The encounter between Jesus and his relatives and friends in Nazareth makes a great “human interest” story. [Note: some commentators suggest the single story here represents a condensation of several interchanges]
You can find it in Luke 4:16-30. I believe it's the first time Jesus visits his hometown since he left to submit to the waters of John's baptism; was publicly affirmed by his father's voice, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”; was pruned and tested in the desert[and found pure] then returned "in the power of the Spirit" demonstrating and teaching about his father's Kingdom in various Galilean towns.
With all the outrageous reports which precede him, can you imagine the level of curiosity his homecoming generated? What will he look like? Will his face shine like they say Moses' did? Will his voice be different; will he sound like a great prophet? I imagine those looking for outward manifestations were totally disappointed. Nope, he just looks like the plain ordinary carpenter/ construction worker who for years trudged up and over the hill with lots of other townsfolk to labor on one of Herod's building projects.
Then Shabbat arrives and of course he goes to synagogue. The reading for the day is in the Isaiah scroll. He takes time to go find the part we now call Isaiah 61. While everyone looks on intently, he reads what might be called his mission statement:
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."
He sits down and explains that the time that Isaiah speaks about is now.
And the crowd response??
Surprise? Incredulity? Excitement? Skepticism? Anticipation?
The text indicates a favorable response at least initially:
"All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips."
I can almost hear the comments… "Ah, such beautiful words of hope and inspiration", "Don't you love the poetry of Isaiah? He says such amazing things!", "When did he start to speak like this?", "What do you think Jesus means when he says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing?"
And as time slips by without much evidence of miracles or powerful, multiple healings, his poll ratings begin to slip…
Hey, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” after all. "He's nothing that special!"
And so, Jesus decides to help them understand the connection between their disappointment at not seeing the new thing God is doing and their reluctance to put their trust in him due to their lack of faith, born of familiarity.
“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
Not only is he calling them out for their lack of faith, he's even audaciously implying that despised foreigners might have more! That's just too much to hear! No sincere, faithful, law-keeping Jew needs to tolerate such unfounded accusation!!
Away with the impostor!!
"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 off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way."
Lord, this leaves me wondering...
● How am I like the good, faithful, God-fearing Jewish neighbors of Jesus who couldn't hear and believe the message of the new things God was doing in their land because of familiarity with what they 'thought' they knew about Jesus?
● Do I have preset ideas about the Kingdom which are not correct and need examination?
● Does the way I live demonstrate I doubt my true identity as your well-loved child?
● Do I believe that pure and holy evaporates when exposed to sin? Or do I have confidence that pure and holy has power to overcome and transform sin?
● Am I rubbing shoulders regularly with well-loved human beings who haven't yet come to know you?
● Am I an active or passive ambassador for your Kingdom?
Father, I do believe. Help my unbelief! Open my eyes to see who you say I am, that I might integrate this into my daily behaviors: that fear would take a back seat in all my encounters. That I would believe you truly want to use me as your active ambassador: motivated outward by the same love which compelled Jesus out of his comfort zone in heaven to live and die for the sake of LIFE eternal.