Luke 4:22-28 and the Angry Mob

In Luke 4:16 and following there is a curious and rapid shift in the direction of the narrative.

Jesus goes into the synagogue in Nazareth and reads from Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
because he anointed me to preach good news to the poor;
he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the captive,
and recovery of sight for the blind,
and to send away in freedom those who are broken,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

After which, Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The response of those in the synagogue was bewilderment. They were amazed at his words and said to each other, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

Jesus replied to their amazement with a surprising chastisement. He said, “Certainly you will speak to me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself. Whatever we heard that happened in Capernaum, do also here in your hometown.'”

Then he went on to tell about how prophets like Elijah and Elisha performed miracles for those outside of Israel (or at least outside of the people of Israel) because the people of Israel lacked faith. He said this to underscore his point that “no prophet is welcome in his hometown” (Lk 4:24).

Now here the story takes a quick twist. After Jesus’ first words, everyone in the synagogue was amazed by him. Now after his second discourse, they became enraged. They marched him off to a cliff because they wanted to kill him by throwing him off of it. (And somehow Jesus was able to walk through them, leaving unharmed.)

So, why the sudden change in attitude? Jesus had just claimed that he was a prophet who had come to fulfill the passage he read from Isaiah. The proverb he quoted was a rebuke for their lack of faith, and, in speaking of Elijah and Elisha, he rebuked them further, implying that they are no better than their forefathers who lacked faith in God’s prophets of long ago.

Most ironically, showing a glimmer of Luke’s humour and flare, the narrative immediately follows Jesus to Capernaum where he performs miracles of healing and casting out of demons. Faith is the key.

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