prophet Jesus is not a prophet in His hometown. The people are filled with rage. To them, His lips are no longer dripping with words of grace, but His words are a sharp sword.
Jesus is taken by force and led to the edge of the hill on which the city is built. They intend to throw Him down the cliff. Jesus’ words prove true. He is not welcome in His hometown. The hearts of the people are on display. Their efforts to hurt (kill?) Jesus fail. Jesus passes through them and goes on His way. We don’t know how Jesus escapes, He just does.
(Imagine what Jesus’ disciples, Peter, Philip, Andrew, etc. think of Jesus who is stirring up trouble.)
Jesus came to Nazareth and proclaimed spiritual freedom through the forgiveness of sins. The people of Nazareth rejoice in the proclamation of salvation. They rejoice in being set free from sin.
Unfortunately, that is not enough for the Nazarenes. They want more. They want Jesus to do in Nazareth what He has done elsewhere. Jesus refuses.
Application: Is forgiveness of sins enough?
What about us? Jesus offers us forgiveness of sins. He promises debt of sin is forgiven. He offers freedom from the domain of darkness and that we can walk freely in the Kingdom of light.
Is that enough, or do we want more? Do we get angry when God doesn’t have things go the way we would like?
How do we pray? How often do we pray with thanksgiving? Are we praying with an agenda for more? Do we pray for life to be more convenient?
“Lord, bring me safely home.”
“Lord, help me to receive with joy whatever is in store for me today.”
“Lord, take away sickness from my family.”
“Thank you that sickness teaches me about Christ. Give me the grace to find joy in my sickness.”
“Lord, give me that new job and bless me today.”
“Change my covetous heart that always asks for more.”
Are we okay with God not answering some of our prayers? What if our prayers for healing never take place? What if God decides to allow our missionary friend to be martyred? What if God allows our child to die? What if God never saves the child we pray for every day?
Here’s something we need to think about. Are demands on the church to meet our needs the same as the Nazarenes demanding Jesus to meet their needs? Are we satisfied in coming to church to praise God for our salvation, or do we expect more?
Is the gospel enough?
Jesus does not promise steady employment and a robust economy. Jesus does not promise we will live in this world without heartache and suffering. Jesus promises freedom from the power and penalty of sin. He invites us to put our faith in Him to receive forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.
Jesus does not promise we will live in this world without heartache and suffering. What Jesus does promise is that He overcomes the world and He invites us to put our faith in Him, and in doing so, we overcome.
Throughout Luke’s gospel, we will see two responses to Jesus. Some people respond like the people of Nazareth, and they want to throw Jesus off a cliff. They like Jesus up until a certain point. They are no different than people of today. People today like Jesus up to a certain point. But, as soon as the topic of sin emerges, talk of Jesus is no longer welcome.
Others, like the disciples who continue to follow Jesus, are willing to hear the truth, even when it gets difficult. When Jesus asks them, “Do you want to stop following Me as well?” Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)
What about you? Do you believe Jesus is the Holy One of God who has words of eternal life?
 Bock, Darrell L.. Luke: The NIV Application Commentary from Biblical Text to Contemporary Life (pp. 135-136). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.