Yesterday, we started discussing Jesus’ return to his hometown of Nazareth. He revealed that he is the Messiah and proclaimed that he had come to liberate the poor, imprisoned, blind and oppressed. The people were amazed at his words and said nice things about him.
But that changed in a hurry:
Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.”
“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 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.”
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.
What on earth is going on here? Why did Jesus’ homies — who were singing his praises only a few moments earlier — suddenly want to toss him off a cliff?
Jesus knew that his initial popularity was fleeting and would last only as long as he put on a show and gave the people what they wanted.
But that wasn’t his plan.
He began with the truth that prophets aren’t appreciated in their own towns and used two examples his audience knew well to prove his point. Elijah didn’t save the many widows among God’s own people — he saved an outcast Gentile instead. Elisha didn’t heal the many lepers among God’s own people — he healed an outcast Gentile instead.
Jesus’ words touched a nerve. Gentiles, women (especially widows) and lepers were at the very bottom of the social ladder. Jesus flipped everything upside-down. Outcasts who believe are above God’s own people who don’t.
It’s sort of akin to a guy raised in Green Bay (not far from my hometown, incidentally) coming back home to tell everyone that Bear, Lion and Viking fans are all going to the Super Bowl ahead of them. Unfathomable.
Infuriated by Jesus’ words, the crowd suddenly turned on him. But, again, Jesus had other plans. He miraculously slipped away, leaving them grasping at air.
As far as we know, Jesus never returned to his hometown again.
(Image credit: Shutterstock.com)