Luke 4:22-30 (NIV) 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! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'”
“I tell you the truth,” 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 down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
The people in the synagogue couldn’t believe how well Jesus preached. (His sermon went on much longer than the simple declaration, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” That was just the opening line of His full sermon.) They had known Jesus since He was a baby. He was a good kid, polite, and smart, too. But what He was displaying now, this wisdom, this depth of understanding of the Scriptures, this ability to communicate, seemed like something entirely different; something that they had never seen in Him before.
Jesus knew that they had heard about the miracles that He had been doing, especially those He had done in Capernaum, His new home base. And He knew that they were eager to see Him do something amazing here in His own hometown. But He also knew that these people who knew Him best would be least willing to truly accept Him as the Messiah. Familiarity really does breed contempt.
In fact, at least some of these people were more than a little irritated at Jesus for making Capernaum His home base and doing all of those miracles there instead of doing them in Nazareth, His home town. After all, they had a prior claim on Him.
But Jesus pointed out from history that even the prophets of old were not received by their own people, and so did their wonders elsewhere, and for other people. Elijah, during the time of the great famine, was a persona non grata in Israel. In fact, he had a price on his head! So the miracle that he performed helped a gentile woman. A few years later, Elisha and his words were rejected by the kings of Israel, but he cleansed Naaman the Syrian, another gentile, of leprosy.
Jesus’ point was not that God only helps gentiles instead of His own people, but that it is difficult for a prophet of God to find acceptance among those who knew them before they began to fulfill God’s calling on their lives. It is just easier to perform that calling among strangers, so Jesus had set up His base in Capernaum, and had been preaching to people who didn’t have a history with Him.
As if to prove His point, the people of Nazareth grew so angry with Jesus that they rushed Him and tried to throw Him off a cliff! It was really ironic, but they couldn’t see the irony: “How dare He say that we won’t accept Him. We should kill Him for saying that!” But none of this took Jesus by surprise. He let them take Him as far as the edge of the cliff, then calmly walked right through the crowd and out of town, leaving everyone wondering what had just happened.
Father, You can call anyone at any time for any purpose. And sometimes who You call may surprise us. But it is not up to us to approve or disapprove of Your choices. I know that many were surprised when You called me into Your service. Thankfully my clearly transformed life was testimony enough to show the validity of that calling. Help us to extend the same acceptance to those who show a genuine divine calling on their lives as we would want extended to us when You put a call on our lives. Amen.