We have finished the unique material from Mark’s Gospel and move on to Luke.
There are three issues at work here in this passage. First is the intransigence of human intellect in the face of miracles. If you aren’t heart-led and prepared to believe, nothing can change your mind. Indeed, without a heart-led perception, you probably won’t experience anything at all. Even when miracles are undeniable, most people still manage to reject them on various grounds.
Second, in a nation that had long ago slipped away from the Covenant, familiarity breeds contempt. These people knew Jesus as a kid and never saw evidence of His moral gifts then, so they weren’t going to see them when He’s an adult. They weren’t prepared to see the miracles of His life in the first place, so they were closed to His power, which rested entirely on faith.
Third, they were defensive. There was an extraordinary degree of bitterness and hardness of heart in this village. How many places in Jewish lands could a Messiah grow up and nobody notice? The news of His miracles in other places was a slap at their moral insensitivity, it put them on edge. Their very hardness was the underlying reason for taking such an attitude toward Him. This stood on top of the essential Jewish attitude that there was nothing to repent, that God owed them.
So the narrative tells us Jesus came home for a short visit. Now that He resided in Capernaum, He was a guest in this synagogue. It was standard etiquette to invite Him to participate in the worship service. The passage for that day’s reading was Isaiah 61, and Luke quotes Him reading verses 1 and 2. It was long established as a Messianic prophecy. He had everyone’s attention as He sat down to teach. Notice that for public Scritpure reading one should stand, but Jews would preach sitting down.
He began by teaching how He was the Messiah, who came to restore the Covenant and bring forth all the wondrous blessings it had promised, blessings that had been in apparent short supply for quite some time. Luke doesn’t record the message, only how Jesus started it, and how the content was very positive and reassuring that God cared and would do great things for His people. They all agreed it was great stuff, but then wondered where in the world had this local boy gotten all of this. Who did He think He was? They watched Him grow up and never saw any of this before.
Jesus read their mood. If He knew so much, and had so much power, how about splashing some out here at home? They felt neglected, insulted that He had to leave home to get started on such a ministry. How had they wronged Him? But we have to wonder: If Jesus had restricted Himself to convincing His own mother and siblings of His divinity, how could that message have gotten to the whole nation that needed to hear it? His family tried to take Him into custody as off His rocker. The answer is that a prophet goes where God sends Him, and His Father had called Him to reach the whole nation. His immediately family would wait until they were ready to listen — so it was with Nazareth.
He reminded them that the two most famous prophets from Israeli history had done their most endearing miracles for foreigners because at that time the nation rejected their message. The implication was obvious: The people of Nazareth suffered from hardened hearts as the nation had in the days of Elijah and Elisha.
This was too much, and the whole synagogue rose up to drag Him to one of the many bluffs scattered around the area. Some of them were enhanced by terracing, since the whole place was rough and rocky. Even if He didn’t die from such a fall, He would be badly injured. Luke doesn’t describe how, only that Jesus managed to get away before they could complete the act. He only ever did very few miracles in Nazareth because of the hardness of their hearts.