No Room: Nazareth

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. – Luke 4:28-29

Following his baptism and temptation, Jesus began his public teaching ministry “in the power of the Spirit (4:14).” As an itinerant preacher, Jesus became something of a cult hero in Galilee. “And everyone praised him (4:15).” Eventually, Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth with an invitation to speak at the synagogue Sabbath service. Reading from Isaiah 61, Jesus declared:

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.

In Luke’s Gospel, this text serves as Jesus’ mission statement. His ministry was a proclamation of good news for the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, the oppressed.

On the heels of this sermon, the crowd seemingly looked for Jesus to perform some miraculous work to accompany his teaching. “Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum (4:23).” Matthew tells us that Capernaum was a base of operations for the ministry of Jesus (Matthew 4:13-17, 23-25). If Jesus had healed the sick, the paralyzed, and the demon-possessed throughout the villages of Galilee, then one could only imagine what miraculous wonders he would perform here in his hometown.

The only problem is that Jesus refused.

In fact, he seizes this as an opportunity to emphasize another aspect of his ministry: his mission to bring the Gentiles into the Kingdom. After his announcement that no prophet is accepted in his home country, Jesus cites two prophets of old (Elijah and Elisha) who were each sent to non-Israelites. His “own people” become livid at these references to God’s mercy to Gentiles.

This hometown boy has gotten too big for his britches.

Who do you think you are? Aren’t you Joseph’s boy? We changed your diapers. We made you sit up straight and mind your manners. We taught you Torah.

And now you hold out on us?

What about us? Are we not poor, too? Are there no blind in Nazareth? No prisoners? None oppressed?

Perform your signs and wonders here or else you’re no longer one of us.

When he refused, they moved to kill him.

Displaced. Banned from his hometown. Can you hear the sorrow in his words? “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Lk 9:58).”

How lonely it must have been to walk such a path.

No room for you, even in your hometown.

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