Sunday, April 10, 2011

Luke 4:16-31: Jesus Knew He Would Be Rejected

Jesus' message was short: "today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." But this claim created a dilemma for those in the synangogue, people He had grown up with, as well as for every reader of Luke. Jesus was not teaching something about ethics or morality, He was not giving steps for following God's commandments, or for better living. He was claiming to be God's promise of salvation. Every person had to make a choice: Believe Him.....or not.

Either He is the Messiah, promised by God since the days of Adam and Eve....Or He is a blasphemer

The crowded synagogue was full of pensive neighbors who had seen Jesus grow up, who knew His family and his family's history. Many of them must have known Jesus as a boy, taught Him in synagogue, known His family's income bracket and their place in the social sphere. Luke tells us they were amazed and perplexed at the same time.

On the one hand, they realized He had spoken well, with gracious words. How did He grow up to be such a fine speaker, with such authority and power? With such wisdom and insight? They spoke well of him. They recognized His giftedness. But His family background, His humble beginnings...Isn't this Joseph's son? How could he be the promised one of God?

Jesus knew what they were thinking. Typically, in the gospels, when Jesus knows someone's thoughts His response holds a rebuke in it.

His admonition had three parts to it:
First, he repeated the proverb He knew they were thinking: They wanted him to prove it. They'd heard of all His powerful miracles, but ya know, reports can be exaggerated. Let's see it with our own eyes. Let's see what a carpenter of questionable origins can do.

But Jesus told them that even the evidence that miracles could offer wouldn't be enough to convince them. The fact is, they didn't, deep down, want to believe Jesus. They were predisposed to doubt Him. Miracles never convince the person who does not want to come to God. As one commentator put it: "People must be willing to hear the Word of God and receive it before they will see anything as God's work."

How about you? Have you been insisting to God that He must perform for you before you are willing to trust Him?

* What promise of God, or what instruction from God, have you been holding at arm's length because God's character is not enough for you to believe?

* In what area of your life might you now need to humble yourself before God and be willing to believe His word is true, even though you have not yet seen the fulfillment of it?

* What promise, or instruction, in Scripture, will you now simply agree to believe and live by, in confident faith, trusting in God's character, His love, wisdom and power alone, to make come true in your circumstances?

Jesus next quoted a well-known proverb that a prophet is not honored in his home. He knew that God's prophets had been repeatedly rejected in the Scriptures. This proverb was also a prophecy of Israel's rejection of the gospel that brought the Apostle Paul to tears many times

Finally, Jesus used examples from His people's two most famous prophets: Elijah and Elisha.

Jesus was making reference to a spiritually low water-mark In Israel's history, when rejection of God was at an all-time high and idolatry and unfaithfulness ran rampant. Because of this, God moved his works of mercy outside the nation into Gentile regions as acts of both warning and rebuke: The widow in Sidon and Naaman the Syrian.

Isaiah was the perfect text to read from to carry God's severe warning: If His own people would reject His mercy, then He would bring in the Gentiles, and no longer place His favor on His own people. For the rest of His ministry Jesus laid out this warning, and the apostles reaped the harvest of Gentile believers.

The people of Jesus' hometown did not receive this teaching well. They were furious with Him for
* Refusing to perform miracles as proof of His veracity
* Refusing to bring to them the bounty of healing and release that He had so freely given to other villages and towns
* Claiming to be the Messiah and expecting them to believe that Joseph the carpenter's son was anything more than that
* Rebuking their unspoken thoughts
* Prophesying of their disfavor with God
* Prophesying of the Gentiles' benefitting from God's mercy at the Jews' expense

The crowded synagogue became an angry, dangerous and violent mob that drove Jesus to the brink of death. This would be the first of many scenes when the gospel would be rejected and Jesus' life would be threatened.

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