January 22, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,”—Isaiah 61:1 (NIV)
“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked. Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum. Truly I tell you,’ he continued, ‘no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.’ All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.”—Luke 4:16–30 (NIV)
Sometimes when I hear this story, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone reacting this way to Jesus. After all, He was so clearly the Messiah. How could anyone want to throw Him off a cliff? But hindsight is 20–20, isn’t it?
But then I think back to all the times I got caught up in a hostile group mentality—when everyone in my office dislikes the same person or when I haven’t heard the entire side of a story. I’ve made up my mind about someone because of facts that were presented to me and brought on strong emotions. Or, in this case, when my expectations of someone aren’t met.
In this passage, Jesus is teaching the people of Nazareth from Isaiah 61, a point in Scripture that talks about this Messiah they’ve been waiting for and His ministry. The significant part about what He’s reading to them is where He stops reading. Jesus stops at the part of the passage that says “the year of the Lord’s favor” and does not continue on with “the day of vengeance of our God.” This is important because it directly points to the purpose of His ministry: God’s favor. The second part of this verse directly touches on God’s wrath towards those who aren’t His chosen people, and Jesus came down to turn that focus towards God’s grace. His ministry was about bringing people in through grace, not acting as an extension of God’s wrath.
This was a problem for the people because there was a two-part understanding that the First Century Palestinians had: basically, 1) the Messiah would come down and 2) He would give them a reward while He vanquishes their enemies. In this moment, Jesus is deconstructing that understanding and pointing to the fact that His ministry will open up a much wider opportunity for God’s favor to flow and be more inclusive to those who want to follow Him. This was not at all what many people had in mind when it came to their expectations of the Messiah to come. He wasn’t supposed to be expanding His ministry to those of Gentiles and non-Jews—how dare He? That’s what they thought, anyway.
The people of Nazareth had their hearts closed to Jesus and the truth He was trying to bring to them. Their culture was held captive by religious mindsets, which prevented them from seeing the true heart behind God’s will for them: His favor and desire to be with His creation—ALL of His creation, not just the Israelites.
So, what can be learned here? Do you have any religious mindsets that keep you from sharing in God’s gift of salvation with others? Do you view certain groups of people as unworthy of His favor? Don’t be like the people of Nazareth in this story and miss the whole point of His ministry! Salvation is for all people who want to follow Him, not just those we like or feel are following the religious rules we find important.
Pause: Is there someone in your life who didn’t meet your expectations and you closed your heart to? Has that prevented you from celebrating in the Christian life with them? If so, how can you work towards changing that mentality?
Practice: The next time you find yourself in a situation where you’re judging someone because they’re doing something different than you, pray that God will keep your heart open to them and His favor for them.
Pray: Lord, thank You for Your never-ending grace. It’s not through my works but Your grace that I can be on this journey of sanctification. Therefore, please surround me with people who will challenge my thinking and help me grow in Your Word and divine plan for me and others. Amen.
Kristen Hollis has served in the Communications Team of Calvary since 2020 as a Senior Copywriter and Editor. She contributes and edits content for Calvary’s digital and promotional initiatives. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Kristen and her husband Zachary enjoy all things musical theatre, vinyl hunting, and having the opportunity to serve Calvary on staff while utilizing their talents.