1.19 Synoptics -- Jesus Rejected in His Hometown

Mat 13:53-58Mk 6:1-6Lk 4:16-30. The most complete account of Jesus' visit to Nazareth is in Luke, during which Jesus makes the astounding statement that Isa 61:1-2 has been fulfilled in the eyes of his listeners:

        "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Lk 4:18-19).

        This was clearly a Messianic claim. Initially, the people's response was favorable, but wondering: "Isn't this Joseph's son?" Jesus replied cryptically --

        "You expect me to do the same works in Nazareth that I did in Capernaum. But no prophet is accepted among his own people. In the days of Elijah, during the famine, there were many widows in Israel, but God sent him only to a widow near Sidon. And during the life of Elisha, there were many lepers in Israel, but only Naaman the Syrian was healed" (paraphrase of Lk 4:23-7).

        Matthew and Mark do not include Jesus' response. They emphasize the unbelief of the people, based on their prior familiarity with Jesus and his family:

        "Where then did this man get all these things?" And they took offense at him (Mat 13:56-57).

        Luke's mention of the widow of Sidon and of Naaman should probably not be taken as a general invitation to the Gentiles. Rather, Jesus was again repudiating his natural background, his upbringing and relationships. The very fact that his neighbors "knew" him so well was a barrier to them believing in and receiving the Kingdom of God. This is reminiscent of Paul's famous confession from 1 Corinthians:

        "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me" (1 Cor 13:11).

         For Jesus and his followers, unlike modern activists and progressives, one's natural upbringing is not determinative of identity. It is something that must be left behind when one is confronted by the message of Jesus.