Jesus Threatened after Reading from the Scroll

“I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 Jesus, John 8:12

Jesus brings us reliable information about who we are, why we are here, and what the humanly appropriate motives are for doing whatever we do.  First, he informs us that we are by nature unceasingly spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.  We will never stop existing and there is nothing we can do about it.

While we have already fallen from God’s intentions for us, he can restore us into the flow of God’s life if we will only count on him for everything.  That is, we must trust him, and really to trust him is to take his cause, his “yoke” (Matthew 11:29).  Then he will teach us how to make good choices with the aim of glorifying God by doing good to human beings.  Under his instruction, this will prove to be the most exhilarating kind of life imaginable, with a scope and richness of personal creativity that never stops increasing.

Dallas Willard, The Great Omission

The Encounter

 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. 

 23Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ ” 

 24“I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” 

 28All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. 30But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. 

Luke 4:20-30

Some Observations

This encounter is a continuation of Jesus’ proclamation of his mission as he read the words of Isaiah 61.  What plays out is unexpected.  

Following Jesus’ reading from the scroll, Luke says, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.”  Jesus does not bask in these words of praise, but responds by saying, “I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”  He then says that Elijah was not sent to widows in Israel during a three-and-a-half-year drought, but to a widow in Sidon and that Elisha did not heal those with leprosy in Israel, but rather a Syrian.

The implication is clear: Jesus’ redeeming mission will include outsiders (non-Israelites and those on the fringes), while some insiders – fellow observant Jews like those he is presently with in the synagogue – will reject him.

In light of what Jesus has just said, his claim of deity after reading from the scroll (“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”) may seem even more threatening.  Likewise, Isaiah’s words, just recited by Jesus, that criminals (prisoners), the sick and poor (possibly viewed as cursed by the religiously observant) would be released, healed and honored may now be striking the religious elite as a bit too revolutionary for comfort.

Jesus’ words turn those in the synagogue against him to the degree that they wanted to “throw him down the cliff,” which apparently was a first step before stoning in that time.  These reactions foreshadow some of the things that offend some people today about the gospel Jesus brings: that we are broken sinners incapable of redeeming or justifying ourselves; that only Jesus is the way to the Father; that God’s full grace is available to the least worthy and worst of sinners and not only those who feel their impeccable religious credentials should give them an inside track.

Jesus declares his beautiful mission (healing, liberation, freedom), but people don’t like the implications of HOW he will bring this, who it will include or what it might mean concerning how our lives, priorities and assumptions will need to change.  We like Jesus on our own terms and according to our own mold; we will see in Luke that it is impossible to contain him this way.

One important observation is that Jesus’ teaching creates both “amazement” and furious anger – this is almost always the case in the encounters we will look at in Luke.  We will see that amazement and acceptance typically occurs in those who seem least worthy of Jesus’ attention, e.g., the tax collectors, prostitutes, drunkards, adulterers, etc. – why is Jesus even taking the time to speak with us . . . wait, did he just invite us to be part of God’s kingdom??? 

Over and over again, we will see that those who are most humble are most likely to receive Christ.  Furious anger is most typical among the Pharisees and other religious leaders that are threatened by Jesus and his teaching of inclusive grace for all who have faith in him.  Over and over again, we will see that those who are most proud are least likely to receive Christ.  A summary of how God’s grace in Christ is received: those who think they deserve it least get it most; those who think they deserve it most get it least.

“But he walked right through the crowd and went on.”  This is probably a miraculous escape, but also is instructive in that he does not argue, make counterpoints, defend himself, etc.   Jesus has made his points and simply moves on.  The people can make their own decision to accept his words or not; his ego does not require him to hang around to clarify or persuade them to come around to his ideas so he can claim a personal victory in “winning the debate.”

Jesus would not likely be invited back as a guest pundit on CNN, MSNBC or Fox . . . 


“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”

   Proverbs 3:3, 4

A Prayer

“Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony.  My soul is in anguish.  How long, O Lord, how long?  Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.”

  Psalm 6:2, 3, 4