Friday, March 7, 2014

HOMETOWN ZERO (Luke Chapter 4)

If it had been up to the people of his hometown, Jesus’ ministry would have ended at the beginning.  Mere minutes beforehand they were speaking well of him and marveling at his gracious words (Luke 4:22), but something transpired to precipitate their rage and the people of the synagogue drove him out of town and tried to throw him over a cliff (Luke 4:28-29).  What happened?

Things started out well enough.  As was His custom, Jesus entered his hometown synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.  He unrolled the scroll and read from the prophet Isaiah (Cf. Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2).  Isaiah’s prophecy spoke of Him as the Messiah and the Savior who had come to proclaim good news and liberty to the captives, and to give sight to the blind and deliverance to the captives.  “And he began saying to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ (Luke 4:21).”  He identified Himself to be the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy.  To this those gathered responded with approval.
But then they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son” (Luke 4:22)?  His response to that changed everything.  He who knew what was in a man (John 2:25), knew what was in their hearts.  He spoke prophetically of what would come to pass in his hometown—no miracles.  Familiarity breeds contempt.  They knew of His family.  Matthew and Mark’s gospels also record this event, though some suppose that there were two separate hometown visits (Matthew 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6).  Whether speaking of the same or a separate event, Mark’s account speaks to Nazareth’s prevailing spirit of unbelief.  The people were saying, “Where did this man get these things?  What is the wisdom given to him?  How are such mighty works done by his hands?  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us” (Mark 6:2-3).  According to Mark’s gospel “they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3).  They “were being made to stumble,” thinking how can this man whom we know so well be who He is claiming to be?
Jesus was cognizant of their unbelief (Cf. Mark 6:6), and He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown” (Luke 4:24).  He illustrated that truth by the way of two Old Testament examples.  There were plenty of widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, but Elijah was sent to none of them, but instead to a widow in Sidon (Luke 4:25-26).  There were plenty of lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, but Elisha was sent to none of them, but instead to a Syrian (Luke 4:27).  Their demand for more evidence testified to their lack of faith.  He indicted them for it.  In the climate of unbelief He would choose to not exercise His miraculous powers.  That made them mad, so mad that they ran Him out of town and tried to kill Him.
What happened in Nazareth that day should not surprise us.  At His birth there was no room for Him in the inn.  By Herod’s decree there was no room for him in the town of His birth.  The religious leaders had no room for Him and His ministry.  From beginning to end His ministry was met with growing opposition.  Nazareth ran Him out of town, at the cross humanity ran Him out of this world.  As the song says, “No room, only a manager of hay, No room, He is a stranger today; No room, here in His world turned way…No room, here in the hearts of mankind; No room, no cheery welcome could find; No room, surely the world is blind…Angels, in heaven up yonder; Watch with amazement and wonder; To see the Son of the Highest treated so.”  To this day most deny His true identity.  Indeed the mere mention of His Name frequently elicits anger.  And though some have no problem with a “good man” Jesus, they bristle at the notion of His divinity and coming reign.  “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).  He might have been a hometown zero, but what is He to you?  “Have you any room for Jesus, He who bore your load of sin?”  How blessed are those who in taking Him at His Word receive Him as their Lord!

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