Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Second Pass at This Weekend's Bible Lesson: Luke 4:21-30

[An explanation of what this is about can be found in the first pass, here.]

Verse-by-Verse Comments
21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
(1) The initial reaction to Jesus' statement is favorable from the Nazareth townspeople.

(2) The question, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” at this point, is not asked disparagingly. It's rather a point of pride, a "hometown hero" comment.

(3) amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth: Literally, they were amazed at the grace of His words. Grace, of course, is God's undeserved favor. Unfortunately, people of religious faith often think that God's favor is deserved and only by them. Jesus, as we'll see, perceives these very attitudes in the people of Nazareth.

23He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.
(1) Jesus refuses to "leave well enough alone," obviously because the positive, if exclusionary, reaction of the synagogue crowd is far from "well enough." Here, as in other places throughout Luke's gospel, Jesus goes out of His way to pick a fight with people who think that God is their own private kewpie doll who only cares for their kind, that is the Jewish people.

(2) In Luke's telling of Jesus' ministry, by chapter 4, Jesus has already done a lot of ministry, including teaching and miraculous signs. Remember that in last weekend's lesson, we were told that before His return to Nazareth, Jesus was being celebrated throughout the region of Galilee, where both Nazareth and Capernaum were located.

So, Jesus is saying, "You probably want me to do all the great things I did in Capernaum." But that isn't going to happen in Nazareth, Jesus is saying. The hometown folks want Jesus to prove Himself. But signs never come to those demanding proof from God; they're only seen by those with faith in God. In his account of Jesus' visit to Nazareth, Mark underscores this theme with this observation:
And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6a)
(3) Nazareth found it difficult to accept Jesus as the Messiah because He was from their community. The signs didn't convince them, any more than they would the rest of His homeland, except for a handful of people. John talks about this reaction in the prologue to his gospel:
He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13)
(4) “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown." Jesus introduces the next element of His confrontation with the people at Nazareth. "This is the way it has always been," He asserts. "God sends prophets with His Word and the hometown folks are the first to spurn them."

[Tomorrow, I hope to do the final pass at this lesson.]

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