Jesus Teaching in the Synagogue
in Nazareth - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 4:14-30
TO CHEW ON: "So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. … So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath." Luke 4:22,28
Today's story is a study in synagogue crowd behavior.
* The service described in our reading starts with the leader(s) welcoming Jesus with respect, if not warmth. Someone even hands Him the scroll to do one of the readings.
(A commentary explains the order of a synagogue service. It required at least ten males be present and began with someone reading the Shema [Deuteronomy 6:4-9]. That was followed by prayers, followed by more Scripture—a portion from the Torah [Genesis to Deuteronomy] and then the prophets. In the teaching that followed, the reader explained the passages read and sometimes linked them with other Scriptures. The meeting ended with a benediction. [Information from the IVP New Testament Commentary accessed through Biblegateway.com.])
Jesus chooses Isaiah 61:1,2, reads it, and says, "'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing' " Luke 4:21.
* Here we see his hearers' next response; they "marvel" at these words (Luke 4:22). The Greek word for marvel is thaumazo which is rendered by forms of the words amaze, astonish, marvel, surprise, and wonder.
* By the end of Jesus' speech though, the crowd's mood has darkened from He's-one-of-us, to amazement, to murderous rage (Luke 4:28-29).
Why the change? What does He say (and they hear) that so infuriates them?
He says, in effect (by claiming to be the fulfillment of Isaiah 61):
1. He is anointed by the Spirit.
2. He is the prophet of the fulfillment of good news.
3. He is the one who brings relief as well as proclaims it; He is Messiah.
In His talk, Jesus further rubs them the wrong way when He exposes their doubts in Him as a person who they knew from youth. Then He equates Himself with a prophet who gets no respect in his hometown and recalls the rejected OT prophets Elijah and Elisha and their miracles, benefiting not Israelites, but Gentiles.
The IVP commentary explains the choice He lays out for them, and us:
"The price of rejecting God's message is serious: mercy moves on to other locales. It is quite risky to walk away from God's offer of deliverance. … The crowd does not seize the opportunity. Rather, Jesus' warning angers them. … Many respond similarly today when they realize that the gospel is a matter of 'take it or you will be responsible to God for the consequences' " - Ibid (emphasis added).
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to open my heart and life to You and Your works every day. Amen.
This tendency of ours to put off making a decision about Jesus reminds me of a poem I read a while ago.
Lord, what am I, that, with unceasing care,
Thou didst seek after me, that thou didst wait,
Wet with unhealthy dews, before my gate,
And pass the gloomy nights of winter there?
Oh, strange delusion, that I did not greet
Thy blest approach! and oh, to Heaven how lost,
If my ingratitude’s unkindly frost
Has chilled the bleeding wounds upon thy feet!
How oft my guardian angel gently cried,
“Soul, from thy casement look, and thou shalt see
How he persists to knock and wait for thee!”
And, oh! how often to that voice of sorrow,
“To-morrow we will open,” I replied,
And when the morrow came I answered still, “Tomorrow.”
by Lope De Vega (Spanish, 1562–1635 - translated by William Wordsworth or H. W. Longfellow)
- Read in Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany compiled by Sarah Arthur.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.