Connections 01.27.2019: Fulfilling the Prophecies

Luke 4:14-24

During his traveling ministry, there were few places where Jesus encountered no one who questioned him, doubted his claims, or requested proof that he was actually who he said he was. According to the Bible, no place was worse about this than his own hometown. The people who had the most difficulty accepting Jesus as the Messiah—the promised, long-awaited Savior from God—were the ones who had watched him grow up or had grown up alongside him.

That makes sense to me. How about you?

Look around your home, your neighborhood, your church, your town. What would you think if Chris from down the street started claiming he was the fulfillment of ancient prophecies? What would you think if little Sarah from your kid’s second grade class grew into a traveling preacher who claimed she was the one God said would come?

When we know people well, and even when we just know of them because we have lived in the same area for a long time, our expectations of them are often more realistic than hopeful. It makes sense that Jesus’ hometown folks were skeptical about his claims. They were being realistic about this boy who once ran off from his parents in Jerusalem, who had spent hours every day hammering at his carpenter father’s side, who asked too many questions when he should have been listening to his spiritual teachers.

But unlike Chris or Sarah, Jesus was and is the only human ever born who represents the fulfillment of ancient prophecies in the Old Testament. Only Jesus could pick up the book of Isaiah in front of his hometown folks and affirm with certainty, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).

His people admired him, but their admiration went just so far. They could accept his beautiful words and his commanding presence as a teacher, but when it came to releasing the captives and giving sight to the blind and freeing the oppressed and proclaiming the time of God’s favor (vv. 18-19; see Isa 61:1-2), they weren’t so sure.

We aren’t Jesus’ hometown people. We live in our own hometowns more than 2,000 years after Jesus’ time. We are trying to understand his teachings, to follow them, to share them with others. How do we feel about Jesus? What does it take for us to listen beyond the pretty words and the powerful promises and truly hear the Son of God?

Discussion

1. Have you ever been surprised by the success of someone you grew up with? If so, how and why?
2. Jesus said, “…no prophet is acceptable in his hometown” (v. 23). He was right, because only a few verses later we read that “they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff” (v. 29). What made them angry enough to kill him?
3. Why do you think the people who should have known Jesus the best had the hardest time believing and accepting what he said?
4. What are the things about Jesus that you find hard to believe?
5. How can you overcome your doubt and grow in your relationship with Jesus?

Reference Shelf

In these early chapters, Luke wants to drive home the point, by repetition, that Jesus’ actions were entirely led by the Spirit. The Spirit descended on him at his baptism (3:22), led him into the desert to be tempted by Satan (4:1), and now goes with him back to Galilee (4:14). Although Luke will not always write that Jesus was filled with the Spirit or spoke under the Spirit’s direction, the narrative always assumes it is so.

Jesus’ reputation spreads through Galilee, and he teaches in “their” synagogues, enjoying rave reviews. This will be repeated in 4:36-37 and 4:44, so that the episode at Nazareth, which turns out so badly, is sandwiched between reports of continuous success. In Luke, the synagogue is not necessarily a place of conflict or danger for Jesus, but a place where sometimes he can teach and preach and gain a favorable hearing.

This text is one of a few that describe a first-century synagogue service. In Luke’s account, the congregation owns a scroll of the prophet Isaiah; if they had that, they almost certainly also had a Torah scroll and scrolls of the prophets and the writings. There is also an attendant (like the modern hazzan) who handed the scroll to Jesus and took it back from him. Jesus stood to read but sat to teach, implying a lectern or table behind which he stood to read, and a chair from which he taught. If a seated man could be the focus of the whole audience, then a logical arrangement for the room would be stadium-style benches on three sides of the room, with the speaker standing at the open end.

Richard B. Vinson, Luke, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2008) 116-17.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (14) and Natalie (11), and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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