Other towns, other responses

To begin at the beginning, click here  –>   BIBLE STUDY: LUKE

 


In Capernaum today: this synagogue was built
on top of the synagogue Jesus preached in.

Luke 4:31-44

Coming down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, Jesus taught the people on the Sabbath, and they were astounded at his teaching, for what he said had the note of authority.

Now there was a man in the synagogue possessed by a devil, an unclean spirit. He shrieked at the top of his voice, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God.” Jesus rebuked him: “Be silent,” he said, “and come out of him.” Then the devil, after throwing the man down in front of the people, left him without doing him any injury. Amazement fell on them all and they said to one another: “What is there in this man’s words? He gives orders to the unclean spirits with authority and power, and out they go.” So the news spread, and he was the talk of the whole district.

On leaving the synagogue he went to Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was in the grip of a high fever; and they asked him to help her. He came and stood over her and rebuked the fever. It left her, and she got up and waited on them.

At sunset, all who had friends suffering from one disease or another brought them to him; and he laid his hands on them and cured them. Devils also came out of many of them, shouting, “You are the Son of God.” But he rebuked them and forbade them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.

When day broke Jesus went out and made his way to a lonely spot. But the people went in search of him, and when they came to where he was they pressed him not to leave them. But he said, “I must give the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, for that is what I was sent to do.” So he proclaimed the Gospel in the synagogues of Judaea.

Devil: What did people believe about the devil? *

Thoughts: on receiving the message

Jesus may have held the same ideas about what causes illness as everyone else in his day (he was, after all, as human as they were). But he refused to let these old ideas shape his response to people needing help. He also did not assume that sickness was deserved because it was a punishment for sin. He listened with compassion and prayed with authority, because he knew that God does not abandon people to their suffering, but really cares for them, and wants them to be healed.

* Devils:

If you did not know about the existence of bacteria and viruses, where would you think illness comes from? In Jesus’ world, people believed they were surrounded by evil spirits, always seeking entry into their bodies and minds. There were spirits of blindness and deafness; spirits of fever and infection; spirits of insanity and moral uncleanness – and all illness was attributed to these spirits.

The town reacts to Jesus

 


In Nazareth: at the brow of the hill

Luke 4:22-30

There was a general stir of admiration; but they were surprised that words of such grace should fall from his lips. “Is not this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

Then Jesus said, “No doubt you will quote the proverb to me, “Physician, heal yourself!” and say, “We have heard of all your doings at Capernaum; do the same here in your own home town. I tell you this,” he went on, “no prophet is recognized in his own country. There were many widows in Israel, you may be sure, in Elijah’s time, when for three years and six months the skies never opened, and famine lay hard upon the whole country; yet it was to none of those that Elijah was sent, but to a widow at Sarepta in the territory of Sidon (see 1 Kings 17). Again, in the time of the prophet Elisha there were many lepers in Israel, and not one of them was healed, but only Naaman, the Syrian” (see 2 Kings 5).

At these words the whole congregation was infuriated. They leapt up, threw him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which it was built, meaning to hurl him over the edge. But he walked straight through them all, and went away.

Surprised: Why were they surprised? *

Thoughts: on rejecting the message

How do I know if a speaker is truthful? And how do I know the speaker’s message is true? (And even when I trust the speaker, I may not accept the message if it conflicts with what I already “know” to be true.)

The Brow of the Hill – Dave Baldwin (Luke 4:16-30)

Jesus spoke after reading from the prophet Isaiah,
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The stunned silence was broken by one sneering
villager who wondered: “What makes you so special?”
(The Israelites claimed God was only on their side.)
The villager asked, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
“No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town,”
said Jesus. “The Gentiles are not to be denied:
They are not created to fuel the fires of hell;
Elijah sought out lodging with a widow of Zarephath
and Elisha cleansed Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy.”
For praising the Gentiles, the good people of Nazareth
were furious. They led Jesus to the brow of the hill,
but he passed through their midst to launch his ministry.

* Surprised:

The congregation was not only surprised by Jesus’ gifts (since he was only Joseph’s son), but surprised by his interpretation of Isaiah. In Jesus’ day, the rabbis interpreted “the year of the Lord’s favor” (see Isaiah 61:2) as the time when God would restore Israel’s fortunes, freeing the people from their Gentile captors. But Jesus is clearly saying that “the year of the Lord’s favor” is coming for the Gentiles also – indeed, coming for the poor and oppressed of all nations.

Jesus in his home town


In Nazareth today

Luke 4: 14-21

Then Jesus, armed with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee; and reports about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and all sang his praises.

So he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went to synagogue on the Sabbath day as he regularly did. He stood up to read the lesson, and was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah:

He opened the scroll and found the passage which says,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me;
he has sent me to announce good news to the poor;
to proclaim release for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind;
to let the oppressed go free;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak: “Today,” he said, “in your very hearing this text has come true.”

Sat: If Jesus was about to preach, why did he sit down? *

Thoughts: on proclaiming the vision

We know, from listening to Jesus’ sermon (above), that he was reading from Isaiah 61 — but we also know that he left out part of a verse (compare the above with Isaiah 61:1-2). What words did Jesus leave out?  What would that omission mean to the listeners in the synagogue? What could Jesus’ vision mean for our world today?

* Sat:

We are used to preachers standing in their pulpits. But it was the custom for a rabbi to sit down after the lesson was read, and then begin teaching from his chair. This time of teaching was also a time for questions, comments, and dialogue with people in the congregation. (They didn’t wait to get to the door to tell the rabbi what they thought!)

 

Jesus in the wilderness


In the Judaean wilderness

Luke 4:1-13

Full of the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan, and for forty days was led by the Spirit up and down the wilderness and tempted by the devil.

All that time he had nothing to eat, and at the end of it he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “Scripture says, “One cannot live on bread alone.”

Next the devil led him up and showed him in a flash all the kingdoms of the world. “All this dominion I will give to you,” he said, “and the glory that goes with it; for it has been put in my hands and I can give it to anyone I choose.” Jesus answered, “Scripture says, ‘You shall do homage to the Lord your God and worship him alone.’”

The devil took him to Jerusalem and set him on the parapet of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down, for Scripture says, ‘He will give his angels orders to take care of you,’ and again, ‘They will support you in their arms, for fear you should strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It has been said, ‘You are not to test the Lord your God.’” So, having come to the end of all his temptations, the devil departed, biding his time.

Parapet: Where was the parapet of the temple?

Thoughts: on testing a new vision

Did you ever have an experience that made you stop in your tracks – to think about what happened to you, to try to understand what it meant? When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, he heard a voice telling him, “You are my beloved Son.” The voice Jesus heard was so important to him that he retreated into the wilderness to pray.

After Jesus’ days in the wilderness, he was hungry, thirsty, and delirious. And then he heard another voice, this one tempting him, saying: If you are the Son of God…. But Jesus held firm to the voice he had heard at his baptism: God loved him, God was pleased with him, and God had a mission for him.

You are my beloved child. Could you live your life according to this vision?

* Parapet:

A parapet is a low, protective wall along the edge of a bridge or a roof. When Herod expanded the Temple, someone standing at the parapet would be able to see the whole city of Jerusalem. From that parapet, a priest would blow a trumpet announcing the beginning and end of the Sabbath, and the sound of the trumpet would be heard throughout the city. Is the parapet where the tempter sees Jesus standing, poised to demonstrate his spiritual power?