Lesson 25: Jesus Rejected at Nazareth
Matthew 13:53-58, Mark 6:1-6, Luke 4:16-32
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records.
Welcome to lesson # 25. And we have a lot of reading to do. We'll begin in Luke ch. 4 and go from there. Jesus began an active public ministry: "Repent, for the kingdom is at hand." The general populace were anxious to hear his teaching. But that doesn't mean they all responded positively by any means. People then were very much like people today. They didn't have as many gadgets and life was simpler in some ways; but human nature hasn't changed. Some came for entertainment. Some sought Jesus' miracles for selfish and personal benefits. Don't lose sight of the fact that they were just people. They knew pain, suffering, competition, peer-pressure, social class, slavery, hunger, and the tactics of the criminal element. They had red blood surging through their veins just like we do and a nervous system that sparkled with passion, pride and desire. Some had a pure conscience with the love of God in their heart. Others were criminals in disguise. At this point, the four gospel records seem to become more sporadic in their accounts and the day to day order seems to be more jumbled from book to book. So, we're not going to give great attention to the short-term chronology. We're going to follow Luke's main outline and tie the others in as best we can.
Let's begin our reading in Luke 4:16-32. So get your eyes on that. Sixteen verses. Are you ready? "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceed out of the mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elijah sent, save unto Zarephath, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them were cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he, passing through the midst of them, went his way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power."
Now, if you have as much trouble visualizing and retaining these things as I do; I would suggest you re-read this and try to put it on your easel, so to speak. Try to paint in your mind's eye a picture of that synagogue in Nazareth and Jesus standing up reading and the negative response as described. Then, let's move on to Mark's sequel of this. Mark 6:1-6. Now, its possible that these are two different occasions; but we are going to consider them together. Are you ready? Mark ch. 6, beginning in v.1. "And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples followed him. And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not his the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Judas, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty works, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching."
O.K. before we discuss this, let's snatch about 5 or 6 more verses over in Matthew ch. 13; right at the end of the chapter. And, while you're turning there; let me say: Jesus may have gone back to Nazareth and his own country several times during his Galilean Ministry, so these may or may NOT be on the same occasions. Who can be sure?. But, as I said, we're going to consider them together. Are you ready? Matt. 13:53. Let's read! "And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did NOT many mighty works there because of their unbelief."
Now, many, many things could be discussed about these passages; but, perhaps one of the valuable things we want to learn here is how a synagogue service was conducted. And, of course, ABOVE ALL ELSE we want to learn what Jesus taught. Luke 4:23 would indicate this was NOT when Jesus passed through Nazareth on his way back into Galilee; but after he had been at Capernaum for a while. So, can you imagine Jesus about 30 or 31 years old, coming back to his little hill-side hometown called Nazareth? Mark 6:1 said, "his disciples followed him." It was Saturday (or the sabbath day) in the synagogue at Nazareth. The attendance of the synagogue that day must have been a familiar lot to Jesus. Although he had been away for some months, these were the very people he had known from his childhood, almost from his birth. Hardly a new face in the crowd. They knew Jesus and they knew his family. Jesus was selected by the ruler of the synagogue, called "the minister" in Luke 4:20, to do a reading. It is my understanding that on such an occasion they usually did several readings, usually first from the Law, i.e. a selection from what we would call the first five book of the Bible and then after that they read from the Prophets or the later part of the O.T. So, most likely Jesus was not the first to read on this occasion. And then comments were sometimes made upon the scripture after reading. We said before each synagogue usually maintained a copy of their Bible, i.e. what we would call the O.T. The caretaker of the synagogue at Nazareth brought to Jesus a scroll of Isaiah. V.16 of Luke says Jesus stood up to read. It is my understanding that normally the preacher sat down during such a service. But, it was their custom that EVERYONE stand during a reading, even the one doing the reading, it was a matter of respect for God's Word. Can't you just see Jesus unrolling that scroll and trying to find the place? He turned to what we would call Isaiah chapter 61 and began reading at the beginning of the chapter; except that you should understand chapters and verses were not marked off for over a thousand years after the time of Jesus. Luke (in v.20) said, "the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him." Can't you just see him rolling that scroll back together, or closing the book as it says in v.20, and handing it back to the minister of the synagogue? And did you notice THAT VERSE said that he SAT DOWN "and he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears." Now, I want you to put your finger on that word FULFILLED, F-U-L-F-I-L-L-E-D. And, undoubtedly YOU are getting tired of me emphasizing this fulfillment doctrine bit; and, I apologize. But, if I can get this ground into your vocabulary with the correct connotation, here; it's going to help us tremendously, a little later, to understand Jesus' teaching in its proper context. Jesus said, Isaiah ch. 61, was fulfilled that day at Nazareth in the synagogue "in your ears." The point is that this had been prophesied through the prophet Isaiah over 700 years before; then finally, it came to pass, i.e. that prophecy was completed, brought to a conclusion, finished or in other words: fulfilled. Now, get this tucked into the back of your brain once and forever. Isaiah ch. 61 applied to Jesus. Jesus said it! It didn't apply to Babylon. It didn't apply to Persia. It didn't apply to Greece. It didn't apply to Rome. And, it DOESN'T apply to Russia. It doesn't apply to some great kingdom that SOME think has NOT come yet and is going to last a 1000 years when it gets here, and all of that. This is the glue that makes the Bible stick together. But, you've got to apply that glue in the right place. Now, the quotation in v.18-19 of Luke ch. 4 is from Isaiah and if you will look at it close it is a job description of Jesus which was given 700 years before the fact. So, read those verses about 10 times. It tells WHY Jesus came. You will remember Isa. ch. 40 gave a job description of John the Baptist, the highway builder. This is covered down about v. 4 in Luke ch. 3. Do you remember that?
Then notice in v.22 when they began to heckle and down-grade Jesus they did it in connection with his family. Jesus you couldn't be a prophet, you're the son of Joseph! WE know YOU! We know Mary! We know your brothers! We know your sisters! YOU CAN'T BE A PROPHET! Isn't that typical. Then notice Jesus' response: "No prophet is accepted in his own country." All four writers give that quotation. Then notice the comments of Jesus in v.25, 26, 27. He shows the circumstances (here) were similar to Israel at the time of Elijah and Elisha, hundreds, of years before recorded in I Kings ch. 17 and II Kings ch. 5. And the people in that synagogue that day KNEW THAT STORY. And when Jesus showed them the similarity, it cut them with great irritation to be accused of being so calloused and faithless as their forefathers had been at the time of Elijah. And they were so preoccupied with the messenger; they never REALLY took the time to think through that message. You see, they couldn't find any erroneous statements in his message and the manner in which he delivered it was flawless. V.28 says: "they...were filled with wrath." So, they decided (religious people now); we'll just throw the blankety-blank over the mountain (v.29). It's like killing the mail carrier because he brought news that you don't like. And like I said before, human nature hasn't changed. We've got more and better gadgets: machine guns, bombs, airplanes and drugs to do our dirty work. But it doesn't take much Bible read'n to fill people with WRATH today, just like it did then. But, while they were getting all psyched up and started pushing Jesus around; he escaped their hand. Look at v.29-30! I don't know HOW Jesus did that; but, he did.
Mark says in v.5-6 that Jesus DID heal some sick people and went about the villages teaching. And, Marks says, Jesus MARVELED at their unbelief. Jesus was publicly rejected, driven out of his own home-town. So, when Heb. 4:15 says that Jesus "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." I believe it! It could even say that Jesus was tempted in MORE POINTS than we are and I would still believe it. But, let me sermonize just a minute. One of the greatest lessons we can ever learn is taught here by the body language of Jesus. He went back to Capernaum, his place of residence, and taught AGAIN on the sabbath day. Did you notice THAT in Luke 4:31? Now, He didn't start taking drugs and visiting every psychiatrist in Capernaum and jump off the Tallahassee Street Bridge. Do you think it didn't hurt? Of course it did! But, Jesus kept the plow in the ground, straight ahead. He didn't plan a anti-Nazareth campaign and bring a bunch of big-hulks thugs back the next Saturday to demonstrate or burn up the synagogue. Jesus just kept teaching and kept teaching and kept teaching. And he has influenced the lives of more people for good than all the schools that have ever been built.
We'll follow Jesus to Capernaum in our next lesson. But for the minute or two that we have left, let's do a little review. If you want to remember and retain these things; you'll need to develop your own outline and review it often. As I said, it must be your outline. But, it should go something like this. The birth of both Jesus and John the Baptist were foretold to their parents before they conceived. Finally, Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judah, circumcised the 8th day. His parents took him into Egypt to escape King Herod. Archelaus Herod succeeded his father Herod-the-Great. Antipater was made the Tetrarch of Galilee. An angel instructed Joseph to return from Egypt and Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee. Jesus got lost from his parents at the passover when Jesus was 12 years old. John the Baptist began to preach along the Jordan when he was about 30 years old and John baptized those who repented and confessed their sins (Matt. 3:6). He preached the kingdom was at hand. Jesus went to John to be baptized, to fulfill all righteousness; NOT because Jesus had any sins. Jesus was divinely and miraculously declared to be the Son of God there on the banks of the Jordan, both visually and audibly. He spent 40 days without food in the wilderness tempted by Satan. From there he went back into Galilee. We read about his first disciples, the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee, his first miracle of turning water into wine, and his trip to Capernaum with his family. Then the next spring he went to the passover at Jerusalem, the cleansing of the temple, the interview with Nicodemus, the early Judean ministry, Jesus taught and baptized more disciples than John. When Herod put John in prison, Jesus returned to Galilee passing through Samaria. When Jesus got back into Galilee he healed the nobleman's son and launched an active public ministry from the city of Capernaum. He visited his home-town of Nazareth; but was rejected and chased out of town. But, he didn't lose heart. He taught those he could and went back to Capernaum and continued to teach.
What did Jesus teach? Man shall not live by bread alone. (Luke 4:4). Ye must be born again. (John 3:7). Jesus would be lifted up like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. (John 3:14). God sent NOT his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17). If one does NOT believe in Jesus he is condemned already. (John 3:18). One that does evil hates the light. (John 3:20). God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24). Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt. 4:17). No prophet is accepted in his own country. (Luke 4:24). Isaiah ch. 61 was fulfilled in Jesus. (Luke 4:21). The clock has got us. Have a good day!