Summary: Jesus was rejected in His hometown because the people there had grown proud and unteachable. They were so familiar with their version of truth that they rejected real truth.
Luke 4:16-30 - Cauterized by Handling of Holy Things
Tonight I’d like to look at the passage of scripture from Luke 4:16-30. It describes what happened to Jesus when He returned to His home after having ministered to others outside of His hometown. Let’s read.
Let me tell you a story. Around the turn of the century there was a young man named James Lewis Kraft who was a clerk in Ferguson’s general store at Fort Erie, Ontario, across the Niagara River from Buffalo. Kraft had been born on a farm near there. He was obviously a good clerk, appreciated by his employer, because he was making $150 a month—a good salary in those days.
A neighboring storekeeper, a man named Land, remembered him very well. Years later, when Kraft revisited the Land store on a trip home, the elderly proprietor identified him with every sign of pleasure.
A good deal of water had gone over the falls during that interval. James Kraft had founded the Kraft Cheese Company in Chicago. He was a humble man, even though he built a multi-million-dollar business. The company’s products had reached practically every grocery store in the US. and Canada as well. Millions of dollars in advertising had etched the Kraft name into public consciousness, and J.L. Kraft expected that of course his old friend would know all about his success.
But Land merely said, “Why, hello, Lew. Haven’t seen you for years. You still clerkin’ up at Ferguson’s?”
Sometimes hometown heroes don’t get quite the respect that they perhaps deserve. This is what happened to Jesus. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, a mighty instrument to accomplish God’s purposes on earth. He came home to Nazareth, the town He had grown up in.
Both Mary and Joseph were from the town of Nazareth in the province of Galilee. For the census mentioned in Luke 2, Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem in the province of Judea. Now, geographically it’s down, southwards. But it’s the hills, so the Bible says they went up, like going up and down the River. We say it’s down to Miramichi, but on a map it’s really up and over.
Mary and Joseph were planning on heading right back to Nazareth after Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day. But the wise men arrived, bringing with them gold, to pay for the flight to the country of Egypt. King Herod was going to kill Jesus, and Joseph was warned in a dream to flee. I don’t know how long they were in Egypt, but they eventually made their way back to Nazareth in Galilee.
When He was 30 Jesus left Nazareth, some 20 miles from the Jordan River, where He was baptized by John. There He found some disciples, though likely not all of them. He performed a few miracles – turning water into wine at Cana, a few miles north of Nazareth. He cleared the Temple in Jerusalem, and did some other miracles there too. He spent time in Samaria, reaching out to the people there. He went to Capernaum where He healed the nobleman’s son. Perhaps Jesus had been ministering for about a year by this time.
And then He came back to His hometown. As a visiting preacher, He was given the opportunity to read from the scriptures in the synagogue. Now, there was only one Temple in Jesus’ day, in the capital of Jerusalem, but there were many synagogues scattered in towns all over. They did not offer sacrifices there, but they did have weekly meetings of prayer, confession, scripture reading, preaching, and so on. This is what Jesus did.
He opened to Isaiah 61 – read v18-19a again – and said that was Him. The passage describes the year of the Lord’s favor – the year of Jubilee, where land is returned to its owners, slaves are set free, debts are cancelled, and everyone gets a new start. This is what Jesus came to earth to do – to give new starts to people who need them. To give life and freedom back. This is Jesus’ ministry.
Now, they spoke well of Him, v22 says. Then, v22 also describes their comments. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” This sounds like a simple question, but it’s more than that. It’s belittling. Now, granted, there is a hidden compliment, as in, “You mean to tell me that the carpenter’s son did those amazing things?” But it’s belittling in that it’s almost like a pat on the head, saying, “Aww, isn’t He cute? Our little boy can do such big things.”
They were almost humoring Him. To them He would never be seen in His full identity: as the Son of God, mighty in power, humble in deeds, full of love and mercy and compassion. To them He would always be Joseph’s boy, that carpenter’s apprentice.