Return to Nazareth (Luke 4:14-30)

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-07-29 06:54.

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With God’s spirit operating mightily upon him, Jesus began to teach in the synagogues of Galilee. Many began to talk about him in a favorable way and the news about him spread. As a result, he came to be honored or highly respected by all. (Luke 4:14, 15)

Wherever he traveled in Galilee, Jesus proclaimed “the evangel of God.” Being of God, this message was one his Father willed for him to preach. The evangel, good news, or glad tidings Jesus proclaimed revealed that the time had been fulfilled, indicating that the time had come for the arrival of the Messiah in fulfillment of the promise made through the prophets. “The kingdom of God” had then drawn near, for Jesus, the Messiah or Christ of God and the King of Israel (as Nathanael had earlier acknowledged him to be), was then in the midst of the Jews. Jesus called upon his people to repent and to believe in the evangel, the glad tidings that focused on him as the Messiah, the Son of God. (Mark 1:14, 15; John 1:49)

He returned to Nazareth where he had spent most of his life and had labored as a carpenter. On the Sabbath day, as was his custom, he went into the synagogue, where the Scriptures were read aloud to those assembled. He apparently was invited to read and stood up to do so. After being handed the scroll of Isaiah, he located the section from where he would begin and then started to read, “[The] spirit of the Lord [YHWH (in the Hebrew text of Isaiah)] [is] upon me, for he has anointed me to proclaim glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to announce release to the captives and to give sight to the blind, to send off the oppressed for release, to announce the favorable year of the Lord [YHWH (in the Hebrew text of Isaiah)].” (Luke 4:16-19)

After completing the reading, Jesus rolled up the scroll and handed it to the attendant (to be properly stored) and then sat down. Whereas the individual would read while standing, he would make any explanatory comments from a seated position. Therefore, when Jesus sat down, all eyes in the synagogue focused on him, waiting for him to comment. It appears that his opening words were, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing [literally, “in your ears”]).” The fact that those in the synagogue reportedly “testified” or made favorable comments and marveled at the gracious words he spoke indicates that Jesus provided a more extensive exposition. Nevertheless, they considered him as just one of the common people of Nazareth, saying, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:20-22)

Discerning their attitude, Jesus responded, “All of you will say to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ The things we heard you did in Capernaum do also here in your own home [area].” Continuing, Jesus told them “that no prophet is accepted in his home [area].” Calling attention to ancient history, he said, “There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was shut for three years and six months (as great famine came to be over all the land), and to none of them was Elijah sent but to a widowed woman of Zarephath of Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel [during the time] of Elisha the prophet, and none of them were cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:23-27)

Jesus’ words forced those assembled in the synagogue to look at their unbelief in him against the backdrop of their ancient history. Their ancestors had not honored the prophets, with resultant loss to themselves. Yet, non-Israelites (the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian) had been richly blessed through them. Instead of accepting the lesson of ancient history and coming to see their error in the way they looked upon Jesus and their wanting to see signs, those in the synagogue became filled with rage. Angered that they had been likened to faithless Israelites in the days of Elijah and Elisha, they seized Jesus and led him away to the edge of the hill on which the Nazareth was built. Their intent was to throw him down from the elevated location. He, however, got free, passed through the midst of the group, and went on his way. (Luke 4:28-30)


See for pictures of and comments about Nazareth.

The expressions “kingdom of God, “kingdom of the heavens,” and “kingdom” all relate to God’s rule by means of his Son. The kingdom is the royal realm where God’s reign is recognized and believers enjoy the protective care and blessings promised to them. With the arrival of the Messiah or God’s appointed King, the kingdom had drawn near, and the time had come for individuals to become part of the royal realm as persons who had repented of their sins and wanted to be under divine sovereignty to be exercised through him. The praiseworthy change in the lives of Christ’s disciples, which transformation is effected through God’s spirit, constitutes the evidence of the kingdom’s operation. Yet future is the coming of the kingdom in power, when Christ will manifest his royal authority and remove all who violently oppose him and reward his genuine disciples by having them share in his rule as God’s anointed one.

In Luke 4:18, later manuscripts include the words “heal the brokenhearted,” and this addition may be attributed to copyists who thought to harmonize the quotation with the reading of the Septuagint (Isaiah 61:1), which reading also agrees with the Hebrew of the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. Whereas Isaiah 61:1 in the Septuagint, as in the quotation in Luke 4:18, refers to restoring sight to the blind, the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah do not mention the blind. The Hebrew text has been commonly understood to refer to the release of persons who are bound or confined in prison.

At his baptism, Jesus had been anointed with God’s spirit, and was thus empowered to fulfill the commission contained in Isaiah’s prophecy. The “poor” designated the afflicted and disadvantaged who recognized their need for God’s help. Burdened by the weight of human traditions that went far beyond the requirements of the law, the Jews found themselves in the condition of captives. For responsive ones, the liberating message Jesus proclaimed led to their gaining refreshing freedom. Jesus made it possible for those who had been spiritually blinded by the religious leaders to see clearly, accepting him as the promised Messiah. He also opened the eyes of those who were physically blind. The proclamation of “release” to the oppressed may allude to the kind of release associated with the Jubilee year when Israelites who had sold themselves into slavery were again free and had their land inheritance restored to them. For all who then found themselves in an afflicted or oppressed state, the glad tidings Jesus announced brought hope and comfort comparable to a release from distress in the Jubilee year. It was then the “year” for gaining God’s favor or a favorable time the Most High was extending to become recipients of his approval and blessing.

In Luke 4:19, the quotation could either be understood to mean “to announce the favorable year of the Lord” or “to announce the year of the Lord’s favor.” The extant text of Isaiah 61:2 in the Septuagint has a form of the Greek word kaléo (“to call,” “to summon”) instead of kerysso (“to proclaim,” “to announce,” “to preach”)

According to Luke 4:23, Jesus had already done things in Capernaum. Based on John’s account, this could have included the healing of the royal official’s son. While Jesus had earlier spent time in Capernaum, none of the biblical accounts mention his having performed any miracles at that time. Whether Jesus spent time in Capernaum on another occasion prior to his return to Nazareth or whether Luke’s account here does not follow a strict sequential order cannot be determined with certainty.