(A) Introduction. (Read the passage.)

Luke deals with Jesus' rejection in Nazareth out of chronological order. Both Mark and Matthew place the event just before the beheading of John the Baptist and the feeding of the five thousand. Luke moves it forward to the beginning of Jesus' public ministry because in the synagogue at Nazareth he declared the purpose of his mission; Christ published his manifesto.

I find the behaviour of the inhabitants of Nazareth one of the saddest and most shocking episodes in the life of Jesus. It is a harbinger of Christ's later rejection by the Jewish people as a whole.

(B) Power and Popularity

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. he taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. v14.

There are three points to make:

(1) Jesus began his ministry in the power of the Spirit. The gospels record many miracles done by Jesus during this period - changing water into wine, healing the woman with the issue of blood, raising Jairus' daughter, casting out devils. It is clear from Mark and Matthew's gospels that Jesus visited Nazareth after demonstrating his power throughout Galilee in many remarkable ways.

(2) During the early months of his mission Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God. He described Kingdom values in his Sermon on the Mount and in parables like the Sower and Mustard Seed. It is probable that his hearers did not find this teaching too disturbing. It was later when he made claims about himself that Jesus began to lose support.

(3) Nevertheless Jesus was beginning to cause controversy and arouse opposition by his unorthodox behaviour. He kept strange company, rarely fasted and had a very relaxed attitude to the Sabbath. So when Luke writes, everyone praised him, this is a figure of speech. Luke is telling us that Jesus was generally popular. Even during this early period Jesus was making enemies. This is because he never played safe and appealed to no particularly constituency. Jesus didn't take the side of the legalistic Pharisees, the liberal rationalistic Sadducees or the nationalistic Zealots. Jesus was his own man and in nobody's pocket.

I think I started well as a preacher! But I do not appeal to any constituency - neither liberal nor ultra-conservative, neither Calvinist nor Arminian, neither progressive nor traditionalist, neither charismatic nor non-charismatic. It is amazing how quickly you lose the opportunity to preach in conservative, evangelical circles if you believe the earth is old, the flood was local, the righteous dead are not bodily in heaven and that Gehenna is not a real place where the unrepentant wicked suffer agony for ever but was the Jerusalem rubbish dump. It is a real disadvantage - as Jesus discovered - not to possess a strong, distinctive, coherent body of support.

(C) Home and Habit

(1) Jesus at home. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. v16.

It is quite rare for famous men or women to go home to live. For example, Jimmy Carter is the only former President of the U.S.A. in modern times to return to his roots on leaving office.

There are three things to note about Jesus' return to Nazareth:

    (a) Jesus was not ashamed to go home. He was not embarrassed to have been one of the town's carpenters. He was not afraid that his craftsmanship or conduct would be criticised. Jesus had no past to catch up with him! It is to our credit if the same is true of us!

    (b) Jesus did not neglect his home town. He didn't take the attitude: "Thank goodness I've got out of that dump."

    It saddens me that some young Christians seem almost relieved to get away from their home church. Very few youthful believers who leave home to go to university make a conscious effort to find work near their church of origin in order to support it. Instead they are happy to revel in pastures new. Without faithfulness there is no continuity of witness in the local church. See my expositions on Ruth1 and Ruth4.

    (c) Jesus gave the people of his hometown the opportunity to participate in his kingdom. It is important to witness to those near and dear to us - as best we can. It is wrong to take the gospel to all and sundry and neglect to make it powerfully known at home.

(2) Jesus' Sabbath habit. And on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. v16.

Jesus attended the synagogue at Nazareth for years without saying anything. He was never a boy preacher. He didn't slowly build up a reputation for himself amongst his own people. Jesus did not excuse himself from attending the synagogue services on the grounds that:

    (a) There was nothing the preachers could teach him.
    (b) The expositions were so dull, banal and uninspiring that they made him cross.
    (c) There was little evidence of God's spirit at work. Proceedings were so dull and formal he would be better off studying the Bible for himself.

The synagogue service began with the congregation repeating Deut6v4to9 and included prayers, a reading from the law, another from the prophets and concluded with a sermon. Jesus must have received something from these services. It was yet another way by which he identified with God's people.

It is a pity that people in the West get so little from Sunday worship. My grandmother used to excuse herself from attending the evening service at her church by claiming the TV series, 'Dr Finley's Casebook,' did her more good! For most Christians in Britain it is quite enough to attend one church service during the week. I don't want to be legalistic about such matters but increasingly there seems to be little to distinguish Christian from non-Christian lifestyles.

(D) Manifesto and Mission

As I have indicated earlier it is likely that Luke brought forward this episode in the ministry of Jesus because it contains a clear declaration of his purpose. Christ's statement of intent consists of a quotation from Isaiah61v1and2. It is rather different in tone from John the Baptist's forecast of imminent judgment.

(1) The manifesto.

(a) In one sense Jesus was announcing that the main beneficiaries of his work would be the downtrodden, disregarded, disadvantaged and despised. This is also the thrust of the, 'Parable of the Wedding Feast.' After the invited guests made excuses for missing the wedding feast the host instructed his servant: "Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame." Lk14v21.

Jesus' manifesto did not have strong appeal to the Jews who believed that the poor, blind and oppressed were in that condition because their sins displeased God. Remember the words of the Pharisees to the man born blind whose sight Jesus restored: "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!"

The Christian gospel has done much for the disadvantaged. It is Christian values that have helped rid Britain of slavery, debtor's prisons and chronic poverty.

(b) It is also undoubtedly true that the passage from Isaiah can be spiritualised:

    (I) There is good news for the poor in spirit - for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Mt5v3. See exposition on Mt5v3.

    (II) Prisoners are set free. As Charles Wesley's great hymn puts it:

              Long my imprisoned spirit lay
              Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
              Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
              I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
              My chains fell off, my heart was free;
              I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

    (III) The spiritually blind are given sight. Jesus the 'Light of the World' gives the Holy Spirit to those who trust him. The Spirit of truth opens blind eyes:

              Enlightened by Thy heavenly ray,
              Our shades and darkness turn to day;
              Thine inward teachings make us know
              Our danger and our refuge too.

    (IV) Those oppressed by guilt, low self-esteem, futility, fear and self-loathing are released by Jesus. He came to give life and to give it more abundantly.

(2) His mission.

Jesus confirmed that he personally was on a mission when he announced: "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." v21. His mission was to: "Proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." He came to usher in the Day of Grace. It is by God's grace that we have the new covenant by which all those who believe in Jesus will receive eternal life. Jesus called it the new covenant in my blood. 1Cor11v25. The forgiveness of the believer is assured because Jesus offered to God on the cross the all sufficient sacrifice for sin.

According to the Law of Moses every 50 years in the history of Israel there was a Year of Jubilee when the land was allowed to lie fallow, debts were cancelled, property redeemed and slaves freed. See Lev25. This was a wonderful idea! There is no record in the Old Testament that it was actually practiced for any length of time.

We are, as it were, in God's year of Jubilee. My debt has been cancelled. I am no longer a slave to sin. I'm redeemed, yes I am, by the blood of the lamb - Jesus Christ has done it all for me. One day soon I shall enter into my long rest.

(3) A testimony.

On October 21st 2007 BBC TV's, 'Songs of Praise,' celebrated the hymns of Charles Wesley. A Methodist minister in charge of missionary outreach to Latin America gave his testimony during the program. He was born out of wedlock to a Spanish mother. He was put into an orphanage run by nuns and his mother turned to prostitution for a living. The nuns physically abused the boy in their care - blaming him for the sins of the mother. Eventually an English client of his mother's married her. She retrieved her son from the orphanage and together with her husband moved to sunny North Shields on the banks of the Tyne!! Up to this time the young man had been poor in every sense of the word, imprisoned and oppressed in the orphanage and blind to the grace of God. In North Shields he began to attend a Methodist youth club, which eventually led to his conversion to Christ. The Methodist minister testified that no hymn summed up his experience better than Wesley's, 'And can it be'.

            No condemnation now I dread;
            Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
            Alive in Him, my living Head,
            And clothed in righteousness divine,
            Bold I approach the eternal throne,
            And claim the crown, through Christ my own.