Rejection In Nazareth
“and they got up and drove Him out of city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. – Luke 4:29
A Bible Engagement Exercise
Let’s start with an exercise to get more blood flowing to your brain.
- Go to a window and look outside.
- Have someone go to a different window that provides a similar view.
- Take a few notes of what you both see without talking about them.
- Share your observations.
- What did you both see?
- What was unique in each of your lists?
Cultures & Conflict
God never intended His Word to be read and studied by one person looking through a single window. Westerners tend to interact with the Bible through the lens of innocence and guilt, truth and error. They are most interested in understanding “how” things happened. They are mathematicians. 1 + 1 = 2. There is one correct answer, and only one. If someone else sees it differently, they are simply wrong. Westerners think everyone should look out the same window.
But the Bible isn’t a Western book. It is Eastern, and it is old, almost 4,000 years old. The ancient eastern mindset illuminates the event discussed in today’s Talk Thru the New Testament lesson, “Rejection.”
Rejection of a Hometown Hero
Luke 4:14-30 presents one of the most familiar accounts of Jesus’ early public ministry. Jesus had grown up in Nazareth, a small town in Lower Galilee. Everyone knew that Jesus was the son of the Carpenter, Joseph. Stories of Jesus’ birth and early years as a child, teenager, and young man were likely well known. Luke’s Gospel records that Jesus was “favored” by His family and friends, the community’s people. Jesus made His community look good!
Israelis, part of the larger Middle East, have a very different approach to life. To this day, decisions are not made, and actions are not taken without first considering, “how will this reflect on my family and community? Will I shame them, or will I bring them honor?” The people of Nazareth worried about how the outside world viewed them. Remember Nathanael? “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Jesus had just returned from Jerusalem, celebrating the first Passover of His public ministry. He was on a world stage when He confronted the money changers and the corrupted priesthood. Many Nazarenes would have witnessed Jesus in action. They were proud of Him and wanted to know more.
After reading a portion of the Haftarah (Prophets) from Isaiah 61:1-2a, Jesus declared Himself to be the fulfillment of all Israel’s Messianic expectations. Imagine that. Who wouldn’t be ecstatic about Nazareth’s favorite son being the Jewish Messiah, the prophetically revealed deliverer of Israel? No more looking down on Nazareth! Instead of being shamed, Nazareth would be honored throughout the Jewish world.
Not So Fast
Then, Jesus said something that sucked the oxygen out of the synagogue. What follows are the “cliff notes” of what happened next. Nazareth’s favorite son told the community that His message of deliverance was for the whole world, even for the Gentiles.
The Jewish world had deluded itself into thinking that by virtue of their membership in national Israel, the coming Kingdom of God belonged to them. Israel had forgotten her calling, to be a Light to the Nations, inviting those outside God’s covenantal relationship with their Creator to join them in glorifying God!
More to the point, Jesus told those assembled on that Shabbat that the Jewish people as a whole would reject Him while many within the Gentile world would embrace Him. For example, He referred them to two Hebrew Bible accounts, the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Assyrian. The shock was too much for them. As one, the community of Nazareth decided together that Mary’s son had to be destroyed before He brought shame on them all. The community of Nazareth intended was to throw Him over a high cliff and kill Him.
But passing through their midst, He went His way. And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee… – Luke 4:30-31a
He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands
Even in the 21st Century, the people of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Asia are predominantly driven in their thoughts and actions by whether or not they will bring honor or shame to their family, friends, and community.
Jesus invites the people of every culture (Innocence/Guilt, Honor/Shame, Power/Fear) to view Him through different windows and engage with one another about what they see. In doing so, the fully orbed Jesus is revealed. As we lift Him up together, He has promised to draw women and men, enslaved people and those free, Jews and Gentiles, to Himself. This is what those who #DiscipleDaily do every day, everywhere. Join us, won’t you?
New Testament Lessons
- Aware of His growing renown, the people of Nazareth invited Jesus to speak at the Shabbat service in their synagogue.
- Using Isaiah 61:1-2a as His text, Jesus declared Himself as the Messiah, the fulfillment of their Messianic hopes. Then He added that they would ultimately reject Him while many among the Gentile world would embrace Him.
- Infuriated, the people of Nazareth decided to kill Jesus before He could further damage their communal reputation.
- Jesus escaped to Capernaum, the headquarters of His Galilean ministry.
- In eternity past, God ordained that Jesus would grow up in Nazareth, a community of fewer than 500 people. What are some of the benefits and negatives of growing up in a small town?
- Jesus developed as a human being within a specific community. He was known and “favored” by others. What do you think are some of the reasons Jesus was well-liked in the community?
- While Jesus was becoming well known outside of Nazareth, His community was honored that He was one of their own. In your own words, explain why the people of Nazareth so quickly decided to destroy Him.
- Tell this story to three people this week.
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