by Pastor Edward F. Markquart, Grace Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington
Gospel: Mark 6:1-16, Matthew 13:53-58, Luke 4:16-30
All four gospels report that Jesus was rejected by his hometown and home synagogue.
All four gospels say that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.
Matthew and Mark place this story about Jesus’ preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth later in the story of Jesus’ life.
It seems that Mark and Matthew’s location of this story is better than Luke’s. That is, most Biblical scholars lean towards Mark’s outline as being the earliest outline of Jesus’ life and perhaps the most historically reliable. But…it doesn’t really matter. That is, our goal in this course is always to hear the message and the meaning of a particular story. The message and the meaning of the story is much more important than the historical minutia.
Luke’s version of the story is the most intricate and interesting of the gospels. Once again, Luke is the master storyteller. We will focus primarily on Luke’s version, but use Matthew and Mark’s accounts as well.
Luke’s account of this incident is the gospel text for Epiphany 3C and 4C. Mark’s account of this incident is the gospel text for Pentecost 5B.
-When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place. He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, Matthew begins the story with these words. Jesus had finished teaching these particular parables and now goes to the synagogue of his hometown Nazareth. Mark’s gospel simply says that Jesus came to his own hometown and his disciples followed him.
-When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, Luke reminds us that Jesus had been brought up in the little village of Nazareth. The gospels of Mark and Mathew do not give us the name of the town of Nazareth.
-He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. Luke also tells us it was the custom of Jesus to attend synagogue on the Sabbath (and implies that it should be our custom to attend weekly worship as well.). The Gospel of Mark also emphasizes that this event occurred on the Sabbath. The Jewish synagogue Sabbath worship consisted of a reading from the Law and a reading from the prophets, and that a guest rabbi could select any passage from the prophets that he chose to.
The following verses come uniquely from the Gospel of Luke and are not reported in Matthew and Mark:
-He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. We can see that a scroll of the Book of Isaiah was in Jesus’ hands. Books had not been invented yet. Jesus had a scroll in his hands.
-He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
-"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Jesus quoted from Isaiah 61:1,2a. By quoting Isaiah, Jesus states the themes of his mission: “Good news to the poor, release to the captives (in prison), recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to those who are oppressed, and a declaration of the year of the Lord’s favor.” The life of Jesus became a living out of his first sermon.
Jesus did not quote from Isaiah 61:2b. That is, what you quote is important but it is also important what you don’t quote. Isaiah 61:2b said, “The day of the vengeance of our God.” Jesus did not quote the line from Isaiah about vengeance. Jesus intentionally omitted the quotation about vengeance, and I believe that this was intentional and foretelling of Jesus’ ministry to come. There are far too many people of all religions who practice vengeance today, and self-righteously claim that their vengeance is from God.
Jesus’ quoting from Isaiah 61:2a and not from Isaiah 61:2b is an indication of how well Jesus knew his Bible. He could quote exactly the words that he wanted from it.
-And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. There is tension in Luke’s description of the event. We can imagine all eyes riveted on Jesus,
-Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." These prophecies will be taking place now in Jesus’ ministry.
This ends Luke’s insertion.
-"Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! (Mark’s version) Where did Jesus learn all this spiritual wisdom? Is he not merely a carpenter, a mason, a maker of yokes for oxen? How can he do all these miraculous deeds of power?
-All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. The towns people were pleased with these words of Jesus…until a few moments later when Jesus taught that true faith was also found outside of Israel and among the Gentiles who were from towns beyond the borders of true faith. Mark’s version is this:
-They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" The townspeople remember Jesus as being part of the family of Joseph. Notice the parallels in Matthew and Mark. Joseph is known to have been a town carpenter. Mary, his mother, was known. As were Jesus’ four brothers: James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. And there were sisters and the word is plural so we assume two or more sisters. This particular gospel gives us much information about the details of Jesus’ family.
Mark says, “Is this not Mary’s son?” Joseph is omitted and scholars wonder why. Perhaps he was deceased.
-Is not this the carpenter, We hear that Jesus was a carpenter, builder or stone mason. In Matthew 13:55, we hear that Jesus’ father Joseph was also a carpenter. In other words, Jesus’ occupation was from the “working class.”
-the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" Both Mark and Matthew (who copies 90% of Mark) give us the only place in the New Testament which gives us a profile of Jesus’ family. The gospels of Luke and John do not give us this information.
- And they took offense at him. This is the key line of the text. The word, “offense,” also means “scandal.” The people present were offended and scandalized by Jesus’ words.
-Where then did this man get all this? Only Matthew. The people were wondering where “this upstart Jesus” got all this wisdom and teaching. Jesus hadn’t attended a rabbinic school and received a rabbinic education.
-He said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, "Doctor, cure yourself!' Only Luke. In other words, the people thought that Jesus was crazy and needed to be cured. We remember that Luke himself was a physician and would know this proverb.
-And you will say, "Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.' " Only Luke. In other words, “Do the healings here in your own hometown of your childhood that you did in Capernaum, your adult hometown.”
-And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown. (Luke’s version)
-Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." The hometown people including one’s own relatives were too close to the ordinariness of the prophet. The prophet was a kid from earlier years who played games with his buddies. They knew him well. They were too familiar with their buddy to think of that buddy becoming a famous prophet. Likewise within the family: “He’s my kid brother. How could HE be a prophet? No way!!!”
-And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. The people in his own hometown did not believe in Jesus. His family and friends were too close to him and that familial closeness got in the way of seeing the true and full identity of Jesus. Because of that, Jesus worked no miracles in their lives.
-And he was amazed at their unbelief. The key to discipleship is always belief, belief in God, belief in Jesus. We soon will hear many stories of deep and simple trust in Jesus to heal and restore lives. But the family and friends of Jesus did not exhibit transforming belief in him but doubting, believing reservations about him.
Luke then adds two stories:
-But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." Luke adds the stories of two prophets, Elijah and Elisha, who were sent to people outside the Jewish religion. Elijah was sent to Sidon, a town outside and north of Israel. Elisha was sent to Namaan the Syrian, a person outside the country. In other words, these two Jewish prophets were sent to the Gentiles, to outsiders, to nations and people outside of Israel. Luke is laying the groundwork for the story about the Apostle Paul and his missionary work to the whole world of Gentiles. The people of God are forever finding true faith outside their narrow definitions, boundaries, and theologies.
-When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. They were so angry at Jesus that they were going to kill him. The people of God often become angry when they hear that God loves other people outside of their predetermined boundaries. From the perspective of the hometown people, God’s love should be confined to the Jews. Nowadays, we play similar theological games when we believe that God’s love should be confined to Christians, when we believe that God should love Christians more than people of other religions like the Muslims or Hindus.
Why do you think that Jesus was not accepted in his own hometown and in the synogogue of his boyhood?
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