There is an old saying: An expert is a person who carries a briefcase and is more than two hundred miles from home. Jesus expressed the same truth with these words: No prophet is accepted in his hometown.
Certainly, that had been the case with the Old Testament prophets, and it was being repeated now in Jesus’ ministry. “He came to his own, but his own received him not,” St. John said. Let’s review a lively day in the synagogue at Nazareth where Jesus worshiped.
There were three parts to a synagogue service. There were the prayers, the reading of the Law, and the reading of the prophets. Lay people were free to read the prophets in the service and then make comments. It was at this point in the service that Jesus had the opportunity to tell them who he was.
He stood up and read from Isaiah 61:1-2: “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.”
Having finished the reading he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and said to the congregation, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” With these words Jesus said, I am the Messiah.
At first His friends with whom he had grown up were impressed with what Jesus had to say. They were amazed at His ability to speak, but a few had some questions about His claim to be the Messiah. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
However, as Jesus continued to speak to the congregation, their admiration turned to anger and they tried to kill Him. Why the sudden change in their relationship to Jesus? He confronted them with a new truth. God loved Israel, but His love also reached out to all people. All who trusted Him could become a part of His eternal kingdom.
Continuing His remarks at the synagogue service, Jesus used two illustrations to show that the Sovereign God can bless whomever He wishes, and His Kingdom is not limited to a particular group. He reminded them that when the famine was so bad in Israel that many died, God did not send help to the Jewish people. Instead He sent help to a widow in Zarephath, who was a Gentile. To rub salt in their wounds the Lord also reminded them that there were many in Israel with leprosy, but not one of them was cleansed Ð only Naaman the Syrian was healed, and he was a Gentile.
At this point Jesus’ message hit home. “This cannot be,” the faithful said. “Israel is God’s chosen nation and will be forever. No other nation is its equal.”
Such foolish thinking could not be tolerated. He must die. Yes, John was right. “He came to his own, but His own did not receive him, so the Lord moved on to the world offering all people a place in his kingdom.
The treatment Jesus received from his own people has been typical of millions of peoples through two thousand years of history. How easy it is to admire Jesus for His teachings until they become so personal that to accept what He teaches would be life-changing. When this becomes evident, the relationship with Him cools.
“If living on the shady side of my business transactions must stop, I have to reevaluate my relationship with the Christian faith. After all, a bit of dishonesty has earned me many dollars.”
“If my lifestyle of immorality and excessive use of alcohol and drugs must no longer be a part of my behavior, I might have to opt for a good time with my friends rather than walking with Jesus.”
“If cleaning up my profane language would affect my ability to communicate effectively with my friends, I might find following Jesus difficult.”
“Believing that Jesus is the only way to heaven in the eyes of the world would make me offensive to my culture and some of my closest friends. This would be too high a price to pay.”
For two thousand years the world has tried hard to silence the voice of Jesus, but His Gospel is proclaimed more widely today than ever before. The good news of the Gospel is reviving starving spirits. It is bringing forgiveness to people who were prisoners of guilt and self-centeredness. It is opening the eyes of the spiritually blind and showing that life is worth living as they minister to others in the name of Jesus.
Listen to what Jesus has to say. Learn from that lively day in the synagogue. Do not turn your back on him. It is true, He will change your life, but changes will make life worth living and all things new.