Sermon on Luke 4:20-30
Text: Then [Jesus] rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
22 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! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
24 “I tell you the truth,” 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 down the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
There’s an old saying that goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” What that saying points out is the fact that if you have too much of something or someone, you will eventually dislike it. For example, think of your favorite food. Now imagine that is all you have to eat for breakfast, lunch and supper – every day. At first, it might seem like a good idea, but, I believe, it wouldn’t be too long before you were sick to death of it. Being too acquainted with something can cause you to dislike or even hate it. We have a similar situation in our text this morning. In spite of it, JESUS REVEALS HIS GLORY TO UNBELIEVERS. 1. He Does Not Take Back What He Says About Himself. 2. He Reveals His Power Over His Enemies.
Our text for this morning is a continuation of our text from last week. Jesus was in his hometown, Nazareth, teaching in the synagogue. He had read a portion of the book of Isaiah and then said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” This morning, we are going to look at the reaction of the people in the synagogue.
We read in verse 22, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” When the people heard what Jesus had to say, they praised him for being such a wonderful teacher. He certainly sounded like he had something to offer. What he had said sounded good to them.
Yet, there was a problem. “‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked.” The people had all known Jesus since he was a little boy, growing up in Nazareth. They had seen him at Joseph’s side as he learned the carpenter’s craft. He was just another human being in their eyes. He couldn’t be the Savior. They had seen him grow up. Now he came home, delivered a message, and expected them to believe that he was the promised Messiah?!
Jesus knew what was going on in their minds and said, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” Physician, heal yourself! Imagine that you went to a doctor with a sore on your arm. He prescribes an expensive ointment to cure it. Then, you notice that he has a sore on his arm that is twice the size of yours! You might think, ‘Use some of that ointment on your arm first, before you prescribe it for someone else!’ Jesus’ words showed that the people thought it was presumptive of Jesus to say he had fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah.
They went on to say, “Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.” There was one way, the people said, that they might consider believing in him, and that was if he would do a miracle, as he had done elsewhere. ‘Show yourself worthy of our trust! Then, and only then, will we believe in you.’
Jesus went on to say, “I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Jesus pointed out something that happens time and again. God may bless a person with the gift of prophecy, of telling people what God’s will is. As he goes about from place to place, those who hear him will accept what he has to say. However, if he should return to the place where he grew up, the people there will refuse to listen. They will find it hard to accept that he knows what he’s talking about, even if he is speaking the clear words of the Scriptures. They are still apt to think that he doesn’t know any more than they do. This is exactly what happened to Jesus. They refused to believe him in his hometown.
Jesus then used two examples from the Old Testament of God’s people refusing to believe the prophets he sent to them. As a consequence, the blessings went elsewhere. “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.” Elijah was a prophet during the rule of King Ahab, who had introduced the worship of Baal into Israel, and many people began to worship the fertility god. As a punishment, God sent a drought and a subsequent famine. To provide for his prophet, Elijah, God sent out of Israel to Zarephath, near Sidon. He was sent to a widow there. Even though she was not an Israelite, she recognized that Elijah was a prophet of God and obeyed him. Elijah asked to make a loaf of bread. In spite of the fact that making him a loaf of bread would use up the last of her flour and oil and leave none for herself and her son, she obeyed Elijah. God blessed the faith of this woman and, as a result, she did not run out of flour or oil until the drought was over.
Jesus points to another example. “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.” Here was another case of a stranger who believed, when the prophet’s own people did not. Naaman, who had leprosy, came to Elisha and was told to wash in the Jordan River seven times. At first, this seemed like foolishness. Yet, after he did so, he was cleansed of his leprosy.
With these two examples, Jesus was warning the people of Nazareth to be very careful about rejecting him, for the blessings of his Word would be taken from them. That is exactly what happened. The Jewish people rejected Jesus when they shouted, “His blood be on us and on our children.” From there, God has continued to shower his Gospel upon one place after another, until, after they rejected it, he moved it on. It was over Rome for a while, until they added the idea that you had to add your own good works to what Jesus did in order to be saved. It was over Germany, until many theologians added their own reasoning to God’s Word. Right now, we are blessed to have the Gospel showering upon our land. Let us be very careful about how we treat the message.
Sometimes, it’s so easy to think as we read the Bible or come to church, ‘I’ve heard it all before. It’s the same thing Sunday after Sunday: Law and Gospel, Sin and Grace. It’s so boring!’ When we begin to feel that way, tell Satan to go away. He would like nothing better than for us to become complacent in our faith and knowledge of God. It’s so much easier to slip his temptations past us then.
Rather, let us pray that the Holy Spirit would strengthen our faith and our appreciation of God’s Word. May we repent when we see our sins pointed out so clearly to us. May we see how hell was waiting to receive us. Let us also rejoice in the fact that Jesus came to the earth to be our Savior and, when he said, “It is finished,” it meant that we were forgiven. We are forgiven. God has forgiven our sins and has eternal life waiting for us. Let us never tire of the message. Rather, let us value it as the treasure it is.
We also take note of the fact that when Jesus faced opposition for his teaching, he didn’t back down. He didn’t say, ‘OK. If it bothers you, we won’t talk about it.’ He stood up for the truth. May we learn from this and imitate it. There are many things in God’s Word that may not be what the world wants to hear. We can wring our hands and apologize for what God’s Word says, but that isn’t what God wants us to do. Rather, he wants us to say, “This is what God’s Word says on this or that matter.” There is neither reason nor excuse for apologizing for the teachings of the Bible. You tell the truth of God’s Word to all.
There may be times when the world doesn’t want to hear what God has to say to them. This was certainly the case in Nazareth. “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.” Jesus was accusing them of being like their unbelieving ancestors. So, in their fury, “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 down the cliff.” Not only did they refuse to heed Jesus’ warning, but they wanted to kill him for talking like this.
Yet, we read, “he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” Jesus showed them that he was whom he claimed to be, namely, the Son of God. He used his almighty power and walked through the crowd unharmed and untouched. It was not time for him to die, yet. Even when Jesus did die, it was not as though everything had gotten out of control. Jesus allowed himself to be taken and put to death, so that we would be saved. Jesus showed his glory as the Son of God to unbelievers.
This is comforting for us to know, for God will protect us as we speak his Word, if it is his will. The apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy wrote about all that he suffered for the sake of the gospel. Yet, he also wrote, “Yet, the Lord rescued me from all of them.” Our enemies can go no further than the Lord permits. God will also use his power to make us strong at that time, as well.
Let us learn from the reaction of the people in the synagogue in Nazareth to the teachings of Jesus. Let us not be so familiar with God’s Word that we think we need something spectacular to get our attention. The Word of God is amazing, in and of itself. Let us also not shy away from proclaiming God’s Word, even in the face of opposition. We can be comforted by the fact that we are protected by the power of the almighty God, who will not allow us to suffer beyond what we can bear, but in the time of testing will provide a way out. Amen.
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