Widows and Lepers and Gentiles, Oh My!

Though with their lips they were saying, “Amen! Preach it brother!” Jesus knew what was going on in their hearts. Though they all spoke well of Him, Nazareth’s most famous son knew what they were all really thinking.

Reading in Luke 4 this morning, and Jesus is back in Nazareth, “where He had been brought up” (4:16). And as was His practice in all places where He went, on the Sabbath He went to the synagogue. And when He stood up to read, no one objected. After all, He had put Nazareth on the map. His increasing stature was their increasing stature. Vicariously, His fame was their fame. It takes a village to raise a child, and this man who taught like no other man, and this miracle worker who called down the power of heaven itself, obviously was where He was because of His roots and where He’d come from. Hometown boy makes good! And boy’s hometown would take some credit (and expect some recompense).

So when He read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah that morning, they “all spoke well of Him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from His mouth” (4:22).

“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 Lords favor.” 

“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” ~ Jesus

(Luke 4:18-19 ESV)

“Help the poor,” they said, “Bless His heart!” “Take up the cause of the captives and the oppressed,” they said, “Of course He will. What a good soul!” “Make the blind to see,” they said, “We’ve heard He’s become quite the miracle-worker–can’t wait to see what He’ll do for His hometown folks.”

They spoke well of Him because they missed His point entirely.

Jesus, reading from Isaiah, took the words of Messiah as His own words. He was self-identifying as the promised Anointed One. He was the Deliverer who God would raise up to redeem His people. He was the One foretold who would bring true sight for the spiritually blind and real freedom for the oppressed slaves of sin.

But they spoke well of Him not because of who He identified Himself to be, but because of how they anticipated benefiting from what He could do.

Physician, heal yourself. What we have heard You did at Capernaum, do here in Your hometown as well.

(Luke 4:23 ESV)

That, reveals Jesus, is what they were thinking.

Not interested in a prophet, they wanted a physician. Their familiarity with Him kept them from even thinking they should bow the knee. Rather they stood and expected some benefit.

But Jesus loved them too much to leave them in that state of delusion, cared too much to not reveal their darkness.

While they thought they should have an inside track with the Miracle-worker, ’cause they were His people, Jesus would shock them with stories from their past.

Stories of widows, and lepers, and Gentiles, oh my!

Though there were many widows in Israel, Jesus reminds them, Elijah was sent to a Gentile woman in desperate need during the great famine. And though there were many lepers who could benefit from Elisha’s “double portion” of power, it was a Syrian who was cleansed (4:25-27). Jesus point? God’s people have a way of not honoring God’s prophets. Their sense of entitlement often dulls their senses when it comes to His word. Instead, God shows Himself to “the least of these.” To widows and lepers and Gentiles, oh my!

To be widow would mean great need and little perceived worth. To see a leper would be to look beyond his suffering and seclusion and see primarily his uncleanness. And to be passed over for the sake of a Gentile? Well, for any self-respecting Jew, that would be infuriatingly insulting.

When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.

(Luke 4:28 ESV)

And so those who at first spoke well of Him were “seething with anger” (MSG) at Him. Nazareth’s favorite son had suddenly become enemy #1 and they were prepared to kill Him (4:29).

Their lack of faith was exposed. Their disinterest in Messiah revealed. Their pride paraded. Their self-seeking, set out on display. All with tales of widows, and lepers, and Gentiles, oh my!

Sometimes, in order to prepare us for the good news, we have to be reminded of the bad news. Before we’re ready to sincerely seek the great Physician on His terms, we need to know again our heart and it’s ill condition. Before we bow before Messiah, we need see exposed the ugly god of self.

Thankful this morning for the Revealer of Our Hearts. Don’t necessarily like what I see at times, but grateful that it leads me to good news for the poor, to liberty for the captive, to sight for the blind, and to freedom for the sin oppressed.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

All because of grace. Ever for His glory.

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