This is an Amazing story.
Jesus comes to his home town Nazareth - for church on a saturday morning
And the morning begins with wonder which very quickly turns to anger
The home town boy is welcomed in but by the end of the service the synagogue rises as one to lynch him!
An amazing story. From ecstasy to agony. From privilege to near tragedy
All stories - 3 parts - Situation - Crisis - Resolution
Begins with Jesus expounding God’s word in the synagogue in Nazareth. It’s clear from vv14-15 that having been tempted and overcome the powers ofdarkness (1-13) Jesus is now marching, in the power of the Holy Spirit, into that territory that was occupied by the powers of darkness and he’s bringing the Kingdom of God. he’s doing that by: preaching in the synagogues and by demonstrating that the kingdom of God had arrived by the way he gave sight to the blind, healing those who were sick, making the lame to walk. And the people are understandably agog. Not just by his miracles, his teaching is completely different - not discussion of the opinions of various rabbis - Jesus brings the living word of his Father, God. And the people are ‘amazed’. That word is repeated again and again. And the kingdom of God begins to bring restoration to broken lives and a broken world. It’s a foreshadow of the future.
You can imagine then the expectations when Jesus arrives in Nazareth. This is his hometown. They must have been so excited. (Matthew e white Roundhouse. From Richmond Virginia raised in an evangelical household. His parents were missionaries in the Philipines. Hespecializes in a meticulously crafted blend of reggae-infused folk-gospel, tropicalia, swirling indie pop, and Stax-era R&B. London is like a homecoming. This is where we were discovered. Love London - audience were purring.)
So it must have been in Nazareth when their famous son comes home. Receives the scroll for the reading. Don’t know if it was the set reading for the day or if Jesus specifically asks for the Isaiah scroll. he stands up. An amazing, dramatic moment. Minister ascending the pulpit opening the huge Bible. The son of God unrolls the scroll. It was the passage (Is 61) that spoke about the way that the Spirit anointed Messiah would bring about the restoration of the world. the poor would hear good news; the captives would receive liberty; the blind would receive sight; the oppressed would be set free and the day of the Lord’s favour would come.
This was the passage in the OT that said that when Messiah comes it would be the day of Jubilee to end all jubilees. (Royal occasions- my silver jubilee coin from 1977) Jubilee was something enshrined in the Jewish Law. The year of Jubilee was meant to occur every 50 years - so once in a lifetime. It was a year when when everything returned to the way it should be. Alll debts were cancelled. Land was returned. It meant restoration.What a wonderful law incidentally. What an amazing God. The year of the Lord’s favour. But the coming of the Messiah is the Jubilee of Jubilees. Not just the cancelling of debt but the forgiveness of sin. Not just the restoration of property and land - when the kingdom of God fully arrives all things will be restored. There will be no more tears, or suffering, or brokenness or death. What an amazing Saviour
Isaiah 61 denotes the inauguration the beginning of the kingdom coming and look what jesus does having delivered the reading. v20 He rolled up the scroll gave it back to the attendant and sat down. Not because he’s finished, no he’s only getting started - the rabbis would stand to read and then sit to teach. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. Extraordinary isn’t it? You could have heard a pin drop. this collective holding of breath. and he began v21 by saying to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”
We’re not told the rest of the sermon. Bet it was good. We’re just told how it began. these opening words. That’s all we need to know. Something has happened here in Nazareth, on earth that means that the restoring plans of God are underway. And what is it that has happened? He is here. Jesus. That’s what’s happened.
But you know it’s possible to get really excited about what Jesus can do at the expense of jesus himself.
v22 All spoke well of him and were amazed (there’s that word again) at the gracious words that came from his lips. The grace of God -debts cancelled, captives released, the oppressed set free. Jubilee. the grace of God. Isn’t this Joseph’s son? they asked.
There’s great enthusiasm for jesus’ message. And yet.. for all that
Jesus senses that they have totally misunderstood the passage that he has read to them.
See why were they so encouraged? Jesus, i think, realised what they were really interested in was a political messiah. What they were really interested in was the GOOD TIME COMING.
Remember that even though Israel were in their own land - they were still in Exile really under the oppressive Roman regime. Ah give us that freedom. They said.. That liberty, Let the good times roll.
But they were misunderstanding Isaiah 61. wrenching it out of it’s context. Because Isaiah 61 before it is ever about freedom or restoration, it is principally about a person. the same person spoken about in Is 42 and 49 and 50 and 53. 4 poems that point us to The servant who is going to bring about the restoration of his people BY being wounded for our transgressions; BY being bruised for our iniquities. And the liberation that he would bring would be. in the first instance, not the secondary liberation from physical oppression; political domination but the spiritual liberation from bondage to sin.
You see it was the same in Isaiah’s day when Israel were in Exile in Babylon. The real liberation needed was the liberation from spiritual darkness and rebellion and bondage - that’s what had put them in Exile. But like typical people all they really wanted was their land back.
We can be like this.
It is our native disposition. To care about the physical before the spiritual. To care about what we can see and touch and feel. To care about the present rather than an eternal future. We want it here and now. To care about that which is temporary instead of that which is eternal.
So we don’t rejoice in forgiveness and the hope of eternal security which we have in Christ instead we’re depressed and angry because we don’t have what we want now. CS Lewis - mud pies when a trip to the beach is on offer.
The only salvation that we want is a salvation that will die when we die!
But Jesus is not that kind of saviour. Primarliy he cares about our souls and our holiness. Secondarily he cares about our financial position or career happiness.
It’s painful when Jesus pushes his finger into our sore points
When Jesus begins to expose their hearts there is a communal explosion in the synagogue in Nazareth..
See how he applies God’s word to them v23 “…”
He says, all you’re interested in is that i’d show you works of power when you should be crowning me in your hearts as your king. No prophet is received in his home town..
[imagine if Matthew E white at the concert last night instead of bigging up London had started criticising London. How bad our music scene is. We’ve got no taste. How rubbish London audiences are. How terrible the weather, How rude the people. I’d rather be anywhere than here. I’d rather be in Belgium. Well the audience would have quickly turned, booing, leaving. I hate it when people are negative about London, especially Hackney, even when they’re right. I hope you do too. Nothing pushes my buttons more and i have to work very hard at not being very rude back to them.]
Well Jesus here does something very similar. He points his congregation to these 2 historical illustrations from when Israel were under judgement.
In the time of elijah and famine when there were many widows in Israel Elijah was sent outside Israel to a widow in Zarapheth who fed him her last meal.
In the time of Elisha there were many lepers in Israel and yet it was Naaman who was cleansed - the enemy - a Syrian
These were episodes of immense national embarassment to Israel. Times when no faithfulness could be found in the entire nation and Jesus holds these events up to his own hometown. His relatives and friends. Showing them how distant they are from ever meeting the real Messiah. The grace of God. The real Jesus. How far their hearts are from God.
And look at how they respond. v28. with collective fury. as one they take massive offence. the synagogue rises as one to lynch him. Imagine us reenacting that here. Shouting and accusations and the children are crying and the men are dragging me to the Kingsland road to throw me under a bus. Now Ok what happens there would never happen here. That’s is the middle east. We know what they’re like. Outwardly Demonstrative. It’s a very different culture and ethnicity. But we’re just as human. We Brits we just do anger and contempt and murder inwardly. We do the same with jesus. When the word of God enters me. God’s severe grace calling me away from the allurements of this world. That’s the time when i might well shut up shop to Jesus. He comes close and presses on something sore and i say ‘No!”
A similar form of fury appears in my heart as i seek to keep the calling of the Lord Jesus out of the deepest recesses of my life. Anger. Rejection. Murder. Tramplng the word of God under my feet. Sinning against the light. Crucifying the son of God all over again - Hebrews 6 calls it.
Oh the way way in which we resist the Lord Jesus! We want the salvation but we don’t want him. Out of my life Jesus
Of course they fail to fully get rid of Jesus
The third part. The tragic resolution of the story. You could say that the story doesn’t end in tragedy. They don’t manage to throw Jesus off the cliff. His time has not yet come. Jesus just passes through their midst - supernaturally presumably. jesus says elsewhere ‘no-one takes my life from me. when the time is right i will lay my life down.’ they don’t kill him. his blood is not on their hands. But the episode does end in tragedy because of the sobering last words of the passage, “he went away”
he went away
and he never came back. look through the rest of gospel, look through all the gospels there is no record of jesus ever returning to Nazareth. Where there is no faith the prophets go elsewehre. Jesus expounds, applies and then removes the Scriptures. he never ever came back to speak the words of salvation in Nazareth. It’s haunting. That Jesus should leave. Not to come back..
I’m haunted by the thought that one day as i preach Jesus will not be there and i’ll not know it but everybody else will know it and say “he’s resisted Jesus and Jesus has just gone from his ministry.’
But you see this happened to a whole congregation and it does happen to whole congregations. churches where the gospel has not been preached for years and years and years. towns and villages all over the UK where there are church buildings but where the gospel of the saving grace of God in jesus Christ has not been heard for decades and where people who love that gospel cannot find a place where they can hear that gospel. so this is not just something in a book - an episode about a place 2000 miles away, 2000 years ago. It’s a very solemn thought that when a people say to Jesus - leave us. Jesus may take us at our word.
And It can happen to me as an individual.Perhaps i can put it like this very pointedly. When did you last sit in this room and think to yourself the Lord Jesus is really speaking to me today? Do you know if you were to say, ‘It’s been a long time.’ or if you were even to say ‘i have no idea what you’re talking about.’ could it possibly be that you’ve said to Jesus, just leave me thank you. and he’s said ‘i’ll take you at your word’
the very thought of that…
every time i’m listening to a sermon or reading the bible for myself and i think O Jesus, i’ve failed you so much, rejected you.. I’m so grateful to you that you’re still speaking to me, Lord Jesus i want to embrace you all over again and to respond to what you’re saying to me.
If you haven’t heard his voice for a long time. Cry out to him ‘Lord Jesus don’t leave me. I know i must have said at some point to you ‘leave me’. But please don’t leave me. Come to me and stay with me and keep me and grow me and be my saviour.’
Oh how grateful i am to be here and believe that he is here and that he’s still among us. And that he’s calling us to ever deeper consecration to him and to love him and serve him and praise him with all our lives. If that’s something you know nothing about.. Oh do cry out to him with all of your heart because he is here with us and say, Oh Jesus let me hear you speaking to me again through your word.That’s a prayer he loves to hear.
what a passage. this exposes me and crushes me have mercy on me - that is it’s purpose
we come to you in all ur need all our failures all the ways in which we’ve rejected you
to thank you that you speak to us and we want to come to you and to give ourselves to you with faith and repentance without reservation and to pray that the blessings of your kingodm will be showered upon us as a church and as individuals.