Posted by: gbake783 | March 2, 2011

Luke 4:14-30

In Luke 4:14-30, the gentile doctor records a shocking episode during the initial stages of Jesus ministry. The account is startling not just because of the Jews’ violent reaction, but because of the people acting out the violence: not just Jews, but Jews from Jesus’ hometown.

The story begins innocently enough with Jesus teaching in the synagogue – Jesus quotes a portion from Isaiah 61:1-2 and proclaims that what he read (Jesus read only part of the prophecy) had been fulfilled. The people respond pleasantly enough, if not a little incredulous (“isn’t this Joseph’s son,” v.22).

But events turn dicey when Jesus exposes a deeply rooted problem: “Doubtless you’ll quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” Jesus then confronts this false notion with two Biblical allusions: the widow of Zarephath’s endless supply of oil and meal (1 Kings 17:9f) and Naaman’s healing from leprosy (2 Kings 5:1f). Having been confronted with these two Biblical accounts of Gentiles receiving God’s blessings, the Jews explode and attempt to murder our Lord. Jesus, however, miraculously prevents their attempts to throw Him off a cliff by “passing right through the middle of them” (v.30, my translation).  

Many interpreters explain the Nazarenes’ rage with two concepts: (1) their racial bias toward Gentiles and (2) a misplaced notion that the Jews had exclusive rites over the Messiah. In my opinion, these explanations cover only 80% of the story because they fail to account for Jesus’ quotation of the parable, “Physican, heal yourself.” The explanation, I believe, lies in the two Bible stories Jesus recalls. Jesus selects the story of two Gentiles who had to believe before they saw God’s miraculous salvation. The widow first had to make a cake for Elijah and Naaman had to overcome his pride and dip himself not once, but seven times in the Jordan River. And both, as a result of their faith, were spared their ailments.

These Nazarene Jews, however, demanded a sign before they would believe that “Today this Scripture [about the Messiah] has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Interestingly enough, in the section immediately prior, Satan tempted Jesus by goading Him to prove His deity with miraculous demonstrations (4:1-13). It would be foolish to argue that race had nothing to do with the Jews’ rage. Nevertheless, Jesus is highlighting that God rewards genuine faith – faith that believes before it sees regardless of race. Jesus attacked a false notion in the Nazarenes’ faith, an attack that prompted their violent response.

Two applications come to mind. First, people throughout time have rejected God’s unmerited grace. Why? Because works salvation ensures autonomy, whereas salvation by grace captures the soul. Naaman’s rage at Elisha’s command is instructive – his servants say it all, “Naaman, you would have done something great, right? Why won’t you do something so easy?” Let’s imagine that Elisha told Naaman to scale Mount Herman. This mighty man of valor probably would have pulled it off. And then what? Naaman’s leprosy would have been cured and Naaman is the hero of his own soul, nevermind him knowing that there is a prophet in Israel (2 Kings 5:8). But by humiliating himself and, frankly, doing nothing to earn his healing, Naaman became indebted to Israel’s God. And he said as much after his healing (2 Kings 5:17-18). If we could earn our forgiveness, as soon as we earned that certificate of freedom, we would go back to living however we wanted to live. But grace demands our devotion. Paul even says, “he who was free when called is a slave of Christ” (1 Cor. 7:22). Sinful man yearns for autonomy and, in many cases, violently rejects the notion of slavery to Christ.

Second, Christ knows what it means to be rejected by those closest to him. Many believers, upon accepting Christ, are rejected by the ones they love most: family, friends, even spouses. “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24) and that friend is our Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus undoubtedly experienced a flood of emotions when childhood friends and lifelong acquaintances attempted to murder Him that day. Are you facing persecution for your faith even from those closest to you? Talk to Christ about it – He is your compassionate and understanding High Priest (Heb. 2:17-18).

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