Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Luke 4:16--30

"And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, 'THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE DOWNTRODDEN, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.' And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, 'Is this not Joseph's son?' And He said to them, 'No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your home town as well.' And He said, 'Truly I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.' And all in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way."

As the young Rabbi stood to read from the Tanakh that day in the packed synagogue, word had already spread like wildfire, relating the healings and other signs He had performed in the surrounding towns. Even before He came through the gates, He had known what the reception would be (and the reasons why...): He had not attended the usual school(s) for rabbis...consequently, the Sadduccees and Pharisees among the people would not accept His teaching as authoritative; in a society that venerated age, He was but 30, and, for some that would be a stumblingblock; for others, the fact that they knew his family, were familiar with His upbringing, and had seen no miracles in Nazareth such as the ones they were hearing about being performed in Capernaum and elsewhere, caused them to doubt His messianic claims. Yet, underlying it all that day, He knew His Father's will to be done, even down to the exact portion of Scripture He should read. No more, no less.
Why were all eyes riveted upon Him? Why did He sit? For one thing, the passage pointedly predicts the ministry of the Messiah...and for another thing, being seated was the posture of authority for a teacher.
Thus, the astonishment became shock, then gradually anger at the nerve of such an upstart rogue of a Rabbi, who would dare declare that the passage had been fulfilled in their hearing (!)

Yet His audacity was not done. Not enough that He claims to be the Anointed One... now He cites an episode in the experience of each of Israel's most revered prophets, Elijah and Elisha, to demonstrate God's sovereignty, in general, and how He expressed it toward Gentiles, in particular.
Their response of rage is revealing: the world hates the truth that God is sovereign, for it is a humbling acknowledgement that pride refuses. Pride, too, was at the core of their hatred of the Gentiles...and the thought that God could possibly open the way of salvation to any other than the Jews was simply beyond them.
As they rushed upon the Lord Jesus, it was miraculous that He simply walked away from the precipice of the cliff, through the incensed mob, and on His way. Displayed in the power of the Spirit, His sovereignty was clearly demonstrated, and the crowd dispersed.

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