Christianity 201

January 19, 2021

There are No Hometown Prophets

Today I was delighted when my quest to find new writers to highlight took me to Let’s Talk About Jesus, the blog of Aaron Irlbacher, who is a Baptist pastor in Roy (that’s the name of the place!) in the state of Washington. I know I’m always telling you guys to click the links and read these articles where I found them, but today there’s a double reason for doing so, as I enjoyed reading Aaron and Jayme’s story of how they met and their early days of criss-crossing the U.S. for school and ministry positions.

So again, click the header below to read this at source. Aaron is currently in the middle of a devotional series from the Gospel of Luke. Because this was posted just hours ago, I’ve closed comments here today so that if you wish to add something you can interact with him directly.

A Prophet Has No Home

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.

Luke 4:20-30, ESV

The Pattern for Jesus’ Life and Ministry

This scene effectively foreshadows Jesus’ entire ministry.

► First, Jesus arrives to teach the way of God (Acts 18:26) perfectly. He is welcomed early on and acclaimed as a teacher sent from God by all who hear Him.

► Second, His teaching creates faith in some and anger in others. Jesus’ sermons are not for tickling people’s ears (1 Tim 4:3). His words divide, but not because they are divisive. The dividing happens naturally as the result of truth-telling. Jesus came to seek and to save (Luke 19:10), but men love darkness rather than light (John 3:19).

► Third, those who reject His identity as the Christ become infuriated and endeavor to destroy Him.

► Fourth, some of the same people who praised Him initially would join the angry mob, and the masses decide to put Him to death (Matt 27:20).

► Fifth, He survives their murderous plot but leaves them without any more revelation (Luke 24:6).

Do you see it? Jesus’ interaction in Nazareth is like His entire life in miniature.

There are no hometown prophets

When Jesus closed the Isaiah scroll, the entire congregation must have stared with mouths hung open while they thought to themselves, “did he just say what I think he said?” Some of them were so impacted by His gracious words and clear self-identification as the Messiah they asked, “isn’t this Joeseph’s boy?” The toothpaste was out of the tube. You can’t put it back in now. Jesus’ declaration was clear, and his audience did understand him. He knew their thoughts of doubt, and He knew their next question. All good teachers try to answer objections before they are raised, and Jesus is the perfect teacher. He tells the unbelieving what they would say next. You all are thinking, “What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well (Luke 4:23).” After Jesus tells them what they are thinking, He moves on to tell them why they are thinking wrongly. They had become so comfortable with who they assumed Jesus was that they could no longer objectively hear from Him. Jesus’ childhood friends and neighbors still saw a simple and relatively unimportant carpenter’s son, and therefore they could not recognize the true prophet. Their knowledge of Him as a lad was apparently so loud they couldn’t hear Him as the true prophet. That is why Jesus’ critique was “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown (Luke 4:24).”

If you had to choose between Jesus and a million dollars

It’s no secret that Americans are infamously materialistic. I wouldn’t consider myself materialistic, but what materialistic person would? We all can be distracted by stuff. While material things are not sinful to have or enjoy, the problem arises when our hearts become singularly focused upon something we have, or even worse, something we don’t have but wished we did.

Jesus acutely identified this problem in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Matt 6:24).” I prefer the King James translation that replaces the word “money” with “mammon.” Mammon was an old Semitic word that indicated more than simply money. Mammon was more like our word materialism than our word money, and Jesus was using the concept of materialism as a competitor against God for our hearts. Materialism easily turns into idolatry if our hearts crave something rather than God.

In Nazareth, though extremely poor by our modern standards, many of them fell prey to this temptation. Jesus addressed this sin within the hearts of His first audience. They wanted Jesus to do in Nazareth what He had done in other Galilean towns. On the surface, that is not a bad request. There’s certainly nothing wrong with petitioning the Saviour. Jesus often rewarded faith with compassion and gracious gifts of healing. What then was the problem? These Nazarites were wanting something from Jesus without wanting Him. This is a subtle distinction that we must learn and guard our own hearts against the temptation of idolatry. Idolatry may be described as adoring anything or anyone in a way that rivals our adoration for God. Natalie Grant sings this truth,

“Help me want the Healer, more than the healing,
help me want the Savior, more than the saving,
help me want the Giver, more than the giving.
Oh, help me want You, Jesus, more than anything.”

Amen Natalie.

Christian, we must open our eyes and unplug our ears to see Jesus rightly and hear Him truly. There is nothing that we need more in all the world than Him. We must learn from Mary, the sister of Martha (Luke 10:42). She chose to stay in Jesus’ presence to directly hear the Words of life from the very Giver of life. I have two hopes for you today. First, I hope you will day by day faithfully come to hear Jesus for yourself in the Scripture and not just hear from me after I have spent time in His presence. Second, I hope you will continually grow in your desire for Christ above all else. May God’s Spirit works in us all.

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 

Philippians 2:13, ESV