“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ And he said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’ And he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.”
As believers in Christ, we must not only learn from Christ’s teachings but His actions and habits as well. We see several of His habits and customs in these verses. First of all, Jesus travels a lot. He has traveled from Jerusalem to Samaria to Galilee to Nazareth in just a few weeks because is constantly traveling to reach the “lost sheep” of Israel. Jesus goes where the hurting, lost, poor, needy people are. You and I can learn from this – where are the hurting, needy people around you? Are they downtown Dallas, living in tent cities, sleeping outside on cold nights? Are they next door, those who have lost their jobs, barely holding on, not able to pay their bills and constantly anxious, worried, and fearful?
Jesus has set an example for us. In John 14:12, Jesus tells His disciples that they will do greater works than even He did! Not only that, He has filled us with His Word and His Spirit so that we can meet the needs of those around us and reach them with the Gospel. Think about it – if all Christians were actually following the call of Christ (loving our neighbors as ourselves, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, taking care of the widow and the orphan, and giving them Good News of Christ) would we need so many social programs, government assistance, or homeless shelters in America? If we followed Jesus’ example, would we still be so removed from the homeless and hurting instead of giving to charities and organizations to do that for us? Remember the example Jesus set for us. He was one man who changed the world and then gave His truth and Spirit to us so that we could carry out His mission of redemption and salvation on this earth for His glory and for our joy. Start praying and planning around how you can love your neighbors.
Also, it was Jesus’ “custom” to be in His Father’s house. It was His pattern, His want, His habit. Jesus went to the house of God to worship, to hear the Word taught and to fellowship with God’s people. Jesus went to church. The Son of God, the “Word” went to church. I know for me and my wife it is very easy to “skip” a few Sundays here and there in the name of Sabbathing, rest, and our mental health. We live 40 minutes from our church, so the temptation is to just stay in and rest. Really it is just laziness and selfishness, but it is a struggle to get to church some weekends.
So what about you? Are you a part of a Gospel-centered, Bible-believing church? Do you go? Do you have community, fellowship, accountability and depth with other Christians? The Christian life was never meant to be lived in isolation. If you read the Bible, you will notice that healing, growth, depth with the Lord and learning never take place in isolation, but in community. Moses wandered through the desert with hundreds of thousands of His people, Jesus surrounded Himself with disciples, Paul, Peter and the early church fathers were constantly writing to each other, with one another, or traveling to or from the body of believers. There is a need to be invested in one another’s lives, to be known, to be vulnerable, and to be accountable to others.
Back to the passage – Jesus is traveling to reach the lost, He is in the synagogue to reach out to His people and bring them back to God and He was in His hometown to preach the Gospel. He stands up in the synagogue to read a passage from Isaiah, a Messianic prophecy. Then He sits down and says that the passage is about Him! He is “proclaiming the year of the LORD’s favor.” After reading a Messianic passage, Jesus sits down and says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” What does this mean? Had this ever happened before? No. Jesus literally tells the Jews that this Scripture (written 600 to 700 years before this) is being fulfilled. Right there. In their midst. Nothing like this had ever happened before.
Jesus fulfills the prophecies of Isaiah all throughout the gospels, but especially in Matthew 4:23-25: “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains,those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.”
Jesus is the Messiah, the coming King, the Healer, the Proclaimer, the Liberator. He has come to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Up to this point, those in the synagogue spoke well of Him, praised Him even. But they also started questioning the idea that this kid who grew up in their neighborhood, “Joseph’s son,” could actually be the Messiah.
Instead of arguing with them, proving His point, or rationalizing His argument, Jesus does something quite bold – He basically broke down a few Old Testament texts to show them that God was finished with those who would not accept Him and was moving on to the Gentiles. The Covenant is for those who believe, not for those who hold on to pride, tradition or self-affirming philosophy. This did not go over well. The Jews were incensed and took Jesus up to a cliff in order to throw Him off and kill Him. Why? Not because Jesus spoke blasphemy, sinned, or lied, but because He hurt their prides and egos. Jesus spoke the truth, and rather than allow conviction and truth to change them, they became hardened to the truth.
Let this be a lesson to us. The truth is difficult, even offensive. It is not meant to make my life comfortable, easy, efficient or justify my own laziness or pride. The truth, the Gospel, the Covenant of God, are all meant to glorify God and exalt His Son, Jesus. Now, accepting this truth and being transformed by it does me good. But it is not on my own terms. God is not a genie who grants my wishes. God is about God, His glory, His truth. Romans 11:11-24 is a timely reminder for us – we must not become arrogant. “So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.”
In Matthew 10:24-42, Jesus tells His followers to expect persecution, danger, maligning. Those who follow Jesus will get the same treatment He got. The Christian life does not mean comfort and ease, but it does mean that we now have a Father who loves us and takes care of us, and we have a Savior who will acknowledge us before God. We no longer have to fear, doubt, or be enslaved to our passions, our wants, or our sin. He has saved us from ourselves. Hallelujah. Now go and spread the word.