Lord, deliver us from prejudicial attitudes.
Read LUKE 4:22–30
22 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.
23 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.’”
24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 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. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[a] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 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. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
a Luke 4:27 The Greek word traditionally translated leprosy was used for various diseases affecting the skin.
New International Version (NIV)
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“Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” (Isa. 45:22).
In claiming fulﬁllment of Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus anticipates antagonism, especially in Nazareth, where he is known only as the carpenter’s boy. The initial reaction is amazement at his eloquence. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (22). This important verse indicates Jesus’ unremarkable childhood. The spurious gospels rejected by the early church contain fantasy stories of a miracle-working wonder boy who could not have been forgotten in Nazareth (e.g., Gospel of Thomas Greek Text B, III). The real boy Jesus seems to have made no such impact. This suggests that Jesus’ childhood has been normal, growing up as an ordinary young man in an ordinary village. As he speaks on this occasion, however, the mood in the synagogue changes from curiosity to hostility.
The people of Nazareth regard their Scriptures as a promise of God’s exclusive covenant with them, including deliverance from oppression. Jesus comes along announcing deliverance from oppression but a different kind of deliverance. The full Hebrew text of Isaiah speaks both of “freedom for the captives” and “release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isa. 61:1). This freedom is from the captivity of sin and evil; this release is from spiritual darkness. The liberation under consideration is for all poor and oppressed, irrespective of nationality, race or gender. Jesus makes this “radical inclusiveness” (R. A. Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke,” The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, 108) strikingly clear with Scriptural examples of two great prophets through whom the grace of God extended beyond Israel to two Gentiles—one a woman, the other a man.
When the Nazareth congregation hears this, their antagonism toward non-Jews overshadows their joy that a prophet is living among them. Their minds are so closed to the notion of others sharing in the bounty of God’s deliverance that in the ﬁnal analysis they themselves become incapable of receiving it.
Forgive us, O God, when the church acts as if it holds exclusive rights to Your grace. Free us from false boundaries, to share Your Good News with all people.
Lord, we thank You for Your beneﬁcent inclusion of us in Your covenant community.