16 Jesus went to Nazareth, the town where he had been brought up. On the Sabbath he went into the synagogue, as was his custom, and stood up to read the Scriptures.
17 They gave him the book of the prophet Isaiah to read, and when he opened it, he found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has consecrated me
to bring good news to the poor;
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to those who are in prison
and to give sight to the blind;
to set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
20 Then Jesus closed the book, gave it to the assistant in the synagogue, and sat down. All who were there had their eyes fixed on him. 21 He began to speak, saying:
-Just today the scripture has been fulfilled that you have just heard.
22 They all spoke well of Jesus and were amazed at the beautiful things he said. They wondered:
-Is not this the son of Joseph?
23 Jesus answered them:
-You will surely say to me this saying, “Physician, heal thyself.” And moreover, you will say to me, “What we heard that you did in Capernaum, do also here in your own land.”
24 And he went on to say: -I assure you that no prophet is well received in his own land.
25 Truly, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah the prophet, when it did not rain for three and a half years and there was a great famine throughout the land;
26 but Elijah was not sent to any of the Israelite widows, but to one in Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. 27 There were also many leprosy patients in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, but none of them was healed except Naaman, who was from Syria.
28 And when they heard this, all who were in the synagogue were very angry. 29 And they arose and cast Jesus out of the people, taking him to the top of the mountain on which the people were built, that they might throw him down from there. 30 But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away – (Luke 4:16-30).
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Jesus spent most of his life and ministry in the Galilee region, a mountainous area of northern Palestine. He grew up in a village in the hills above Nazareth, about 3 miles south of Sepphoris, the Gentile administrative capital of the region. Shortly after beginning his public ministry, he moved to Capernaum, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
The biblical text of Luke 4:16-30 reveals an episode in the life of Jesus, possibly in the second year of his public ministry. Next, we will see the reasons why Nazareth despised Jesus.
Nazareth is an obligatory stop on any route related to the life of Jesus. It appears on many occasions in the Gospels, mentioned as the city where Jesus lived as a young man.
Jesus began his ministry by preaching in his own city. It was not a village, but a polis, which means town or city, and it may well have had as many as 5,000 inhabitants. It was built in a small valley in the hills on the lower slopes of Galilee, close to the plain of Jezreel; but a boy had only to climb to the top of the hill that crowned the town to see a wonderful panorama for miles around.
The history of Israel unfolds before the eyes of the beholder. There was the plain of Esdraelon, where Deborah and Barak fought; where Gideon won his victories; where Saul had sunk in disaster and Josiah had died in battle; there had been the vineyard of Naboth, and the place where Jehu had slain Jezebel; there was Shunem, where Elisha had lived; beyond was Carmel, where Elijah had fought his epic battle with the prophets of Baal; and blue in the distance was the Mediterranean, with its isles.
But it was not only the history of Israel that was contemplated from there; universal history also unfolded at the sight of the hill that crowned Nazareth. Three great roads bordered it: the one from the south, along which pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem traveled; the great Sea Road, which connected Egypt with Damascus, along which caravans loaded with all kinds of goods traveled; and the great road from the east, which was frequented by caravans from Arabia and the Roman legions heading for the eastern frontiers of the Roman Empire.
It was not possible that Jesus grew up in a remote corner of the earth; on the contrary, we must think that his people were at one of the crossroads of history, and that the traffic of the Eastern world passed close to their doorstep.
Why Did the People of Nazareth Scorn Jesus?
What infuriated the people was the praise that Jesus seemed to dedicate to the Gentiles. The Jews were so convinced that they were God’s chosen people that they despised all others. Some even dared to express, “God had created the Gentiles to be used as firewood in hell.” But Jesus preaches as if the Gentiles were now God’s favorites.
Both the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-24) and Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5) were Gentiles. Both lived in times of widespread unbelief in Israel. Jesus gave them to understand that they were as unbelieving as the people of that time, a time of great wickedness. The inhabitants realized exactly what he meant. They were agitated at the mere suggestion that favor would be shown to the Gentiles. Deep down they abhorred the doctrine of the sovereignty of God which Christ had just preached to them. God was not obliged to work miracles in their midst.
They could have interpreted Christ’s words as meaning that divine grace had been denied to them and was now being extended to the Gentiles.
They radically rejected Jesus, even though this was their “hometown”. It could be considered that the city, along with the town of Cana, was one of the places considered to be “subject” to the religious control of Jerusalem since the time of the Maccabees.
The featured image at the beginning of this post is from Raheel9630 of PixaBay.