Why Were They Upset?

Q. I’ve always been a bit baffled by the passage in Luke 4:14-30 where Jesus preaches in a synagogue at Nazareth. At first it appears the people are impressed and welcome him. But he states a couple of obscure references to Old Testament stories and the next minute the people are in a rage and try to throw him off a cliff! Can you explain some of the subtler sides of this story? Why were the people so incensed at some OT stories, and why did Jesus feel the need to quote from some proverb about “physician heal thyself”?

A. First of all remember that Nazareth was the Lord’s home town. He was speaking to people who had watched Him grow up. To them He was an ordinary man from a family they all knew.

They became upset because both Old Testament references He made were to Gentiles to whom God had shown favor during a time when there were great needs in Israel that remained unmet (1 Kings 17:7-16, 2 Kings 5). After all they were God’s people, not the Gentiles, and they didn’t like being reminded of two instances where Gentiles had been given preferential treatment. One of them was a widow from Zarephath a Lebanese town, and the other was Naaman, an officer in the army of Aram. Today it’s called Syria.

The Lord’s quote about the physician was prophetic of a comment that would be made by the officials who watched Him die. “He saved others,” they said. “But He can’t save Himself” (Matt. 27:42) They didn’t understand that He had come to die for them. The whole passage illustrates the fact that He would be rejected by the very people who should have known Him best.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem (Isaiah 53:2-3).

But He was pierced for out transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on Him and by His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

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