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No Prophet Is Accepted in His Own Town

18 Sep
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One way of looking at these first events in Jesus’ public life is that Nazareth is in some degree like Cana (John 2:1).[1] What do I mean? Well, the meaning of the word Cana is “place of reeds” (Kana – G2580).[2] A reed was used as a unit of measure (Ezekiel 40:3, 5-8; Revelation 11:1) of six great cubits (Ezekiel 41:8) or about 9 feet. What I find interesting is that the town of Nazareth was measuring Jesus as they would one of their own (Luke 4:22b). It is difficult to see or understand the importance of a person when we think we know all there is to know about him.

The text says that the heavens opened for Jesus (Luke 3:21), and, afterward, he came into Galilee filled with the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14), but was not accepted in his own town (Luke 4:24). If we consider those who believe they know all about Jesus (Luke 4:22b), how could they possibly admit that his relationship with God was any different from their own, or that Jesus could hear God, but they could not? What had he offered them in the way of proof, except his own word that this Scripture (Isaiah 61) was fulfilled in him? “Isn’t this the Son of Joseph, whom we watched grow up? Isn’t he in reality one of us, subject to the same limitations we find for ourselves? Why should we submit to him as our Messiah? What has he shown about himself that would be just cause to believe he was any more than we are” (Luke 4:22b)?

What was Jesus offering the Nazarenes that they found so unbelievable that it should be fulfilled in him? I believe Jesus was proclaiming the time when the dead would be brought back to life. Notice in Luke 4:18 and Isaiah 61:1 that Luke follows the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew at Isaiah 61:1. Luke’s “recovering of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18) is “opening the prison of them that are bound” (Isaiah 61:1). The Hebrew at Isaiah 61:1 (H6495) means “opening (of the eyes), wide.”[3] Its root word is H6491 which is used of the opening of Adam’s and Eve’s eyes when they ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:7). It is also used to point to death in Job 27:19, which points to the spiritual condition of Adam and Eve at Genesis 3:7. The word is used of raising the dead in 2Kings 4:32, 35 where Elisha raised a dead child (the child opened his eyes).

It is interesting that Paul spoke of our being resurrected to life in Ephesians 2:1-5. In other words, when the text speaks of Adam’s and Eve’s eyes being opened (Genesis 3:7), they were open to death (cf. Job 27:19), but when Jesus spoke of the time being fulfilled in that the “recovering of sight to the blind” was upon them, he was speaking of a resurrection out of the death that lay in Adam into the life which lay in Christ (cf. 1Corinthians 15:21-22). The spiritual resurrection is of little value, if it is not accompanied with a physical resurrection (1Corinthians 15:12-19).

It was this that the Nazarenes couldn’t accept. How could death be abolished, if men die? If death wasn’t abolished, why should they believe God had called for a release or a Jubilee? If the resurrection had truly come and, if Jesus had cast himself off the pinnacle of the Temple and lived, then perhaps he is the Son of God. If he could breathe life into stones, causing them to become the bread of life, then perhaps he is the Son of God. But, if he couldn’t do these things, how could they know he was any more than they were? If he didn’t display the power of God, why should they put their trust in him?

This is the real question. Should they believe the word of God or demand evidence i.e. a sign (Matthew 12:38-39; 16:1, 4; Mark 8:11-12; Luke 11:16, 29-30). The Nazarenes chose the latter, causing Jesus to conclude he would never be received as a prophet in his own city (Luke 4:24). The problem is that God is interested in trust and obedience culminating in love. To demand evidence of the word of God is to exemplify a lack of faith, just as the ancient Israelites had done in the wilderness (cf. Numbers 14:19-23).[4] The test of a prophet is the words of the prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1-3). Jesus claimed to be the Messiah or Prophet that Moses predicted. The test that he was who he claimed to be was not a miracle,[5] but the words he spoke. If his words denied the Scriptures or were not supported by God, then he couldn’t be that Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18-22). All a prophet has is the word of God. If his words align with Scripture (Deuteronomy 13:1-3), then he has passed the first test. If his words that align with Scripture are also supported by God, then he has passed the second test (Deuteronomy 18:18-22). It is the people’s responsibility to let the prophet be heard, and, if what he says sounds true according to Scripture, they must wait to see if his words prove true in everyday experience.

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[1] The location of the village of Cana is not known today. Three cities have been pointed to as possible prospects—two especially have support within the scholarly community. However, the fact that none can be shown to be the actual location of the events of John 2, gives me pause. Both John and Luke have Jesus saying and doing things as part of his public ministry before John’s imprisonment, while Matthew and Mark seem to begin after John’s imprisonment (Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14). John has Jesus begin in Cana, but Luke has him begin in Nazareth, both before John’s imprisonment. Do John and Luke contradict, or can the two witnesses be shown to agree? Might John hide the name of Nazareth by spiritually calling it “a place of reeds” (Kana – G2580)?

[2] See Thayer’s Greek Definitions, Smith’s Bible Dictionary and Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary.

[3] See Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions.

[4] See also my study The Tenth Temptation of God.

[5] Ancient Israel didn’t believe God no matter how many miracles they witnessed at the hand of Moses.

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Posted by on September 18, 2016 in Gospel of Luke

 

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