22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, "Is not this Joseph’s son?" 23 And he said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well." 24 And he said, "Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.
53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household." 58 And he did not do many might works there, because of their unbelief.
1 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household." 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.
Jesus, after ministering to other cities in Galilee, returned to his home town of Nazareth. The people there knew him, and while at first they liked what he was saying (applying his blessings to themselves as Jews), they immediately came up with questions about the source of his teaching. They wondered at how this person whom they had known since he was a child, whose father and mother and brothers and sisters were with them, who was a carpenter and not a Levite, how this familiar member of their community could have had any special relationship with the Lord of all heaven and earth.
Jesus responded to them with a proverb, not one from the Book of Proverbs given us by King Solomon, but a short, common saying, one that foreshadows the sayings of those who would have condemned him at the foot of the cross, "But the rulers scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’" (Luke 23:35-37)
Jesus then gave two examples of men of God who did mighty works outside of their home in Israel, showing forth his clear command and high view of the Scriptures. The stories he related angered the people further with the implication that Gentiles would be included in the grace poured out by God on the world, as they, being Jews and the recipients of the word and the law since the time of Abraham, were very jealous for the favor of God, though they perhaps were rather negligent in following the word of God. In fact, this resentment towards the words of Christ gave them not only the desire not to listen anymore, but the violent urge to silence him altogether that neither they nor anyone else should ever again hear what he said. The angry mob intended to send him to his death over the cliff, but Jesus, knowing it was not yet his time, delivered himself from their hand in a miraculous manner.
Jesus surely knew that this problem would arise in his home town. Why then did he go? Perhaps that we might have this particular record. So why would he want us to consider these events?
I believe this passage, as with nearly all of scripture, can teach us a great variety of useful lessons. In this study I intend to focus primarily on one aspect of the narrative: The problem that familiarity brings in recognizing truth. I believe that this passage is meant to teach us to be careful not to let our lives and our habits and our customs and our desires get in the way of our recognition and reception of the truth of God.
God’s word is truth. God spoke the world into existence, he commands waters to part (Ex. 14), the sun to stand still (Josh. 10), the sea to calm (Mark 4), and the dead to rise (Luke 7). He speaks through his prophets of future events that will certainly be fulfilled, because he knows the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10). Whatever he speaks is true in his creation; it is not possible for God to speak other than the truth, for as he speaks, creation conforms directly to his word.
With this in mind, I believe that the Lord’s voice would naturally sound like truth. Jesus, being God, spoke with authority, and all who heard it recognized the difference between his teaching and that of the scribes and Pharisees. The words of Christ, as they came from his lips, must have sounded true to those who heard him.
However, this sound of truth could be a very grating noise to those with a prejudice against the words he said. The Pharisees, for instance, found his truth untenable, as it put them out of their desired position of exaltation among the populace. Though they heard him as truth, they refused to acknowledge that truth or the God who spoke it (see Rom. 1:18-32).
The people of Nazareth had less to lose than the Pharisees. Still, they had prejudices and attachments which caused the truth of Christ to irritate their senses. They knew Jesus as a man, and that knowledge of his past, his life with them, his familiar background, gave them pause in accepting him as being something beyond what they were. Because of their familiarity with Jesus as a man, they in their human nature reject him as God.
In addition, they had heard of the miracles he had done in other places, and were anxious to see the same feats performed in their viewing. This they desired not to confirm the truth of what he said, as is the primary purpose of God’s miracles (see Ex. 7:9), but as a sort of sideshow entertainment. They hoped to see the tricks that the carpenter’s son had learned, not the power of God come to bring salvation to all the world. When Jesus did no great healings in their midst they grew restless and bitter, supposing him to be ungrateful to them who were with him in his youth, and having grown a great ego through his fame among the other cities. Of course their assessment of the situation was completely without merit and in fact entirely misguided, as Christ, being imbued with all power and authority, displayed also the utmost humility in his exercise of these among his creation.
Finally, these people bristled at the idea that the grace of God should go out among the Gentiles. Having been raised as Jews with the idea that the law and the prophets had all been sent to them, they held fast to the idea that only Israel would receive the promise of the covenant, and that Israel was defined strictly by heredity. Thus as they became aware that this Jesus, whom they had known since childhood, was teaching a gospel of grace to the Gentiles as well as Israel, or perhaps even instead of Israel, as his allusions to Elijah and Elisha implied, their jealousy raged within them and they purposed to do away with this teaching, even to the point of destroying the teacher.
So then, the people of Nazareth were blinded to his teaching, and his message of salvation, by their preconceived notions of him as one of them, and their prejudices concerning the extent of the salvation of God. Their hardness of heart prevented their faith. Without faith, they were unable to receive the blessings Christ came to offer, both temporal and eternal. So Jesus performed no great miracles among them, "except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them," as written by Mark.
This is not to say that God is not able to do works among the unfaithful, or that he is unable to change a person’s heart. Consider the long series of nations of unbelievers he routinely raised up to chasten Israel during times of his chosen nation’s straying. Also consider the conversion of Saul on his way to Damascus, a man breathing threats and murder against the disciples of Christ. He certainly did not come seeking God, but was converted in the midst of his deepest sin. No, God chose of his own accord and to his own ends to let these Jews of Nazareth remain in their darkness.
The application here, I believe, is to, as far as it is within my power, take the Word of God as it is, without prejudice or expectation. As the Apostle wrote to the saints at Corinth, "If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God." If I attempt to fit God’s word into my human experience then I will inevitably do damage to the word, as it comes from the perspective of the infinite, beyond my understanding. I must apply the word to my life as directed by the Spirit. I must take Christ on his word, accept him as he describes himself, not as I think he should be.
In relation to this passage’s teaching concerning the blessings of God being shared with the Gentiles, I must pray for the grace and salvation of all people, not just those in my family, or those I consider friends, or those I believe to be worthy, or those who attend the same church as me, or those who share my ethnic or national background, but all people who may be called of God at the sole discretion of God. I must, as the Spirit directs me, share the gospel indiscriminately, for I can never tell which person God will use my words to call.
I must also keep in mind that salvation will come to me only through my own faith in Christ, not through any family or social bond. Only through the cultivation and maintenance of my own faith, and my own personal relationship with God, will I ever find true peace and serenity, either in this world or in eternity.