Bible Study – Luke 4:16-30

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin’ to make his way home?

Joan Osborne, One of Us

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

16 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. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 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. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

22 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?” 23 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.’ ” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 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, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 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.”

28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 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. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

To answer Joan Osborne above, he was one of us. And was treated as shabbily as some of us sometimes are. Worse, actually.

This is at the very beginning of his ministry where he comes back to his hometown. There are a number of interesting things here. First, He’s reading in a synagogue. Which means, he’s literate. Keep in mind, at the times he was a trades dude, a carpenter. And back in those days, and even more modern days, those working types weren’t always able to read.

I like the way those in attendance where surprised. What? This guy’s a carpenter! We know his old man. It’s one of the first glimpses that you see he was a normal guy. I have a friend that I’ve known since grade school, the school my kids were attending at the time. And I was telling him about the priests there, how different they were than when we were there, being altar boys and whatnot. By the way, It was a different time back then. I remember his brother stood like 6’4″ and was still an altar boy in High School. He was lighting the candles before mass once, and the candle lighter wick went out. No problem, he reached in his pocket for his Bic lighter and flamed it back up. People at my parish would have the vapors seeing that. But I digress.

Turns out, my friend went to high school with the new priest. “That guy? He’s a dweeb!”

Wasn’t to me. He was one of the best homilists I’ve heard. I can even remember a few of his homilies, they were that good. He, and the other priests there at that time were amazing.

So they are amazed this guy they’ve known all his life knows his stuff.

Then he cheezes them off.

As I read it, he tells them he’s not going to do much there for the ingrates because they wouldn’t believe even if they saw it. So they get pissed off, drive him to a cliff to chuck him over and he simply walks away.

Wonder why he did that?

Maybe as a way of cutting ties? Who knows. Far as I can recall none of the gospels mention him ever going back.

With the Bible, you have to understand what is being said in the proper context. It helps to have a good study bible that will explain the customs and mores of the day in the context of the passage. This is where some priests I know really shine. They’ve spent years studying the culture and times, using this knowledge in their homilies.

For instance, not much was recorded about St. Joseph, nor much of Jesus’ early life, other than hanging back at the temple in Jerusalem when he was 12 or so. We do know a lot about life in general in the region, so you can infer that context. We know Joseph was older, probably lost the first wife. May or may not have had other kids. We do know later they mention Jesus’ brothers. Although I heard that the words used in the original language could’ve meant cousins as well.

We also know that it would be odd for a man not to be married at 30, as he would’ve been in this passage. But we do know Joseph died sometime between the temple visit (at 12) and this passage (at 30). Would it have been odd not to marry if you were supporting your mom?

Don’t know.

But learning a bit about the culture back then makes the passages even more interesting.

Back to the stupid song I started off with, scripture tells us we’ll know – big time. Matter of fact, here the Orthodox have a lot of great writings. You’ll know two things. First, there will be many false prophets beforehand, including the anti-Christ who will manifest as a savior, a guy who’ll put things right. So he’s not going to be the slob on the bus. Second, he’s not coming back to mix it up with unwashed. He’s coming back to close up shop.

And that, I’m guessing, will be apparent.

Note: I suppose you could see that dumb song as a metaphor for seeing Christ in all of us. That’s a reach for most of us, given who you run into on a daily basis.