Richard Whitaker- Discipleship and Connections Pastor LHBC

Luke 4:14-30
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.  And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.  And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”  And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.
But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land,  and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”  When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And 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. But passing through their midst, he went away. (ESV) Luke 4:14-30

Being raised in a small, rural farming community made flying under the town radar difficult as a teenager.  For example, I remember blasting a familiar, 80’s rock song with the car windows down as I pulled into the local service station one hot summer day.  As I exited the car, a Christian mentor who worked there, walked up and asked if I understood the song’s lyrics. I fumbled an answer, “I just like the music, not the lyrics.”  But, I knew that he was right and I was embarrassed. His question exposed how I had selfishly deceived myself into broadcasting a terrible song to the world. The people in my hometown knew me best because they saw me the most.  And, what they saw needed a lot of work. The same cannot be said of King Jesus during his raising in Nazareth.

For the people of Nazareth, only good things could be said of Jesus’ life.  Jesus frequently taught in the synagogues around Galilee and people were glorifying Jesus as he ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, Galilee was buzzing with excitement and people were being changed by Jesus’ ministry. Even the hometown crowd was happy with Jesus as long as he was just teaching and encouraging.  But, their attitude changed the day his Kingdom preaching circuit came down to his hometown.

The people of Nazareth knew Jesus better than those in the surrounding towns because they watched him grow up in Joseph and Mary’s household.  While Luke writes that Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52), he was simply a carpenter’s son in their eyes. 

What began as a normal Sabbath in Nazareth, quickly turned into a scene of confusion and rage as Jesus laid a shocking truth on the hometown crowd.  After reading from the scroll, Jesus proclaims himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. He came to liberate the poor, blind, and oppressed, but the people deceived themselves and could not see Jesus as Lord, only Joseph’s son.  

Jesus illustrates their unbelief by contrasting the faith exercised by Old Testament characters by the names of Zarephath and Naaman with theirs.  Being exposed for unbelief was bad enough, but to make it plain that gentiles (outsiders) like Zarephath and Naaman had more faith than the people of Nazareth was too much for the people to take!  They quickly ran Jesus out of town and were about to throw him off a cliff when Jesus just went on his way.

Jesus’ example provides us with four spiritual truths for moving past rejection.  The first is to expect rejection. If the perfect lamb of God was rejected by his hometown folk, then how much more should we sinners expect to be rejected? Most people will find our love and hospitality as a blessing.  However this may not be the case with everyone, at least not at first.  

Paul explained it this way to the church in Corinth: “For the message of the cross is foolishness  to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:  “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate” (NIV) 1 Corinthians 1:18-19.  Expect that not everyone will receive our love and the simple truth that Jesus is the Messiah.  

Second, we move beyond rejection by seeking to love and serve people with respect and humility.  Jesus came to the synagogue that day without an official title. He fit into the flow of their gathering and took the scroll that was handed to him.  He sat down, according to their custom, to explain the reading. Jesus found a way to carry out his teaching in love and humility without compromising the truth.  And, when they threw him out, Jesus had nothing to be ashamed about.

Third, we must always share the truth of God with courage, trusting the Holy Spirit with the results.  It can be hard to share the truth with family and friends when we know they’ve been hurt or we’ve compromised our witness in some way.  But, we must try as we follow Jesus. Allow your love and compassion for their lost souls compel you and the Lord will bless your obedience no matter how people respond.

Finally, we must choose to keep moving to leave rejection in the dust, just like Jesus did. No matter what circumstances led to your rejection, just keep moving in the direction of Jesus’ plan for your life.  Don’t rush after acceptance somewhere else. Find your acceptance and reward in the Kingdom of God. The writer of Hebrews gives us some inspiration from the life of Moses when he says, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (ESV) Hebrews 11:24-26.

We can leave rejection in the dust when we consider the reproach of Christ greater than anything else and look only to the reward of heaven as our prize.  Let us find our acceptance in Christ by drawing near to him and by devoted service in our neighborhoods and workplaces with the respect, love, and humility of King Jesus.

Lord Jesus, thank you for being my faithful example.  You are the promised Messiah and I celebrate your coming today.  Teach me to move beyond fear and rejection by looking forward to the reward you have for me in heaven.  Empower me to faithfully share the gospel with my friends and family so that they can know your love and grace the same as me.  Keep me moving in step with your kingdom purposes and plans that I know will work together for my good and your glory. Remind me Lord that when I am rejected by the world, I find unconditional love and acceptance in you.  In Jesus name, Amen.

1 Peter 5:10
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.