Luke records Jesus’ first sermon in his hometown of Nazareth in 4:14­­–30. While Jesus clearly taught in the surrounding area to much acclaim, the response of those in his hometown was different. His words initially sparked amazement, but that amazement soon turned into a murderous rage. What did he say that made them so angry, angry enough to want to kill him? Let’s look at this episode of how the hero’s hometown rejects him with the Opening Up the Bible commentary.

Jesus’ Hometown of Nazareth

In Galilee, Jesus ‘taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all’ (v. 15). Mark tells us that the Saviour preached repentance at this time (Mark 1:15). During this period, he performed his first miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). However, storms gathered when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth.

Nazareth was situated in Galilee, an area in which God’s people were surrounded by Gentiles. Jews in Jerusalem regarded themselves as somewhat superior to those who lived in Galilee. Their willingness to live outside of the centre of Judaism, Jerusalem, meant they were to some degree isolated. It was his rustic Galilean accent which gave Peter away as a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth (see Matt. 26:69, 73).

Although born in Bethlehem, it was in Nazareth of Galilee that Christ grew up. He would become known as ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. This town is not even mentioned in the Old Testament and was regarded with especial contempt (John 1:46), perhaps for its dirty streets and poverty, or the aggression of its residents. Several instances in the Gospels suggest the people of Nazareth were scathing and fiery. Satan had left the Lord ‘until an opportune time’ (v. 13). Such a time had now come. He had sought to tempt Jesus to leap from the pinnacle of the temple. It is as if he raises a crowd to throw him to his death in Nazareth.

Jesus Hated in His Hometown

Our Lord travelled to his hometown and entered the synagogue. There he was handed the book of Isaiah and, as in the opening verses of this chapter, his wonderful familiarity with Scripture became evident. He found the place where it speaks of the glory of the Messiah’s work (Isa. 61) and read it out. Without any miracle or sign to prove his identity, the Lord closed the scroll and sat down. At this stage, it seemed all were amazed at him. How his words must have astonished all who heard them: ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ (v. 21).

Jesus revealed that he would not be well received among his own people, but, like the prophets of old, he would be accepted by Gentiles. Elijah was sent to the gentile widow of Zarephath, to keep her from starvation, and Elisha to pagan Naaman, to bring healing from leprosy.

It seems it was this emphasis which angered the crowd. ‘So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath’ (v. 28). In their mad rage, and without any respect for a proper trial, they tried to hurl the Lord from the brow of a cliff upon which the city was built.

Amazingly (and not the last time) Jesus passed through the hostile crowd and ‘went his way’.

Study the Passage

  • ‘Filled with the Holy Spirit’, ‘led by the Spirit’, ‘returned in the power of the Spirit’, ‘the Spirit of the LORD is upon me’ (Luke 4:1, 14, 18). Consider these words in the light of John 3:34.
  • The Old Testament described the age of the Messiah as a time of great joy. How would those who first heard the expressions in Isaiah 61:1, 2 understand them? How do we apply them today?
  • Consider Luke 4:30 alongside John 7:29, 30, 44; 8:39 and John 8:59. What were the circumstances in which the Saviour passed through hostile crowds? What does this tell us about the voluntary nature of his death on the cross?

Think About and Discuss the Passage

  • Read Luke 4:18. During his ministry, Christ stressed that the good news, the ‘gospel’, is for the poor (see also Luke 7:22). Why does he say this?
  • How often has your daily Bible reading been exactly relevant for that day? Can you give examples?
  • See Luke 4:16. In New Testament times, synagogues allowed visitors to speak to the whole gathering (Acts 13:14, 15). Would it be a good thing for churches to allow this today? Consider points both ‘for’ and ‘against’ this idea.
  • ‘No prophet is accepted in his own country’ (v. 24). Are evangelists and preachers generally more useful in ministry outside the locality in which they grew up?

Understand Scripture with Opening Up the Bible

The Opening Up the Bible commentary series is a great entry-level commentary. Each volume covers the book of the Bible section by section in a readable and easy to understand format. Questions are provided at the end of each section to promote further study and discussion. Check out this blog post to learn more or visit our store to add this series to your library!

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