The Unfavorable Contrast

20 Sep
from Google Images

from Google Images

In Luke 4:25-27 Jesus unfavorably contrasted his countrymen, his neighbors at Nazareth, with two gentiles, one from Sidon and the other from Syria. Both the widow, whose food supply never failed because of the word of Elijah, and the leper, who was healed by the prophet, Elisha, believed the word of God. In other words they let the word, as it was spoken by the prophet, bear fruit in their lives. Yet, the Nazarenes wouldn’t allow this to occur with Jesus’ words. Rather, they demanded him, as though he ruled over the power that rested upon him, to do a miracle and prove who he claimed to be (cf. Luke 4:22).

Elijah had gone into hiding and went to the widow in Sidon, because Ahab, the king of Israel, had sought his life (1Kings 17:1-3, 8-9; cf. 18:17). The widow had only a handful of grain and a little oil left for her and her son. She was about to prepare a final meal for both of them and then die, but at the word of Elijah, she prepared a small cake for him first and then for herself and her son. Neither the supply of grain or the oil failed until the famine was over (1Kings 17:12-16). Similarly, Elisha abode in Israel when Naaman, the Syrian general, came to the king of Israel, looking to be cured of his leprosy (2Kings 5:1-7). Elisha found out and sent for Naaman (2Kings 5:8), telling him to dip himself seven times in the waters of the Jordan river (2Kings 5:10). At first Naaman supposed Elisha was mad and went off angry to return to Syria (2Kings 5:11-12), but when one of his servants convinced him to do as Elisha had told him, even though it seemed senseless, Naaman did so and was cured (2Kings 5:13-14).

In both instances the gentiles permitted the word of the prophet to take root and bear fruit. Nevertheless, this was the thing the Nazarenes were unwilling to do. They couldn’t get past Jesus being Joseph’s son, whom they watched grow up (Luke 4:22). Jesus was one of them and seemed to be nothing special. Why should they put their trust in him and risk what little they had (cf. 1Kings 17:12). Moreover, why should they put their trust in him and appear the fool (2Kings 5:11-12; cf. John 1:46). Rather, they wanted Jesus to supply their need, before they placed their trust in him. This can be understood by contrasting “If you are the Son of God” in Luke 4:3 with “Is this not Joseph’s son… in Luke 4:22. Furthermore, not wanting to appear the fool, they demanded that Jesus prove he wasn’t a fool by casting himself off a high precipice (Luke 4:9-11) and survive. Isn’t this what they intended to prove by themselves, when they wished to cast him off the cliff upon which their city was built Luke 4:29?

Jesus proclaimed a year of Jubilee—“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me… to proclaim liberty to the captives…” (Isaiah 61:1; cf. Luke 4:18). He was anointed to preach good news to the poor by assuring them of a share in the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:18; cf. 6:20). He began by coming to Nazareth, his home town, and preached to them that God was able to set anyone free out of any prison (Luke 4:18-19; cf. 2Kings 5:10-14), and he was able to supply every need, no matter how small the supply (Luke 4:18; cf. 1Kings 17:12-14). Nevertheless, they refused to listen. They considered Jesus mad (cf. Mark 3:21).

The odd thing about this condition is that it later turned to Jesus’ advantage, just after John was cast into prison (John 3:23-24; cf. Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14; John 4:1-3, 43-44). Jesus fled to Galilee for safety, to get away from the Pharisees who had learned that Jesus was becoming more popular than John (John 4:1). The authorities in Jerusalem were the ones responsible for John’s imprisonment (John 3:25). It was they who took the fact that Jesus was a prophet seriously, and believed that sooner or later following the prophet of God would lead to a conflict with Rome (cf. John 11:48). It was in Galilee that Jesus, the Prophet, wasn’t taken seriously by the authorities (Luke 4:22). They thought him mad (Mark 3:21; cf. John 10:20). Therefore, he would be safe among those who didn’t believe he was from God (cf. John 3:1-2)!

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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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