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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. – Luke 4:14-30 [ESV]
Please be gracious when you learn this about me. But I graduated from high school with Rush Limbaugh. We were not friends, but he knew me and I knew him. That’s less important than the fact that both he and I made our way and experienced whatever success we experienced far from our home town. I actually called in to his radio program once and asked him what the people “back home” thought of him. His answer was not what I expected. He said that he thought he expressed the sentiments of many people. You can agree or disagree with that as you wish. But it is often the case that a prophet is not honored in his home town.
Jesus goes to his home town and reads from Isaiah in the Synagogue, telling the people that he was doing the very thing Isaiah prophesied. The words of Isaiah were being fulfilled “in their ears.” They were hearing it for themselves. First hand. Right then and there.
The initial reaction seems to be quite positive. They spoke well of him. They thought that this hometown son of Joseph was making quite a name for himself. But by the way Jesus responded to this praise, it seems they were ready to brag about how their town had produced such a powerful preacher. And he would have nothing of it. In fact he seems to stir the pot with them.
He will not kowtow to their presumptions of what he should do, when and where. He was not willing to be an on-demand trickster. He was not concerned about his fame or their claim to be the city from which he had come. He was wanting something far better for them.
When he reminds them that Elijah’s and Elisha’s work was done for gentiles! He tells them, in effect, that they could expect no special favors because they were from his home town. In fact his agenda will not be thwarted by those who presume upon his goodness and grace. Nor will it be set aside by those who wish to kill him before his time.
I don’t know too many people who presume upon God’s grace. Or do I? Perhaps you and I do this all the time. Maybe we think we deserve special treatment because we’re God’s people. We think that because we believe in Jesus we get to go to the front of the line when it comes time for God to hand out favors. We might look at others less deserving in our own estimation thinking God owes us before he gives anything good to them.
One thing is for sure though. Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor. He was sent 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.” Unless we are willing to admit our neediness, and rejoice in God’s favor to others in need, we will find no joy in Jesus’ presence. If we do admit our need for his favor, and rejoice in that favor to others we will find great joy in Jesus’ gifts of sight, freedom, release, and good news of God’s favor – no matter what town we’re from.