I’ve talked before about how when we present the gospel of Jesus, when we tell someone something, we should give them a chance to respond. And when we do, we will get a mixture of responses. And we’re going to see in the text today a mixture of responses with a great focus on what happened in Jesus’ hometown when he said something to them, and I’ll just leave it there.
We’re going to be looking at Luke chapter 4 verses 14 to 30. Luke 4 verses 14 to 30. If you have your Bibles, you can go and turn to there; if it’s on your phone go ahead and swipe to there or scroll to there; if you’re watching, if you’re following us on YouVersion, it’ll already be there. But we’re gonna be in, again, Luke chapter 4 verses 14 to 30. So, before we read the text, let’s have a word of prayer.
Heavenly Father, as we read your word, I ask and I pray that you are blessed and honored and glorified as we read your word, by the reading of your word, because your word is worthy of being read, because it is your word, and we are reading that which you have given to us to reveal yourself to us in written form. But God, I ask you to not just be glorified and exalted by the reading of your word, I ask you to use the reading of your word to transform us and convict us and renew us and do whatever you need to do in us, but let it be applied to our hearts and our minds and our souls and everything about us. And I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Beginning in verse 14 Luke writes:
14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ’“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.
Here we have Luke introducing the earthly ministry of Jesus. As you remember, Jesus had been born. has gone through the rituals as a young child, was at the temple, was baptized, and if you remember from last week, was tempted. Well, now his ministry begins. A nd Luke begins his telling of Jesus’ ministry by giving us a two—well, in our modern versions, at the time Luke wrote this there were no verses—a two-verse summary of Jesus ministry. And then he goes through and explains about a specific event that happened in his hometown. And in this story, we see two reactions with a big focus on the reaction in Nazareth. So, in verses 14 to 15, we have the summary of Jesus’ ministry, and we see that Jesus’ teaching ministry was popular in Galilee.
Jesus’ teaching ministry was popular in Galilee (vv. 14-15)
What does he say? Well, first he says, “And Jesus returned.” Returned. Returned from where? Returned from the time in the wilderness. Returned from where he was tempted. He was baptized, the Spirit led him into the wilderness where he was tempted, he defeated Satan and defeated temptation (something none of us can do on our own), but then he returns and he goes to Galilee.
Returning “in the power of the Spirit to Galilee.” Galilee was the home base of Jesus’ ministry. It was the place that he would return to. It was the center of his ministry, and Capernaum was kind of—I guess you could say—the capital—I guess you could say, if we’re going to put in those terms—kind of the central location they kind of operated out of. But Galilee was the main place of his ministry. Now, he did minister in Jerusalem and down in Bethlehem and in the whole area but Galilee was home base. And at the time, what we have here is Luke indicating that Jesus, following his temptation, went around in Galilee to the synagogues teaching.
“A report about him went through all the surrounding areas,” and it says in verse 15, “And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.” Now this indicates to us that Jesus’ ministry was primarily teaching. Now, yes, Jesus did miracles, and often when we talk about Jesus or retell the stories of Jesus, we tend to wrap it all around the miracles. But the miracles were not the mainstay of what Jesus did; it was the teaching. It was the education. It was the proclamation. That was the core of what Jesus did.
And so, how do the people respond? Well, word went around throughout the area surrounding him, verse 14, and he was being glorified by all people. All people liked what he was saying. People generally liked his teaching. Now, can we say that of ourselves today? Can we say that as Christians, we crave and hunger for the teaching of God’s word?
It’s kind of sad when you look big picture at Christianity—or let me rephrase—professing Christianity today. Energetic, dynamic music? Oh, we’re there! Events and activities? We’re there! Bible study? Meh. An actual sermon? Don’t want that, too long, it’s more than 30 seconds, give me my TikTock. Give me my memes. Nothing wrong with TikTock or memes, but oh Christians sure love to be entertained and fascinated. The bigger and the bolder it is, the more we’re gonna want. But the teaching of the word? Nah, too boring. Don’t have time for that, I’ve got other things going on in my life. You mean I have to come to Sunday school to learn about the word of God? It’s recommended—strongly recommended. Oh, how often we don’t have the response that the people in Galilee had because we’re all about “me.” Oh, Jesus did miracles. Yes, he did, and there’s gonna be a lot of them we’re gonna see. In fact, next week we’re going to see one of the miracles, but that is not the foundation of Jesus’ ministry; that was merely evidence of his claim in his teaching. So, which do we love more: the show or the teaching?
However, that was not the only response Jesus had from the people in Galilee. Verses 16 through 20, we see that Jesus revealed himself to his hometown.
Jesus revealed himself to his hometown (vv. 16-20)
Jesus revealed himself to his hometown, and in his revealing himself, he reveals things to us. Now, we’re going to have some information here that the people in Nazareth at the time did not have because, well, we have the written record; they didn’t. So, we can see connections that Luke’s making that they didn’t necessarily have. Now, let’s go through this.
How did Jesus reveal himself, what did he reveal, and how did they respond? Well, in verse 16 it says “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up,” it was his hometown, “And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.” This tells us that Jesus’ reading in Nazareth was not the first thing he did following his temptation. He’d already been teaching in Galilee, and on one of his stops in his ministry was his hometown. So, he had already been teaching throughout Galilee at this time. How long? Don’t know. Luke doesn’t tell us. But he’d already been teaching.
So, he’d already been teaching, and he goes to the synagogue. He basically is—we will say today—goes to the church. He goes to the church. Why? Because he wants to proclaim a message to the Israeli, to the Israelites, to the Hebrews, to the Jews—always mix up which name goes to what era: Israelites Israelis, Hebrews, Jews—his people, I’ll say that. But he wanted to proclaim a message to them, so he goes to the church. Why? Because that’s where they gathered. The synagogue was more than just a place of worship; it was a social center. Their culture was wrapped around their religion and their religious practices, and when they weren’t at the temple they were at the synagogue. So, he went to the synagogues.
Now, what did he do? It says, “he stood up,” verse 16, end of it, “he stood up to read.” Now to understand what’s going to be happening here, it’s a good idea to understand basically the order of the worship service in a traditional Jewish synagogue (at least at the time of Jesus’ life here on Earth). Now, it may have changed over the centuries but at the time, here’s basically how the Jewish service went in a synagogue. I can pretty much—I actually did attend a worship service in a Jewish synagogue, and thinking back, it followed pretty much the same basic structure. It began with the Shema, which is out of Deuteronomy 6: “Hear, O Lord, your God is one” and so forth. So the recitation of the Shema out of Deuteronomy 6 followed by prayers. After the prayers was a Scripture reading from two different sections: they would read from the Torah (which is the Law from Genesis through Deuteronomy), so they would read a passage out of the Torah and then read a passage out of the prophets (basically, everything else). It was at this time, the reading of the prophets, that Jesus stood up to read, and he read from the prophet Isaiah. But following the reading of Scripture was instruction time. We might call it a sermon, but it wasn’t necessarily a sermon as we would understand it today. It was often a little bit shorter—now, the one I went to was about 40 minutes long so it was typical (I guess they’ve lengthened over time), but it may have been shorter—but it was an instruction time. Basically a sermon followed by the benediction and then dismissal. But it was during this middle time—the reading of the text, reading of Scripture, when they would read from the Torah and the prophets—that Jesus stood up to read from the prophets.
So, what happens? Verse 17, “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written.” Now, he didn’t have chapters and numbers; he would have had to look through the text and find the place he where he was trying to get to. This tells us that Jesus didn’t just go, “Hmm, I’m reading [randomly points] that!” No, Jesus was given Isaiah. Now, did he pick Isaiah? We don’t know, but he was given the scroll of Isaiah. But after he was given the scroll of Isaiah, he looked for a specific text. Why? Because he had a specific message.
And so, what did he reveal? Oh, by the way, the text in our Bibles: Isaiah 61 verses 1 and 2. That’s what he reads. And in reading this, he reveals stuff about himself: why he’s here and who he is. What’s he read? From Isaiah, it says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Now every—I told Olivia this last night every time I read this, these two verses, I immediately think about a song by a group called Disciple. Song is, “Next Time.” Well, the first lyrics is basically that, and then they have a little bit more in there and they incorporate the second coming into it. So, every time I read this, that song just pops in my head. And if you know what song it is, great; if you don’t, that’s okay (introduction to my head). But Jesus read this text, and this text revealed things about him. So, let’s go through this text pretty much line-by-line and see what Jesus is revealing.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” That indicates that Jesus is being led by the Holy Spirit. Now, we know that because we’ve seen already, just in verse 14, “returned in the power of the Spirit.” We saw before that, the Spirit led him out into the wilderness. The Spirit came upon him at baptism. We know that because we’ve read the story. Now, the people in Nazareth at the time may or may not have known all of this, but Jesus is telling them: “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” He is being led by the Holy Spirit.
“Because he has anointed me.” Now, we saw the anointing at the baptism. I’ll say the anointing. Some say it was the anointing. I would actually—as I correct myself—I would say it this way: a revelation of the anointing, I would say. A revealing of the anointing that already existed. Jesus always was, always is, and always will be Messiah. But Jesus is indicating here that he has been anointed. He is the anointed one. There is no other anointed one. An “anointed one” is a Christ. I’ve talked before about if anybody claims that they are or somebody else is an anointed one, they’re claiming they’re a Christ. There’s only one and his name’s Jesus. Well, Jesus is telling them that he is the anointed one in this statement. And we see that revealed in his baptism, and Jesus is declaring it here.
He is here “to proclaim good news [or the gospel] to the poor.” To proclaim the gospel which is good news to the poor. Now, what does he mean by the poor? Well, he primarily means the spiritually poor. Although economic poor is in here as an idea, it is a minor idea. This is not a political statement by Jesus. This is not a justice statement by Jesus, although some would make it that. This is a spiritual statement about Jesus. The sad truth of it, though, is this: those who are the most responsive to the good news of Jesus are more often than not those who are poor economically. Why? Because those who have all of their needs in this world generally think they don’t have any needs in the spiritual realm. They’re fine just like they are. Everything’s all right, and so they tend to be closed to the gospel. Now, can Jesus and the Holy Spirit—can God—overcome that? Absolutely! But if you remember, Jesus actually did say it’s harder for a rich man to come into the kingdom of God than for a camel to go through an eye of needle. His point was the person who has lots of wealth tends to go, “I don’t need anything else.” The more comfortable we are in this world, the less we tend to recognize we need the creator of this world. That’s a good quote. I like that one. But he says the poor.
And then going on, he talks about liberty: “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives.” This is the idea of those who are captive to sin. And by the way, who’s captive to sin? Every single one of us apart from Jesus Christ are a captive—a slave—to sin. We don’t like that word nowadays. Well, it’s true: we are a slave—a captive—owned by sin. We do its bidding. But more than that, we want to do its bidding apart from Jesus Christ. It’s fun. It’s desirable. And so we do it, and then we justify it all. No, we are captives, and Jesus said he’s here to give liberty to the captives.
“Recovering of sight to the blind.” Blinded by sin. Sin makes us blind to our own sinfulness. Blind—I mean sin keeps us blind from seeing the reality of who we are and our great need. Sin keeps us from seeing the truth of who Jesus is, who God is. And Jesus said he’s here to give sight to the blind who are spiritually blind.
“To set at liberty,” next line, “set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Oppressed by sin and Satan. This is also the same as the captives.
And finally, “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This is a reference to the Year of Jubilee. In other words, Jesus is here to proclaim one message: salvation is here and Jesus is that salvation.
So, what is he revealing about himself? Three things. First, that he’s been led by the Holy Spirit; second, that he is the fulfillment of this prophecy; and third, that he saves and proclaims salvation. This is what his message was, and this is the message he delivered to his hometown in the synagogue.
What’d he do afterwards? “He rolled up the scroll,” in verse 20, “and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And all the eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.” Now it’s response time (verses 21 through 30): Jesus called on people to respond.
Jesus called on people to respond (vv. 21-30)
How’d he call on people to respond? Verse 21, check this out, “And he began to say to them.” Now, there’s debate whether he stood up to give the instruction or not. Don’t know. But it was sometime after he read this text he said to them, “Today this Scripture has been has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Not “this Scripture is going to be fulfilled.” Not “this Scripture is about to be fulfilled.” Not “this Scripture is relevant today.” No: “this Scripture has been fulfilled today. Right here. Right now.” Because he is Messiah. He was basically saying this: “Alright folks, I’ve told you the message. Time to respond.”
And their response? “All spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.” In other words, sounds good, but. But. “And they said, ‘is not this Joseph’s son’” “Who is he? Who does he think he is? He’s the son of a carpenter. He’s a nobody. Sounds good, but him? Nah. Nah. Not buying it. Nope. Not accepting it.” That was their response.
Well, Jesus recognized this. He saw their doubt. And, by the way, this indicates that Jesus—yes, he had two natures, the human and the divine, and, yes, the divine nature was not expressed or revealed as much as the human nature at this time, but the divine nature was still there and still at work, and it is through his divine nature that he was able to see into the hearts of these people and see their doubt and then address and respond to their doubt. So, he responds with three things. Verse 23, “he said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb.’” Now, this proverb is most likely just a common proverb at the time and not anything that’s actually in Scripture. It’s just a common proverb. You know, we might say something like, you know, quote Benjamin Franklin, “penny saved is a penny earned,” or something like that proverb that we just have today. But he says to them, “Oh yeah, you’ll probably tell me this, ‘physician, heal yourself.’ What we’ve heard you did in Capernaum, do here in your hometown, too.” In other words, “Show us the proof. Give us the evidence.” Jesus is recognizing that they are demanding evidence.
Well, guess what? That’s something that happens still today. That still happens today, but it’s more than just recognizing their demand for proof. This is actually a condemnation of them. In Jesus telling them, “I can give you all the proof in the world, and you still won’t believe. I can show you every piece of evidence, and you’re still going to go, ‘Nope, not buying it. Nope. Mmm-MMM.’” That happens oftentimes—actually, don’t want to say “oftentimes”—too often in the churches, too. We can show the evidence, give the proof, and even professing Christians go, “Nope, not buying it. Not accepting it. Nope. Don’t want it. Don’t want it. No, no, no, no, no, no.” And the world out there absolutely does that: “There’s no evidence for God.” Yes, there is. You just don’t want to see it.
It’s like the person standing on the highway as the trucks come straight at them. The person says, “There’s a truck coming!”
“No, there’s not. I don’t see a truck.”
“Look right there!”
“I don’t see your truck.”
“You hear that horn?”
“Nah, there’s no horn.
“There’s no horn.”
[Responding to boy in congregation, laughter] Yes, David. That’s all folks.
But, yeah, people today can be shown the evidence, and what do they often say? “I don’t buy it.” And Jesus is telling them, “I can show you the evidence but you won’t believe.” Evidence isn’t what it’s about; it’s belief. It’s faith: “I’ve told you the truth. You either believe the truth or you don’t, simple as that.” But that’s his first response: he recognized their desire for evidence and told them, “Nope, even the evidence wouldn’t work for you.”
But he goes on. Oh, by the way, he’s gonna be making a whole lot of friends here in this his response. Verse 24, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” In other words, “Hey folks, guess what? You people, Israel, has a long habit of rejecting God’s prophets.” The people of God had a history of killing the messengers of God. Why? They didn’t like the message. The message was too harsh. The message wasn’t friendly enough. The message wasn’t compatible with what they wanted. The message didn’t appeal to them. The message was—whatever. The message was the truth, and they didn’t like the truth. So, what’d they do? Killed the messenger. So, he’s reminding them, “Hey, you’re not going to like the truth. Although you claim to be followers of the truth—mmm, no, you’re going to reject the truth.”
Oh, and Jesus goes on (verses 25 to 27): he recounts history—specific history, not just a broad history. He says in verse 25 (where is it, there it is): “But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah.” So, here is referencing the time of Elijah, and there are a lot of widows, a lot of people in need. And then he says, “when the heavens were shut up for three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land.” This was a time in Israel when it was one of their spiritually lowest points. What was going on? The people of God—quote, “people of God”—had turned away from God and turned to idols and whatever pleased them: “Oh I’m going to follow this idol and worship that and do this other thing because that makes me happy.” It became all about them, all about their contentment, all about their happiness, all about their here and now: “God? Nah, don’t need him. We’re going to follow these other things instead.” And they turned away from God while saying, “Oh, we’re the people of God,” while they turn their backs on the God they served. Yeah, I remember one of the lines from that song from Disciple, when they, in singing about this story, they say, “The God you claim to serve will be the God you hang on a tree.” But he recalls Elijah, the time of Elijah and the widows in need. And what happened? This famine was a judgment on Israel for their sin of rejecting God.
But that’s not the whole story: “And Elijah was sent to none of them.” Elijah wasn’t sent to the people of God. No. Elijah was sent to “Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, a woman who was a widow.” In other words, a non-Jew. A Gentile. The blessing of God at the time was not sent to the Jews, it was sent to the Gentiles. Why? Because the Jews had rejected God.
Oh, then he references Elisha. He says in verse 27, “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha,” still that spiritually low time, “and none of them was cleansed.” The people of God who were suffering from leprosy were not cleansed. Why? Well, they rebelled against God. “But only Naaman the Syrian.” Another Gentile received the blessing of God. Not the people of God; the Gentiles.
That was the last straw for the people in the synagogue.
Jesus made a whole lot of friends that day. So much so that they got angry. They hated this man now. “How dare this carpenter come into our synagogue and tell us, the people of God, that we will not have the blessings of God, but in fact, we’re going to be judged! How dare he say that! How dare he call us out like that! How dare he speak the truth to us! We won’t have it!” And what did they do? “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.” They set out to kill him.
Oh, yeah he had a lot of friends in his hometown that day. And what did he do? He came to them with one message: “I am Messiah, believe in me.” And their answer was, “Nope, not gonna. We refuse.” And Jesus called them out on it. Told them that if they don’t accept Messiah, Messiah will go to the Gentiles. They will hear the gospel and be given an opportunity to be saved. By the way, that did happen. Peter reached to the Gentiles. Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles. Church history retells how other disciples went outside of the Jewish community around the world—following the Great Commission—preaching the gospel to Gentiles. But, yes, there were people who ministered and preached to the Jews as well, but first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles as Paul said.
But they disdained—they hated—Jesus’ truth here, and so they hated Jesus, and they attacked him. They attacked him. They hated the fact that Messiah will be given to the Gentiles, not Israel. They hated the fact that the Gentiles will be getting what they thought Israel deserved. Well, the only thing Israel or anybody else deserves is death. That’s all we deserve. But by the grace of God, Jesus shed his blood for the forgiveness of sins, and rose again on the third day, so that all who repent of their sins and believe on Jesus Christ will be forgiven and saved. That is the good news to be proclaimed to both Jew and Gentile. And the truth is, those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ alone are forgiven and saved, but those who reject Jesus remain in judgment, and that is what Jesus is indicating in everything he told them. He told them a hard truth very directly, very pointedly, and they attacked him for it.
But that still happens today. That still happens today. How do we respond to the truth of Jesus and the truth of the gospel? How do we respond when people stand up and speak the truth? How do we respond when people stand up and defend the truth? How do we respond when people stand up and call out false doctrine and call people to the truth of the gospel of who Jesus is? How do we respond? Sadly, too often, people—in the name of God, filling churches across this nation and world—look at the messengers of truth and condemn them. Why? It’s offensive. It’s unloving. Ultimately, it doesn’t appeal to our personal preferences.
There’re only two responses to the truth of Jesus, only two: faith or rejection.
I believe it was John MacArthur who said, “Tolerance is an honorable virtue, but tolerance of false teaching is a sin.” We must stand up for, proclaim, declare the truth. We must.
Yes, there will be some, as we saw in verses 14 to 15, who will respond going, “Yes, tell me more about this Jesus.” But there will be some who, like in Jesus’ hometown, will respond with anger, personal incredulity, and wrath. They may not get physical, but they may sometimes verbally attack.
What did Jesus do? He walked away. He just left. He didn’t respond in hatred. He didn’t respond in anger to their anger. No, he just left. When people attack us, condemn us, we should respond accordingly: just walk away.
If someone calls us a name, let them. If someone insults us, let them. If someone calls us anything in the world, attacks us, tries to malign our character—just words, just move on. In fact, Jesus taught this principle to his disciples when he sent him out: “Go out to the cities, and if they reject, wipe the dust off your feet and move on.”
But the question remains: when we hear the truth, even if we don’t personally like it, when we hear the truth of the gospel, the truth of Jesus, how do we respond? Do we respond in faith by repenting of our sins and believing on Jesus, or do we reject the truth and attack the messenger?