Summary: Year C. Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany. January 28, 2001

Year C. Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.

January 28, 2001

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

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By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor


Luke 4: 21-30

Heavenly Father thank you for Jesus’ unconditional love. Amen.

Title: “Conditional versus Unconditional Love.”

Jesus’ own townsfolk, after initially receiving him well, turn against him because of his teaching and, or, refusal to work miracles there. They attempt to kill him, but he walks away from them [performing a mystery by doing so].

This is the second part of a story begun in last week’s gospel, Luke 4: 14-21. There Jesus returned to his home town, announced the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah happening in him and was warmly received. Now, he tells them of the Gentiles being included in God’s plan of salvation and they reject him. The two stories together outline Jesus’ whole ministry and that of the Church. The story anticipates Jesus’ rejection by “his own” people, the whole nation, and the Gospel is preached to the Gentiles who accept it.

In verse 21 today: This is the punch line! It has profound meaning. Every Jew believed that God’s kingdom and his Messiah would come- in the future. That was rather easy to believe, compared with Jesus’ proclamation that the day has arrived in him and in their hearing. The word refers to that chronological day back then, but it has reverberated throughout history and sounds in every hearer’s ears whenever the gospel is announced. “Today” becomes real when heard and accepted in faith. The Old Testament and New Testament is fulfilled in the life of each person when that great event happens. Now, a “now” which has lasted for 2001 years, the captive power of sin is broken, communion with God is established, and God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

Everyone believed that God would establish his kingdom, but sometime in the distant future. This kept God in the picture, but at bay. Jesus believed God always acts “now,” in the present.

In verse 22 all spoke highly of him: The skepticism of the people is just below the surface. Later, it will emerge. For now, they have come out to see for themselves, to be convinced one way or the other. Jesus was “the talk of the town” and people were hedging their bets.

Were amazed: The verb, Greek thaumazein, can express astonishment, coupled with criticism, doubt or censure or admiration coupled with unexpected pleasure. The nuance here is one of admiration. However, it went no further. Their curiosity was aroused, but they did not take his words to heart. They wanted more proof than that.

Joseph’s son?: The same question was asked in Mark 6:3. There it was occasioned by Jesus’ teaching and miracles. Here, the miracles are absent, though demanded; his interpretation of scripture and claim of Messiah-ship are at issue. The question could be sarcastic or complimentary. For the moment, it seems it is still complimentary and favorable.

In verse. 23 physician, heal yourself: The mood has changed abruptly. Although we leave open the possibility that some time has elapsed. Luke is telescoping Jesus’ entire ministry in this scene. This is a form of a proverb, appearing nowhere else like this, but similar ones existed, similar to our “Charity begins at home.” The people had heard of his miracles in other places and expected he would do even greater ones in his hometown. “Yourself” stands for the whole town. They are saying, “Do your healing thing here, among your own.” There is a hint of rivalry here. The people did not want towns like Capernaum boasting of miracles Jesus worked there, but not in Nazareth. There is a challenge, too. “Put your money where your mouth is,” they say to Jesus. Prove what you are claiming. “Show us the money,” the miracles.

In verse 24 Amen: The Hebrew amen occurs only six times in Luke. It introduces an authoritative utterance of Jesus. Elsewhere, Luke omits it from his sources and replaces it with other phrases like “truly,” “indeed,” or “therefore.” So, this is really important.

No prophet is accepted in his native place: Another proverb. People are more ready to see greatness in strangers rather than in the people they know and live with. We have a similar proverb: “The man from out of town is the expert.” He is saying that he knows their familiarity with him is an obstacle to really listening to him and accepting what he is saying. We would put it this way: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” He will now go on to prove it.

In verses 25-27: Jesus uses the examples of Elijah being helped by a Gentile woman and Elisha healing a Gentile leper. The two prophets are linked because the tales about them recount miracles performed on behalf of individuals, rather than those done on behalf of the nation. Jesus’ individual miracles would remind people of Elijah and Elisha more than anyone else. God showed mercy to Elijah and hence to the Gentile widow outside Israel and through Elisha to a leper not of Israel. This was too much for them to take, and Jesus proves his point about non-acceptance. The message that God loved and cared for everyone was bad enough, but coming from a “native son” it was outrageous, adding insult to injury. It was heresy to their ears.

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