Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God for his love, his mercy and grace. Praise God that he did not leave mankind to our sinful and doomed ways, but that he eternally decreed salvation for his elect people. "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God, and so we are." I John 3:1, Ephesians 1:2-6.
Let us acknowledge our sin of failing to thank God for, and respond to, his love for us in Christ, as we should. Ask God to help us, as we engage with him in his Word, to believe in, and fall in love with, our Saviour daily.
Let us "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2.
Pray that the Provincial and Federal leadership will be wise and not overstep the boundaries of their power in respect of the public worship of God in our province and nation. Pray that, somehow, they would be cognizant of God’s love for his people and his own glory.
Let's read Luke 4:23-30.
Pray for the Holy Spirit's help to receive God's Word.
We are now in the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. He is in his home town of Nazareth, it's the Sabbath day, and he has just read from the Prophecy of Isaiah and confronted his hearers with the truth that he is the Messiah. You can see from the prophecy how the Jews believed that the Messiah would be someone who would overthrow the world power of the day and establish Israel as the global world power. We know, of course, with the hindsight of the full canon of Scripture, that the Messiah was anointed to proclaim good news to the poor in spirit. To proclaim liberty to those who are held in captivity to sin. To proclaim the recovering of the sight to those who are spiritually blind. To proclaim liberty to those who are oppressed by Satan. To declare that salvation is now at hand. After Jesus finishes reading, he sits down and begins to teach. The point of his sermon - 'what you have been waiting patiently on is happening before your very eyes'. They're astonished, but they're not going to accept what he's saying. Yes, the preaching has affected them, and they are unable to find fault with either the sermon or the preacher, whom they have known for his entire life. Yet they will not embrace what he had to say. Why not? Because the idea of Joseph's boy being the Messiah was well…., just not possible. And this is the point at which we pick up this extraordinary event today.
V23. Jesus reads their hearts.
Jesus sees and understands what they are thinking. He calls them out and uses a Jewish proverb to do so. But what is it that Jesus is saying through this proverb? Well, he is speaking about the relationship between miracles and unbelief. Specifically, his inability to do many miracles in Nazareth because of their unbelief. Moving forward in time, Matthew will tell us that, unlike what has happened in Capernaum (Matthew 8:5ff), Jesus' time in Nazareth was noted for the fact that he "did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief." Matthew 13:58. Jesus knowing that this will be the case, speaks to the issue now. He is pre-empting what they will say. He says you are going to hear about my miracles in Capernaum and, when you do, you are going to say why did he not do here what he did there. In other words, "Physician heal yourself," and, by implication, your own people, before running off and doing it elsewhere. Jesus says, I am going to tell you why, and I am going to tell you the reason why now.
V24. It is all to do with unbelief.
What word does Jesus use to start his response to their thinking? He begins with the word amen, truly. It's a word that Luke uses just six times, unlike both Matthew and John, who both use it frequently when recording what Jesus says. It is a stark word. It sets the context for what is about to follow. Emphasizing and drawing attention to the significance of what is about to be said. In other words, 'sit up and listen people'. Jesus goes on to state that the problem is not him and his ability to do miracles, but them and their refusal to believe him. He had been in their community for thirty years; they had seen the beauty of his character, and now when it comes time for him to fulfill his life's purpose, they are having none of it.
The message is straightforward; if you scorn God and his Word, you will pay the price of God withholding his hand of blessing from you. The people of God, throughout the Old Testament, had written and rewritten this same script time and again. God had been clear to them. 'Take me at my Word, obey me and be blessed. Go after the other gods of the heart, and there will be a price to pay'. And what God said, God did. When they sought him with all their heart, he opened the gates of heaven and blessed them. When they forsook him as their first love when they trotted after the idols of the heart, God sent marauders to decimate the land, and when that didn't work, he withheld from them the most precious blessing of all – the hearing of his Word from the lips of his prophets.
V25. It is all to do with unbelief. It always has been, and it always will be!
Jesus now drives his point home by citing the experiences of two Old Testament giants, Elijah and Elisha. In his hour of need, God did not send Elijah to one of the many widows in Israel to be provided for, but to a gentile woman of Zarephath in Sidon. 1 Kings 17:8ff. In the case of Elisha, there were numerous lepers in Israel whom God could have sent him to heal, but he didn't. God used him to heal only one person, Naaman the Syrian. 2 Kings 5:1-14.
What is Jesus' point? Well, he's asking a question; in fact, two questions. How was it that God used a gentile widow to help the great prophet Elijah in his hour of need? It was because Elijah had been thrown out by them, even at the time of great need, that he was sent to the widow of Zarephath. How was it that God ignored the need in Israel and used the great Elisha to heal a foreigner, no less than the commander of a neighbouring army which had ravaged the nation? It was because God's people did not want the healing power that he was offering to them through Elisha, that he brought Naaman the Syrian to Elisha's door. Throw me out in your unbelief if you want, Jesus is saying, but the proposes of God will not be thwarted, his name will be lifted among the heathen.
The lesson is simple, do as God says and be blessed; don't do what God says and don't be blessed. Is there an area of your life where you are willfully putting the vast potential of the Lord's blessing upon your life in jeopardy? Why are you doing it? Whatever rationale, whatever the reasonable reason you have for doing it, stop it, it makes no sense. Forsake whatever idol of the heart you are entertaining. The cost of doing so is going to far outweigh any benefit you think you might get from doing so. Repent and believe in the power of God to be whatever you need in your life.
V28. Boy, are they angry.
How do those in the synagogue react? Isn't it enough that Joseph's son is claiming to be the Messiah? But now he's also saying that he won't be doing any miracles in the community because they won't believe him; well, that is just uncalled for. And to top it all off, he is telling us in our own synagogue, the synagogue he has worshiped with us in since the age of twelve, that God is going to use him to bring blessing to the gentiles. This simply isn't on. It's just not going to happen. We've heard enough. It's time this nonsense is brought to an end. And so, they drive Jesus out of the synagogue, jostling him along, out of the town to the brow of the hill; and that's it, the end for him.
V30. No, it's not.
Jesus isn't going to die at the hand of anyone before the appointed time. No crowd, no matter the size, no matter the level of volcanic rage, is going to do what God does not want to be done. There's no pleading for his life; there's no negotiating, no appeal to work things out. Jesus just stops walking towards the clifftop; he turns around and, like a hot knife cutting through melting butter, he just walks through the roaring, baying, mass of people and leaves. As far as is known, Jesus never returned to Nazareth. Their rejection of him through unbelief resulted in a severe judgement upon their community.
Whatever you do, take care not to play with the things of God in your heart. These matters are of eternal consequence.
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 25B. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
Keep up the memorizing; it will be good for your heart relationship with the Lord.
"Unto the hills I lift my longing eyes; whence comes my aid?
The Lord's my help, the heavens and earth by him were made.
Your foot from stumbling he will always keep;
the One who guards your life will never sleep.
He who keeps Israel slumbers not nor sleeps By night or day.
The Lord keeps you, a shade on your right hand The Lord will stay.
Throughout the day the sun will never smite, Nor will the moon afflict you in the night."
Truth for the Mind and Heart. Shorter Catechism.
Q. 24. How does Christ fill the office of a prophet?
A. Christ fills the office of a prophet in revealing to us by his Word and Spirit the will of God for our complete salvation.
Scripture proofs pdf - https://opc.org/documents/SCLayout.pdf
Thank God for the fact that Jesus had the boldness to call out the sin of the community he had been raised in. Ask God to give us a sight of our besetting sins, and help us to confess and repent of them, conscious of the detrimental effect that unbelief will have upon us.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley