Messiah in their Midst

Posted: July 10, 2016 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 4:14-30, “Messiah in their Midst”

Have you ever missed something that was right in front of you?  The phrase “If it was a snake, it would have bit me!” is a frequent one of mine…seemingly more frequent every year.   It’s sometimes funny, sometime annoying, but when we’re talking about missing glasses or keys it’s rarely something of real consequence.  Not so, when we’re talking about eternity.  There is no more important question than that of eternal life, and what we believe about Jesus is exclusively tied to what happens to us after we die.  We either believe Him for who He is (the Christ / Messiah: the Son of God who died for our sins, rose from the dead, and will return as King), or we don’t.  Eternity hangs in the balance, and we will miss out if we miss Jesus’ identity as the Messiah.

For the Jews of ancient Nazareth, that is exactly what happened.  The Messiah was in their midst, fulfilling prophecy right before their eyes, but they refused to believe.  They looked right over Jesus & thus right past their salvation.  In the end, they were even willing to kill Jesus, despising Him as their only hope & their true King.

Contextually, Luke shows this taking place after Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness.  Whether or not it did chronologically is up for debate, but Luke certainly saw it to be a fitting introduction to Jesus’ ministry & that’s where he placed it (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit).  Jesus had been publicly identified and blessed by God as being His beloved Son, upon whom the Spirit rested.  Jesus had gone into the wilderness & endured every kind of temptation that we as humans faced.  Only instead of giving into temptation, Jesus showed Himself victorious over it.  He proved Himself to be a worthy sacrifice for the sin of all humans – the perfect Son of God.

Now it was time for Jesus to engage the people.  He had been declared to be the Son of God & now He would reveal Himself as such to the multitudes…but only if they were willing to receive Him.  The Son of God would walk among them & dwell in their midst, but would they see Him for who He is?  Would they be willing to humble themselves, believe in Him & receive the freedom He offered – or would they reject Him in stubborn pride?  Which will we choose?

Luke 4:14–30

  • Growing fame in Galilee (14-15)

14 Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. 15 And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

  • Luke sets the general scene.  Upon exiting the wilderness & His temptations, Jesus began His ministry in earnest, focusing on the northern area of Judea technically known as Galilee.  Galilee was home to many towns, and Jesus’ itinerant ministry took Him to virtually all of them.  Apparently news about Him spread quickly & it’s certainly easy to understand why.  He’s God, after all.  There’s no way the Son of God could walk among people & them not take notice!
  • Luke provides a specific example of Jesus teaching within a single synagogue, but He wasn’t limited to one.  The Greek used by Luke specifically points to a continual action, though something that was begun in the past.  This was habitual for Jesus.  And when He did it, the people “glorified” Him.  This doesn’t mean that they had faith – it means they were amazed.  They were impressed by Jesus, but people can be impressed with Him without having faith in Him.
    • We see that all the time!  People are impressed by Jesus’ morals – His compassion – His character.  What they lack is impression by His deity.  What they don’t understand is that if Jesus is NOT God, then none of those other things matter.  His morals are worthless if Jesus lied about His identity.  His compassion is strictly temporary if He does not possess the power of God to back it up.  We certainly need to glorify Jesus, but we need to glorify Him for the right reasons based on who He is.  What we need is faith.
  • Please note the continued emphasis of the Holy Spirit within Luke.  Jesus was: Spirit-identified (3:22), Spirit-filled (4:1), Spirit-led (4:1), Spirit-empowered (4:14).  There’s a bit of overlap with all of it, but Luke takes the time to detail it, so it’s important for the reader to see.  Someone might know the will of the Spirit, desiring to be led by God, but without the power of God enabling him/her, there’s not a lot of progress that’s going to be made. Jesus went forth in “the power of the Spirit…” The idea of “power” is that of strength, might, and ability. (δυναμις ~ dynamite, dynamic ( This is something that has true power behind it – this is the enabling of God.  If God wills to do something, He has the power to ensure it is done.  Thus it was with Jesus.  He walked in the will of God, being filled with the Spirit of God, and thus He walked in all the power of God.
    • The power of the Spirit was available to Jesus; the power of the Spirit is available to us.  Being the Son of God, it seems inevitable that He would walk in the power of the Spirit – but He also set forth an example for us.  The power of the Spirit is something that Jesus specifically promised to His disciples (Acts 1:8).  When the Spirit comes upon us, we receive power – the enabling of God.  How do we receive it?  The same way we receive any of the promises of God: through faith.  All we need to do is ask.
  • All in all, these are general statements introducing the Galilean ministry. Luke is basically saying, “Jesus taught in Galilee & amazed everyone.”  Luke never claims to give a blow-by-blow comprehensive history of Jesus – he just gives enough to help his readers understand who Jesus is & what He has done.  What He did was enough to amaze the people of Galilee, and they took notice.  It’s interesting that although Nazareth made a big deal about miracles; apparently Jesus’ teaching was enough to impress others in Galilee.  That’s some powerful teaching!  That is teaching overflowing with the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Sabbath day in Nazareth (16-30) – Synagogue Scripture (16-21)

16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

  • As Luke mentions, “Nazareth” was Jesus’ hometown.  This is where He had grown up.  Historically, it was a tiny village in the Galilean region.  Depending on which scholars you read, population estimates range as low as 200-500 people at the time of Jesus.  We sometimes talk about small-towns in Texas…this was small.  Everyone knew everything about everybody else.  People would have known Jesus & His family well…including the rumors and controversy that surrounded His birth 30 years earlier (something which will come up later in the text).
  • While there, Jesus did what He always did.  As we might expect, Jesus had a “custom” of going to the synagogue on the Sabbath day.  This is what any faithful Jew would have done, and there’s no question Jesus was THE faithful Jew.  He gathered with others to worship God with songs & psalms of praise, to hear from the Scripture, to listen to teaching, and to build up one another.  What we do in church services today certainly looks different from the ancient Jews in the customs & details, but the general idea is the same.  This is what Jesus did, and this is what He still does. 
    • Jesus is still gathering with those who worship God.  Where 2-3 are gathered, He is in the midst!  We are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Where the church is gathered, God is present.
  • On this particular day, Jesus didn’t just sit in the congregation – He was an active leader.  Out of the several readings that took place during a synagogue service, Jesus read one of them.  To do so doesn’t mean that He had to have been the local rabbi.  It simply means that He participated in the normal worship.  Anyone deemed qualified would read the Scripture and provide a teaching, according to the normal Jewish custom.  Considering how everyone already knew Jesus (being from Nazareth), and how they saw His fame spreading as a teacher, it only makes sense that they invited Him to do the reading that day.
  • As to the reading itself, was this purposeful or providential?  Did Jesus intentionally open it to the book of Isaiah, or was He already expected to read that section of Scripture (per a lectionary)?  Either way, the reading was divinely chosen.  After all, this was Jesus.  Anything He does is providential, by definition!
    • The providence of God is a wonderful comfort!  We may not know everything that is going on in our own lives, but we can know that our God & Father is sovereign over every opportunity.
  • The place Jesus read was Isaiah 61:1-2a (LXX) – an extraordinarily appropriate passage for Jesus to read.  There is one clause omitted from vs. 2, most likely due to the fact that it refers to the Messiah’s role in the Day of Judgment.  That prophecy is no less true of Jesus; it just could not be said to be fulfilled in the same day that Jesus read it.

18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

  • If Luke seems to emphasize the role of the Spirit in the life of Jesus, it’s because the Old Testament Scripture does exactly the same thing.  That is what Isaiah prophesied of Jesus.  Jesus was always meant to have a ministry bathed in the Spirit.  That was simply part of His role as Messiah.  He is the Spirit-led King of Israel, the Spirit-empowered King of Israel.  So what?  It shows that the Messiah was not supposed to be ‘just another’ king in Israel or another son of David.  This Son of David was different.  This one was clothed in the Holy Spirit of God because this Son of David IS the Son of God.
  • For the Spirit to come “upon” someone was for the Spirit to empower him/her – just as Luke has already shown Jesus to be empowered.  However, it was more than power alone; it was purpose.  There is a specific statement of purpose/intent in vs. 18 (Isa 61:1): “because.”  Both the Hebrew and Greek can be translated “on account of.”  This is more than a simple conjunction – this is a purpose indicator.  What did the “because” indicate?  The Messiah had been set apart for a mission.  He was “anointed” by YHWH.  Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “Messiah” is actually a word derived from the word for “anoint.”  מָשַׁח = he anointed/smeared; מָשִׁיחַ = Messiah, anointed one.  A person was anointed with oil if they were to be set apart for a certain task, such as kingship or prophecy.  For the Messiah, like any other king or prophet, this Person was anointed / smeared by God with holy oil (symbolized by the Holy Spirit), which set Him apart for His God-chosen mission.
    • The point?  Jesus was chosen.  There was nothing random or circumstantial about His ministry.  What Jesus did was exactly what God meant for Him to do from the beginning of time. (Which is something that was emphasized by Jesus’ genealogy…)  Jesus was chosen by God, specifically set apart to do what He did: provide for the salvation and forgiveness of mankind.  Jesus was chosen to make it possible for men and women to be at peace with God.  Jesus was chosen to save.  More specifically, Jesus was chosen to save you.  From before the foundations of the earth, God had a plan for you to be saved for eternity, and Jesus is the chosen one to save you.  (Will you respond to His plan?)
  • What was the mission for which Jesus was chosen?  Isaiah (whom Jesus read) wrote of 6 things in vss. 18-19.  First, “To preach the gospel to the poor.”  Jesus clearly had a teaching ministry, and it had priority in the list of things He was sent to do.  “Preach the gospel” is actually one single word in the Greek, derived from the word where we get the term “evangelism.”  When we share our faith with others, we’re telling them the gospel (good news).  We’re bringing glad tidings of good things.  To know that we can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ is truly the best news.  We do not have to earn our way to heave (and couldn’t, if we tried).  But we don’t have to, because the way has already been made.  Jesus paid the price for us.  Salvation costs far too much for any human to afford.  Only one Person can pay the price…and He did.
    • Why “to the poor”?  First of all, we’re all poor, even if we don’t realize it.  When it comes to spiritual righteousness, we’re all destitute.  This good news comes to the poor, because they are the ones who realize that they’re destitute.  Someone who believes he is spiritually rich or otherwise capable of earning eternal life has no reason to look for a Savior.  Only those who understand their need will gladly receive the gift offered them by Jesus. 
    • Same idea in the Beatitudes.  Blessed are the poor in spirit (Mt 5:3) – these are the ones who receive the kingdom of heaven.  Heaven isn’t given to the proud; it’s given to the humble.
  • Second, the Messiah was to “heal the brokenhearted.”  If you have a heart that is broken over sin, then Jesus offers healing.  Does He offer healing from other trials?  Sure.  But the primary healing is a spiritual one.  When our hearts and minds are racked with guilt over the things we’ve done, we can go to Jesus and find healing and cleansing. (1 Jn 1:9)
    • FYI, this phrase is not included in all translations due to an omission in the earliest manuscripts, but the phrase is Biblical, in that it matches with the original quote from Isaiah 61:1. 
  • Third, the Messiah proclaims “liberty to the captives.”  There is no slavery like the slavery of sin.  In Romans 6, Paul identifies sin as slavery & in Romans 7 he describes the futility of struggling against sin through our own power or attempts to keep the law.  Romans 7:19–20, "(19) For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. (20) Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."  That’s slavery!  The good news is that Jesus offers freedom / release, which is the idea of the word translated “liberty.”  (Very similar to the Greek word often translated “forgive.”)  We often feel trapped by sin, but no one need remain trapped by it.  Whether it is a person newly coming to faith in Christ, finding his/her freedom – or it is the Christian saved for years, yet struggling against a habitual pull of the flesh, Jesus offers freedom.
    • Have you experienced this freedom?  Do you know the sweet release of Jesus?
  • Fourth, the Messiah proclaims “sight to the blind.”  Who are the blind?  Obviously Jesus did give physical sight to several people who had gone blind over the course of their lives.  He even gave sight to at least one man who was blind from birth (something which the apostle John shows as key evidence of Jesus’ deity).  But as fantastic as these miracles were, they were relatively rare over the course of three years of ministry.  For this to be a key part of the work of Messiah, as implied by Isaiah, it would seem to refer to something far more frequent: freedom from blindness to sin – blindness to our need for God.  People get so lost in their lives, and they spend so much time in darkness that they forget what it is like to live in the light.  In fact, many end up preferring the darkness to the light (Jn 1:5, 3:19).  The darkness is their comfort zone, and they don’t want to leave.  And without Jesus, they couldn’t leave if they wanted.  But Jesus makes it possible!  He opens the eyes of the spiritually blind.  He not only helps us see our sinful condition through His law, but He shows us the solution in Himself.  Because of Jesus, the blind can see the goodness of God.
  • Fifth, the Messiah liberates “the oppressed.”  Isaiah already wrote of the Messianic liberty (release/freedom) once in regards to the captives.  Now he mentions it again in regards to the oppressed.  These are the broken ones – those who have been weakened by some outside force.  For these, Jesus not only proclaims liberty – He actually provides it.  He does what is necessary to set them free.  Jesus is no passive observer in our salvation; He is THE participant!
    • Question: Who are the oppressed?  Who are the oppressors?  On one hand, we could think of this in terms of governments, and indeed Jesus will free all peoples from oppression when He physically reigns over all the earth during His millennial kingdom.  Yet people can be beaten down in all kinds of ways apart from the government.  There is the work of Satan as he buffets us with lies and other half-truths, trying to get us to doubt the word of God.  There are legalistic Pharisees who impose the law upon us while we are supposed to live in grace.  There are unrealistic expectations from others or even ourselves, of which we always fall short.  Most of all, there is our own sin.  Sin enslaves us.  Habitual sin beats us down and beats us into submission.  We begin to think that we’re destined to fail and fall into temptation.  But we’re not.  Jesus frees us!  Jesus grants us our liberty.
    • As a Christian, this is already available to you.  All you need to do is walk in it.  Appropriate the work of Jesus by faith!  Trust Him for it, and live in freedom.
  • Sixth (and finally), the Messiah is to “proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”  What is an “acceptable year?”  It is a year of goodwill – of favor.  It’s a year that meets with the Lord’s approval & one that is pleasing to Him.  The ancient Hebrews were supposed to observe a regular year of Jubilee every 50 years.  This also was a year of goodwill, favor, and forgiveness as Jews experienced the payment of debt & recovery of family land & inheritances.  It is questionable as to whether or not the Israelites actually observed this command, but it was supposed to happen regularly.  As for Jesus, He personally proclaims this year of goodwill.  Those who believe in Him are brought into favor with the Lord.  Our debts of sin are released, and for the first time in our existence, we experience peace with God as we live in His grace.  It is “acceptable,” not because we have accepted the Lord, but because we are accepted by Him through the work of Jesus Christ.
  • That’s a lot of promises – but it begs a question.  All of these things are spiritual applications.  Does Jesus offer anything to people in the here & now?  Of course He does.  Again, there were real-life blind people who were literally healed of their blindness by Jesus.  There were literally poor people who were given the same gospel invitation as the rich and powerful.  Yes, there were immediate physical applications of these promises, but beware of making Jesus’ ministry all about that.  Jesus offered eternal forgiveness to the thief on the cross, but He didn’t grant the man a stay-of-execution.  There were many who were physically healed by Jesus, but by no stretch of the imagination did He heal everyone that was ill in Israel.  Jesus established no hospital, no soup kitchen, or any other permanent mission of mercy.  Jesus did often minister to physical needs, but His primary ministry was spiritual.  Why?  Because our primary need is spiritual.  We are sinners in need of salvation.  We are enemies of God who need to be made at peace with Him.  What good is filling someone’s belly for a night, if they are still headed for hell?  Even if you feed someone for the rest of his/her life, but never address the spiritual need, all you do is let them go to hell with a full stomach.  Yes, physical needs are important.  To share the gospel with a hungry man, yet do nothing for his hunger is wrong (Jas 2:16) – but the spiritual need is FAR greater, even if he/she doesn’t realize it at the time.  It would be like a doctor only bandaging someone’s finger when the doctor is aware of an emergency heart condition.  Sure, the bleeding needs to stop, but the heart is the primary issue.  When it comes to our need, our hearts are the primary issue.  That’s where Jesus applies the balm of the gospel – that’s where He meets our greatest need.

20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

  • Although we read the verses from Isaiah with commentary, Jesus did not.  He read them as they were, and simply handed the scroll back to the person tasked with attending to it.  According to the custom of the day, Jesus had stood to read, but then proceeded to sit down to teach.  This was natural & normal, and any teacher would have had the attention of the congregation.  But this Teacher certainly had their full attention!  Stories of Jesus had already travelled far & wide around Galilee, and Messianic expectations for Him were high.  That Jesus would have read this particular passage from Isaiah would have raised those expectations even more.  What would this Man say about this text?
  • He said that it was “fulfilled.”  The prophecy was fulfilled at that very time in their very presence.  All prophecy is destined to come true at a specific moment in time, and this passage that they had all read many times before had come true right then & there.
    • How often can we say the same thing?  It’s relatively easy to look back and see Scripture that has already been fulfilled, but what about seeing it fulfilled in real time?  That’s exciting!  And it does happen.  Biblical prophecy came true in 1948 with the establishment of the nation of Israel.  End-times prophecies are being proven true every single day, especially in regards to the cultural indicators given by Paul to Timothy.  Scripture will always prove true because it is the word of God.
  • The exciting thing for the people in the synagogue (or what should have been exciting for them) was the fact that Jews had not seen the fulfillment of Scripture for so long.  For 400 years the prophets had been silent, only to have John the Baptist arise with a powerful prophetic voice.  Now there was Jesus, who obviously had the hand of God upon Him.  Scripture was starting to be fulfilled at an incredibly rapid pace.  If only they had faith to believe…
  • Jewish doubt vs. Gentile faith (22-27)

22 So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

  • People may have marveled at His words & been astonished by His speech, but it was all tempered with a massive dose of skepticism.  They knew well that Isaiah’s prophecy spoke of the Messiah.  For that prophecy to be fulfilled in their hearing, it meant that Jesus was the One to do it.  Yet (in their minds) how could Jesus be the Messiah?  They knew Him.  They had all grown up together.  In small-town Nazareth, they knew everything about Jesus and His family.  Not the least, they would have known about the scandal that surrounded Jesus’ birth.  Here, they referred to Him as “Joseph’s son,” but they were likely inferring something more.  Certainly they knew His mother to be Mary, but there had always been doubt about His father.  How could this Man be the Messiah?  If He were Joseph’s son, then they knew His humble background as a carpenter & couldn’t imagine Jesus in the role of the mighty Messiah, the king of Israel.  If He were not Joseph’s son, then they would assume illegitimacy.  Surely the Messiah wouldn’t come from that sort of sin.  These were insurmountable obstacles in their minds.
  • What they missed was the work of God.  They didn’t know half what they thought they knew about Jesus, and thus they didn’t know Him at all.  They knew a little, and then dismissed Him out of hand.
    • Too many people do the same thing today!  They know a little & think they know it all, and they dismiss Jesus completely.  Jesus is too important NOT to investigate!  This is a Man who, according even to His enemies, has changed the world.  Surely His claims cannot be ignored.
  • Jesus wasn’t blind to their skepticism.  Whether they voiced their doubts to His face, or whispered it under their breath, Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking & He addressed it head-on…

23 He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’ ” 24 Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.

  • Jesus knew their skepticism, and He also knew the deeper reason for it.  He had taught in Nazareth, but elsewhere around Galilee He performed miracles.  The people “marveled at the gracious words” of Jesus, but they wanted more than gracious words.  They wanted miracles – they wanted fireworks – they wanted the show!  If Jesus was as good as all that, let Him prove it through the supernatural.  Of course He did – just not among them.  Matthew and Mark both note that Jesus didn’t do any miracles in Nazareth due to their lack of faith (Mt 13:58, Mk 6:5).  Whether or not that was the same instance as what Luke records is debated (it’s quite possible it was, as Luke often arranges his narrative thematically), but the reputation of Nazareth is clear: they were a people who doubted.
  • As Jesus pointed out to them, their doubt was expected.  “No prophet is accepted in his own country” – and not even Jesus was exempt.  Again, these were people who had known Jesus from an early age.  Sure, they saw the hand of God upon Him & knew that He grew in favor with both God & man – but to accept that Jesus was the Messiah was a bit much for them to chew.  In their minds, they couldn’t see how it was possible.  Ultimately, they didn’t want to see how it was possible.  Their minds were closed because their hearts were closed.  If Jesus was the Messiah, that would mean that the Messiah had walked in their midst for decades, and they never saw it.  If Jesus was the Messiah, it meant that every time their conscience was pricked in past conversations with Him, that there was true reason for it to happen.  It meant that in every instance He was right & they were wrong.  And that was something they couldn’t stand.
    • Skepticism is more often an issue of the heart than of the mind.  Those skeptical of Jesus will claim intellectual reasons for doubting Him, but there isn’t an intellectual objection to Jesus that cannot be answered if someone is willing to put in the appropriate research, looking past their presuppositions & bias against Him.  Heart issues, however, are far more difficult to overcome.  Someone has been badly hurt by a Christian in the past, and they understandably become hardened against Christ.  Someone else has invested his/her whole life in a lifestyle or belief system opposed to Jesus, and they have a difficult time leaving it behind.  Or they may know the truth, but just don’t want to believe.  Those are heart issues.  Those things are due to pride; not intellect.  And pride is always a stumbling block to receiving Jesus.  God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
    • The good news is that proud people can be saved…they just need to surrender their pride to Jesus.  It’s like a shipwrecked person has to let go of the piece of wood he’s hanging onto to grab the lifeline that was extended to him, so do we have to let go of our pride if we are to grab hold of Jesus.  Is it humbling?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely.
  • Of course the skepticism of those in Nazareth was nothing new – nor was it limited to one tiny village in Galilee.  Skepticism had been the norm across Israel for centuries.  The people had always doubted the word & work of the God they claimed to worship – which was why God so often worked with people outside of His chosen nation.  Jesus gives two examples of this…

25 But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; 26 but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

  • Two of the greatest prophets in the history of Israel (or in the history of the world, for that matter!) were Elijah and Elisha.  Talk about miracles…that is what they were known for!  And yet their words were still doubted by the kings under which they lived.  Even while knowing the power of God that was upon these prophets, the kings of Israel still actively resisted them.  So who did God work with during the years of Elijah & Elisha?  Gentiles.
  • Example #1: the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17).  As Jesus reminded the people, God had sent a tremendous famine to the land of Israel in an attempt to get the attention of the evil king Ahab.  During those days, Elijah did not actually remain in Israel, as God commanded him to specifically go to this widow in Zarephath who would provide for his needs.  Things were so bad for this woman that she was about to bake one last cake of bread for herself and her son, and then wait to starve to death.  Elijah told her to put off her own needs for a moment, and use some of her last flour to first make a cake for him, and then for her & her son.  If she did so, she would find that her flour and water would never go empty until the famine had ended.  This foreigner believed, did as Elijah said, and was saved.
  • Example #2: Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5).  This was a mighty Syrian general, greatly beloved by his troops & all who served him, yet fell to the disease of leprosy.  Among his slaves was a girl of Israel who told him of a prophet (Elisha) who would be able to heal him.  Naaman went, and although he balked at being told (via messenger) that he needed to dip seven times in the dingy Jordan river, he ended up humbling himself to do it.  As a result, the Gentile was healed & he ended up coming to faith in the God of Israel.
  • Question: Were there other hungry people in Israel & other lepers in the land?  Of course.  Yet to whom did God reveal His power?  To those willing to believe – in these cases, Gentiles.  Those least expected to receive of the grace of God were exactly those who did receive it.  (Just like the poor, brokenhearted, captives, blind, and oppressed to whom Jesus was sent to proclaim the good news.)  It’s not the power of God wasn’t available to the Jews; it’s that they didn’t seek God in the first place.  Any leper could have gone to Elisha; only Naaman the Syrian did.
    • Skeptics often say, “I’d believe in Jesus if only He did ____.”  Maybe it’s for God to heal a loved one – maybe it’s to grant a job – whatever it is, there’s some action they want God to perform, and then they would have faith.  There are two problems with that line of thinking: (1) God is God; we’re not.  The things we would have God do aren’t necessarily the things that are within His will to do.  As humans, we cannot expect to boss around our Creator & King.  (2, and more to the point) This is the opposite of how faith works.  God has already revealed His power through the miracles of creation, Jesus’ incarnation, death & resurrection.  We cannot expect Him to do more for us if we don’t first believe what He has already done.  We need to humble ourselves & believe, and then we’ll see God work in our lives (even if He might work differently than our original expectations).  God rewards faith and reveals Himself to those who seek Him (Heb 11:6), but if we don’t seek Him based on what He’s already done, why should we expect Him to do more?
  • This didn’t go over too well with the congregation, as we might expect…
  • Reaction and escape (28-30)

28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. 30 Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.

  • Whether this was a lynch mob, or (in their minds) their justified response to hearing a false prophet, they “rose up” to kill Jesus.  Either way, they weren’t thinking rationally or trying to work through a system of justice.  They “were filled with wrath” and were literally ready to throw Jesus away.  Yet it couldn’t be done.  Jesus slipped out from their grasp as God sovereignly protected Him.  He would indeed die for the sins of Israel, but it wouldn’t be in Nazareth at the hand of a mob; it would be in Jerusalem upon the cross according to the eternal plan of God.  Until then Jesus would continue ministering & teaching – even if He needed to do it elsewhere as “He went on His way.
  • Ultimately, the people proved His point.  The wanted Jesus on their terms; not His.  Like ancient Israel, they rebelled against the gracious outreach of God towards them & thus they missed the power and grace of God that had always been among them.  Jesus was right there, but their hearts were too proud to see Him.  In the end, they missed their opportunity to believe.  (Don’t miss yours!)

Conclusion:
The Messiah was there in Nazareth, but the people missed Him.  More than that, they actively rejected Him.  They didn’t want Jesus as He was; they wanted the Messiah on their terms.  Ultimately they wanted God to bow to them, rather than them bowing to God.  Because of this, they missed out on eternal life that had been available for the asking.  Jesus offered freedom, healing, and good news; in return the people tried to push Him off a cliff.

How foolish it is to reject the good news and gracious offer of Jesus Christ!  He has already done so much & revealed Himself in amazing ways.  Now we need to believe.  We need to respond to the revelation that God has already provided in order that we don’t miss out on the Messiah & the salvation of God.  God has already gone up & beyond to make Himself known to us.  After all, you’re still here today, are you not?  Every day is a new day to respond to the mercies of God – to receive of the grace He offers.

If you have not believed upon Jesus, what are you waiting for?  What more will you demand of Him, other than what He has already done?  Like those in Nazareth, you have hardened your heart to Jesus, and you’re missing out on the Messiah in your midst.  Today, humble yourself.  Lay your pride aside and simply believe upon Jesus by faith.  Trust Him for who He is & for His promises, and without question you will receive them.  (Repent & trust)

If you have believed, then ask yourself this: are you living in the liberty He offers?  Are you living in the power of the Holy Spirit?  If not – why?  There is no reason why any born-again Christian ought to live every day enslaved to habitual sins, or to live under the oppression of ourselves or others.  We already have a King, and His name is Jesus.  Live in HIS freedom, with the power HE offers through the Holy Spirit.  Today, release those things to Christ, and experience His release in return.

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