Chrysalis Bible study 8: 1/04/2016 Luke 4: 14-44
Refs: NIV Bible
L Morris (Tyndale Commentaries) Luke
M Wilcock (The Bible Speaks Today) Luke
T Wright Luke for everyone
Having given us the “background” Luke now gets into the detail of Christ’s ministry but he chooses to begin his narrative after it has commenced and Jesus has decided to return to Nazareth.
Jesus has developed the habit of teaching in the synagogues and has gained quite a reputation. He stands to read, showing respect for the Word, but sits to begin to teach. He deliberately chooses this scripture to make it clear that the time to which the Jews have been looking forward has actually arrived.
What isn’t so clear is whether the audience is wowed by what He says so much as how he says it. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”- it is easy to see the sub-text – where did he learn to talk like that?
Certainly Jesus’ reply suggests that they are expecting either an outstanding exposition of the meaning of the words He has read or possibly some demonstration of His powers in a more tangible form, notwithstanding that it is the Sabbath. The latter as some kind of proof of the rumours they have heard – they are probably pretty sceptical about the “home town boy”.
There is obviously more to all this than is immediately apparent – the recounting of the grace of God to people who were not Jews was a challenge to their complacency and a warning that they should not presume that God’s favour rested on them solely because of their ethnic origin. The result was uproar! The thin veneer of good-natured inquisitiveness giving way to outrage and the attempt to kill Him. (Remember Colin mentioned throwing down from a high place as a prelude to stoning?)
But isn’t it worthy of note that so soon after the devil had suggested Jesus should try throwing himself down from the temple as a rapid route to fame, we find Jesus life being threatened by the self-same means?
Yet this time He may have had resort to His divinity to make good His escape, or else it is down to His force of character that no one actually dares lay hands on Him. Whatever the means by which He escapes, He never visits Nazareth again - they have missed their chance, it will not come again.
So Jesus returns to Capernaum (it is at a lower altitude than Nazareth) and again goes to the synagogue to teach. Usually teachers quoted from others as authority but Jesus was different, He was able to speak on His own authority and that marked Him out and was the cause of wonder.
Next we read of an encounter with a man possessed by an evil spirit and we need to step aside from our narrative to consider modern day attitudes to such things. We have already seen the devil tempting Christ, but now we see how some of his minions are at large, elsewhere we are told of the struggle with powers and principalities – what do we think of all this? Is it real or just outdated mumbo – jumbo used to explain things that could not be understood in those times?
What is apparent is that the demons could recognise something that men could not – who Jesus really was! But Jesus does not welcome the testimony of demons and causes them to be quiet as He rescues the man from their evil influence. This dramatic demonstration of His power reinforces the authority of His words and is probably just the sort of thing the people in Nazareth would have been hoping for but didn’t get.
This was healing on the Sabbath (something Jesus was to do again and again, incurring the wrath of the priests who considered it to be against the law) and a very public healing at that. Immediately after this we read how He heals another in the privacy of a home – note how Jesus rebukes the fever, could it too have had a supernatural origin?
Word of what had happened in the synagogue obviously got around like wildfire – the moment the sun started to go down and the Sabbath was officially over everyone started bringing the sick to Jesus for healing! It looks as if there were so many it took Him all night and in the morning He tried to find a quiet place, in all probability so He could pray. But the people found Him and tried to make Him stay.
It is clear that by now Jesus has a clear view of His mission – He must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to as many people as He can, He must move on.