Luke 4:14-30.
 
Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ.   


 

Who is Jesus, to you?  Certainly the world has many ways of describing Jesus that are positive:  the greatest teacher who ever lived, a good man, a man of love.  One common denominator that links all of the non-Christian world’s opinions of Jesus is that to all of these, Jesus was simply a man.  Accepting the concept that a man can be God is not a trivial concept.  Nowhere in scripture is Jesus recorded as stating the words, “I am God,” yet the deity of the person of Christ is a fundamental standard upon which the faith of Christianity stands.  To deny that standard is to deny Christianity.  Even Christians who accept the deity of Jesus Christ sometimes deal with doubts when they try to understand this question, particularly those who are not well-grounded in scripture, because the only authoritative source of information concerning the nature of Jesus Christ is found in the Christian Bible.   

 

The question of the person of Christ is the fundamental question of the Christian faith, and is as relevant today as it was during His ministry in and around Galilee.  As difficult as it is for people today to fully understand the nature of the Son of God, it was even more difficult in the beginning of the first century among those who knew Him and knew of Him.  Yet, the scriptures do provide a consistent message of the person of Christ, a message that is woven in its pages from its first book to its last, like a “scarlet thread”[1] that binds its pages into a single message: the salvation from sin that comes only through faith in God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus, Yahweh in the flesh, who dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.[2]

 

Luke 4:14.  And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.

 

Prior to this event, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, the event that began Jesus’ ministry as the Christ.  Jesus then retreated into the wilderness for a period of “forty days” of preparation where He faced the satan-led temptation to turn from His purpose.  Consequently, as Luke writes his historical narrative, this passage describes the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry of grace. 

 

Some of the doubts as to the person of Jesus can already be addressed in Luke’s first depiction of the ministry as “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee.”  Jesus’ hometown was the “no-account” village of Nazareth in the region of Galilee, a village so disrespected that the name, “Nazarene” was used as an adjective to describe a person of no value.  Some have argued that Jesus was “filled with the Spirit” for the first time at the baptism since a misunderstanding of this passage, taken by itself, can lead people to think that Jesus was not in the power of the Spirit before this event.  John the Baptist is described as being “filled with the Holy Spirit” from birth.[3]  This is in no way an allusion that John was born with the Spirit and Jesus was not.  The truth is that, even as the nature of John is described, he is given by God the prophetic task of showing people the way to the “LORD,” a clear reference to the Messiah, Yahweh Himself.[4]  John announced to the people that Jesus was the “Lamb of God.”[5]  Jesus was “conceived of the Holy Spirit”[6]  Jesus’ nature as the Son of God makes any argument concerning His unity with the Spirit moot. 

 

So, if Jesus was filled with the Spirit from birth, why did He wait until now to begin the ministry?  Human logic and reason is no match for the One who created man.  Even during Jesus’ ministry He was very careful about when and to whom He would reveal His full nature and purpose.  Referred to as the “Messianic Secret”[7] we find Jesus often discouraging the sharing of the news of His Messiahship when He was in the region of Jerusalem.  God had a plan that would consume three years from Jesus’ baptism to His crucifixion, and the peace that Rome brought to the region was one of the factors that made this era optimal for the Christ to come.  Had the Jerusalem Jews thought that Jesus was the Messiah, their view of a military messiah would have created a revolt against Rome, denying God’s work as people would stomp on it with their sin.  Herod’s violent attempt to murder the newborn Jesus is another indicator of the unnecessary dangers that public knowledge of the person and purpose of Jesus would engender.

 

Consequently, when it was the right time for the presentation of the gospel message, Jesus did not march into the Temple in Jerusalem and announce who He was.  Rather, he went home to Nazareth, far from the condemning religious leaders, to share the news among those who knew Him best: His family and friends who lived in the region where He was raised.

 

Following the baptism of Jesus, and His resolve to begin the walk down the Via Delarosa to the Cross of Calvary, news of His ministry quickly spread.  This started with John’s announcement that He was the Christ, and Jesus’ subsequent interactions with the people that included healing of physical and spiritual ills.

 

Luke 4:15-16.  And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. 16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

 

We might fail to realize that, in a real sense, Jesus’ ministry actually started well before the Baptism.  This is not the first time that Jesus taught in the synagogues.  This was His “custom.”  The actual teaching custom was for a respected elder to read a passage from the Torah, and then lead a discussion on what was just read.  Imagine, if you will, what it would have been like to sit in the synagogue and listen to Jesus reading from the Torah and then explaining to the people what it meant.  While every other teacher would read words and state an opinion, Jesus “spoke with authority, and not as the scribes.”[8] His personal understanding of the scriptures gave them a power and life that no other teacher could bring to them.  It is reasonable that word of His teaching spread.

 

However, it is quite evident that, as Jesus taught the scriptures in the synagogue, He did not yet reveal to the people who He was until the time was right.  God’s plan was that John the Baptist would prepare the way for the LORD, and then declare Him to the people, validating both John’s and Jesus’ ministries.  However, now that the time was full, Jesus would make the announcement:

 

Luke 4:17-19.  And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

 

Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1.[9]  The LORD gave to the prophet Isaiah a clear understanding of His own nature and His purpose for mankind.  Isaiah taught this among the people so that they would repent of their sinful ways and that they would recognize the LORD when He comes.  The passage from Isaiah certainly describes Jesus, and His ministry using many commonly understood metaphors:

 

·        The Spirit of the LORD is on Him.  The unity of the LORD and the Holy Spirit is a part of Jesus’ basic nature.  One cannot separate the persons of God.[10]

·        He hath anointed.  The word use for anointed refers to one who is “sent.”[11]

·        To preach the gospel to the poor.  The gospel is the good news of salvation, that Jesus brought to those who are in need.  Though all need the gospel, like the scribes and Pharisees, some are quite prideful and self-reliant and feel no need for the gospel.  It is the “poor in spirit” to whom Jesus brought the kingdom of heaven.[12]

·        To heal the broken hearted.  Those who are separated from God by their sin are unable to experience the heart-mending power of the peace, love, and joy that comes only from a relationship with God through the presence of the Holy Spirit in that “God-shaped hole”[13] that is built into the heart of every person.

·        To preach deliverance to the captives.  We do not have written evidence of Jesus’ specifically preaching in prisons.  Those to whom Jesus came are not just prisoners under the authority of the government, but rather prisoners of satan, held captive by him behind the bars of condemnation for sin.  Just as Moses led Israel from the worldly authority of the Egyptian Pharaoh to the Canaanite Promised Land, Jesus came to lead people of faith from the worldly authority of satan to the Eternal Promised Land.

·        To recover sight to the blind.  Though we do have recorded examples of Jesus’ healing physical sight,[14] people have been blinded in their understanding of the truth of the gospel by the lies of this world that has chosen the authority of satan over the authority of God.  Jesus came to teach the truth, opening the eyes of those who have been deceived by this world.

·        To set at liberty those who are bruised.  Again, the metaphor of freedom is used to illustrate how Jesus came to free people from the physical, emotional, and spiritual injuries that come at the hands of the lord of death, satan.  Jesus, Himself would be “bruised for our iniquities,”[15] as He submitted Himself to evil men in order to stand in the gap for us, proving forgiveness for our own iniquities.

·        To preach the acceptable year of the LORD.  The “acceptable year” is an allusion to the Year of Jubilee, the tradition of redeeming all debts every fifty years, a practice first ordered by Mosaic Law.[16]  Jesus came to pay the final debt for all who would give their hearts to God, indeed making this the final and permanent Jubilee.

 

Looking back, it is an easy task to understand how Jesus fulfilled every one of Isaiah’s prophesies, did so in a manner of deep context and meaning, and in doing so every fulfillment is an important part of God’s plan for the salvation of all who would trust in Him.  However, as Jesus is reading this passage, the work is not yet finished.[17]

 

Luke 4:20.  And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

 

What is about to take place is one of the many important seminal moments in the history of man.  Just as the message of the coming of the Messiah was presented to lowly shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem, the message of the presence of the Messiah is about to be brought to the simple people of Nazareth, people who Jesus has had the prior opportunity to teach; people who highly respect Him.[18]    They are accustomed to His teaching, and are eagerly awaiting any new word that He had for them.  Would their response be similar to that of the shepherds?

 

Luke 4:21.  And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

 

God’s plan for the salvation of mankind is a work of His love, a plan that provides unconditional forgiveness for those who place their faith in Him.  The gospel message that was heard by the Nazarenes is similar to that heard by everyone to whom God’s message of grace is extended.  There is no need for great signs and wonders.  There is only the need for truth.  It is up to the one who hears the message to choose to listen to the Word of God and respond, or to continue to listen to the messages of this world, and reject God by clinging to them.  

 

The WORD came to the shepherds accompanied by angels, the Shekinah Glory of God, and a “heavenly host” praising God.  The WORD came to the people of Nazareth from the Messiah, Himself.  Would they respond in the same way as did the shepherds? 

 

Luke 4:22.  And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?

 

The Nazarenes, accustomed to trusting the words of Jesus, fully comprehended what it was that Jesus just said.  Jesus stated simply and clearly that He is the Messiah who was promised by God and prophesied by Isaiah and others.  Like people today, the Nazarenes were given a simple choice to believe the Truth, or reject it.  When they considered the words that Jesus had said, they were inclined to believe as they felt an awe and wonder as they listened.  However, they were faced with a dilemma.  Like the others in Israel they had an expectation of the nature of the Messiah that was quite contrary to the prophesied Christ.  They expected a mighty warrior who would lead them to political independence.  When they looked at Jesus, they did not see a mighty warrior.  Referring to Him by the respectful title, “Son of Joseph,” rather than the derisive title, “Son of Mary,” they remembered a little boy who grew up in their town.  That reference and the context of these verses clearly indicate that they had great respect for Jesus as a teacher.  They were awed by His understanding of the scriptures.  It is curious that there were several Old Testament prophecies that indicated that the Messiah would come from Nazareth,[19] yet the people of Nazareth remained blinded by their doubts.  Jesus did not meet their expectations.  Given an opportunity to respond to Jesus by faith, they would not be moved without witnessing great signs and wonders.  Perceiving this, Jesus spoke to their doubts.

 

Luke 4:23-27.  And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. 24And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. 25But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; 26But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. 27And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.

 

We often perceive of our world as that which we see in our own backyard.  Driven by ignorance, prejudice, and pride, many come to despise or disregard anything different than their own world view as something less.  The Nazarenes were no different.  They demanded a sign, a miracle, or a great wonder before they would believe Jesus.  After all, they were Children of Abraham, God’s chosen people.  They knew enough of Israel’s history to remember the great signs and wonders that God worked during the early years of the nation’s independence from Egypt.  Consequently, they demanded a gospel that was delivered to them on their own terms.

 

Jesus could have defended His argument by drawing from the passages that described Nazareth as the birthplace of the Messiah.  Jesus could have performed some great miracle to convince them of His Lordship.  However, God’s plan does not change:  it is a plan that calls for faith.  Jesus simply described two similar scenarios from Israel’s history that they would all know.

 

The first is a reference to 1 Kings 17 when Elijah had retreated from a quite angry king Ahab after announcing a three-year famine that would end only when he himself declared its end.  When Elijah’s hiding place dried up, the LORD sent him to a widow in the region of Zarephath in the pagan nation of Sidon.  Elijah’s prophecies were rejected by Israel, so the LORD sent Elijah to a Gentile where He would work His plan of grace.  Likewise, Jesus made a reference to a similar setting that is recorded in 2 Kings 5.  Naaman was a high-ranking military official in the Syrian army who suffered from a disease recorded as leprosy.  Just as Elijah’s prophecies were rejected by Israel, Elisha’s prophecies were also rejected.  2 Kings 5 records the miraculous healing of Naaman through the hand of Elijah, under the power of God. 

 

Jesus’ response to His knowledge of the hearts of the Nazarenes was not well-received.  Jesus compared their rejection of the prophecies with those of ancient Israel, referring to the experiences of prophets who the Nazarenes held in great respect.  Not only did Jesus declare Himself as the Messiah, He now was describing that His message was rejected in a similar fashion as those of Elijah and Elisha.  This placed His declaration of His own nature on a par with those respected prophets. 

 

Luke 4:28.  And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,

 

Hearing Jesus’ declaration of His anointing as the Christ,[20] there were none who responded in faith.  The passage clearly states that the entire group of listeners were filled with indignation and anger.  They heard Jesus’ words, but their established model and expectation of the Messiah blinded them to the truth.  To them, Jesus’ words were the height of blasphemy. 

 

Luke 4:29-30.  And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. 30But he passing through the midst of them went his way,

 

At this point, mob psychology took over.  Jesus was forcibly removed from His station in the synagogue, and literally carried or dragged to a cliff where the entire congregation intended to kill him.  They would have done so if not for either a miraculous deliverance or a profoundly disorganized mob. 

 

None of the gospel writers record any occurrence of Jesus’ return to Nazareth.  Given the opportunity to be part of the fulfillment of prophecy, and having been given the opportunity to be the first to respond to God’s plan of grace, the Nazarenes rejected both so that their “status-quo” would not be interrupted.  Having heard the truth from the historical knowledge of the birth in Bethlehem, Herod’s attempt to kill the child, the testimony of John the Baptist, and their inspiring experience with Jesus’ knowledge and wisdom, they still would reject Him as their LORD.  To them, He would never be more than the son of Joseph, simply a man who was a good teacher.

 

The world still responds to Jesus in a manner similar to that of the Nazarenes.  Few would deny that Jesus is a real, historical, human figure.  To the majority of these, Jesus was simply a man who was a good teacher, one with a great message of love and forgiveness, one who empowered the weak while humbling the proud.  However, these are those who cannot believe that YAHWEH came to earth in the form of a baby from a desperately poor family, birthed by a despised mother from a despised town, yet came to deliver a lost world from the consequence of their sin.  Instead, people look to every other method of religion to find some form of righteousness that they simply cannot attain without the grace of God.

 

If you were to meet Jesus today, would you despise Him and His message and take part in the lynch mob that would seek to kill Him for his claims to be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy as the Messiah, the Christ?  After all, many have since come also claiming to be the Christ,[21] each one believed by a few, each one accomplishing nothing.  However, this One accomplished everything that was prophesied concerning the Messiah, even returning from the grave.  Yet even if one returns from the grave, people still will not believe.[22]

 

The world is as blind to the nature and purpose of Jesus Christ today as it was when He returned to His home in Nazareth to announce the beginning of His ministry of grace.  The world is still in just as great a need of salvation as it was then.  Recognizing the great difficulty that the lost world has in believing in the gospel, let us never tire of treating the lost world with the same love and compassion that Jesus did, and take every opportunity to share the good news, expecting rejection from most, but acceptance by a very few.  This is a better strategy than sharing with none because of an expectation of rejection.  Jesus was rejected by virtually everyone He met, ending his ministry with a band of disciples that numbered less than two hundred.  A testimony of grace will be similarly disregarded today by many.  A presentation of the true nature of Jesus Christ, Messiah and LORD, will be summarily rejected by most.  It is for the few who would turn to Him in faith that Jesus came.  It is to the few who will turn to Him in faith that we are sent.

 

Let us never listen to the messages of this world that would cast doubt on the truth, but stand on the gospel with confidence as we boldly proclaim our love for the LORD, and His love for us to anyone who will listen.

 


 

[1] W.A. Criswell, in a sermon presented on New Years Eve, 1961, at the First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas.

[2] John 1:14.

[3] Luke 1:15.

[4] Luke 1:76.

[5] John 1:29,36.

[6] Matthew 1:20.

[7] Matthew 9:30, e.g.

[8] Matthew 7:29, Mark 1L22, et. al.

[9] Chapter and verse numbers were not assigned to the biblical text until about 500 years ago. Though not the first to organize the scriptures into chapter and verse, Robert Estienne produced such an organization of the New Testament in 1551 that continues until today.  The first English Bible to use both chapter and verse divisions was the Geneva Bible, published in 1560.

[10] John 10:30.

[11] John 8:18; Acts 10:38.

[12] Matthew 5:3.

[13] Ibid., Blaise Pascal

[14] Matthew 9:27-27, e.g.

[15] Isaiah 53:5.

[16] Leviticus 25:10.

[17] John 19:30.

[18] Luke 4:15.

[19] Ps.  22:6-8; 69:8, 20, 21; Isa.  11:1; 49:7; 53:1-3; Dan.  9:26.

[20] Note that the name, “Christ,” is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew name, “Messiah.”  The name “Christ” as some may surmise is not a surname, or last name.  It is the title of Messiah, identifying Him as the LORD.

[21] Luke 21:8.

[22] Luke 16:30.