Hearing What We Often Do Not Want to Hear
The gospel of Luke, like Matthew and Mark, begins Jesus’ ministry after his baptism and temptation, skipping what we read the last few days in John’s gospel. This is all fine and well, and the reason why we are given four gospels instead of one or two. Much of what is in one is recorded in another but from a different perspective; or, some of what Jesus said and did is only in one of them. In this way we get a complete picture, or at least the picture that God knows is all that we need.
Luke begins here telling us that Jesus returned to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit.” He had conquered Satan in the wilderness, cleansed the temple, preached truth to Nicodemus, saved a Samaritan village, and who knows what more. When we resist temptation as he did in the wilderness, we are able to go in the power of the Spirit and do wondrous things for the Lord.
So he arrives in his hometown in Galilee. He had already preached in the synagogues and performed signs in Cana and Capernaum. Our passage says that “as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day” (which tells us that although Jesus was sinless, he didn’t think he was too good to go to church, unlike some Christians today). So there in Nazareth, he takes his place before the people and reads from Isaiah 61, a passage everyone in the synagogue would have been familiar with. But then he says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He was referring to himself, of course. But knowing they would not accept him, being a boy who grew up in their town, the son of Joseph, or so they thought, who was he to preach like this? In response, Jesus reminds them of accounts from the Scriptures in which God sent prophets not to Israel but to gentiles – Elijah to the widow of Zarephath in the pagan town of Sidon and Elisha who healed Naaman of pagan Syrian. In other words, when God’s people refuse to hear the word of God, God will send his messengers elsewhere.
The people flew into a rage. They would have thrown him over a cliff, but instead he passed “through the midst of them,” either miraculously or through his own courage, after all as the gospel of John would say, “His hour had not yet come.” How blind we can be to our own sin, how deaf to the truth that offends us. This is especially true in our own day. The Bible is not meant to spare our feelings, nor are preachers sent to do so. The Bible is God’s word to save us, but it must first convict us and even wound us in order to do so. We are sick people who need a physician – Jesus.