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Worth a Thousand: The Hill of Nazareth

Posted July 16, 2012 Brad Bell

Take a second to read Luke 4:14-30. It's a familiar story. Jesus goes into the synagogue in Nazareth, as was His custom, and reads from the Torah scroll. There are some who suggest that the reading for the day was set ahead of time as well as the person who was to do the reading. We see 3rd and 4th century synagogues functioning in this fashion, so it can be assumed that a similar structure for a synagogue service was in place in the 1st century, though to be fair, we must hold it loosely. If that is true, than Jesus was reading a pre-assigned passage, and it was already assigned to Him beforehand, which would assume a major divine element considering the content of Isaiah 41 that He reads.

He reads the passage, but not the entire thing. He leaves out the pronouncement of judgment by God and then sits down. Upon completion of the reading, the person would then give a quick message in response. Jesus gives the shortest message possible. "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Everyone is stoked by His words. He's the hometown hero. This was Joseph's boy. You can see the town swelling with pride. Then Jesus punches them in the face with verses 23-27.

They are not excited to hear about God moving to the Gentiles, and they drag Him up to the "brow of the hill" (verse 29 - see the pic). They intend to stone Him to death. Stoning would include tossing the accused off of the cliff and then throwing rocks at the accused until they were dead.

Then comes the problem: the punishment for false accusation according to the law was that the punishment that was requested for the falsely accused would be given instead to the false accusers. Have you ever noticed how He casually passed through their midst and went away? The words "passed through" assumes a painfully slow, thorough, extensive movement throughout the crowd. I had always pictured a Houdini escape. A bit of smoke, a rabbit from the hat, and presto, Jesus disappeared. The text gives us another picture.

It looks like Jesus walked slowly through the mob, looking one by one for an accuser. He recognized that their passion and anger had triggered this mob, but now they are forced to put forth a witness to accuse Him. However, no one is ready to put their life on the line in false accusation of Jesus. So He casually walks throughout the crowd looking for an accuser. You sir? How about you sir? Anyone? So He passed through their midst, and he went away.

As you look at the story, He performs no miracles in his hometown. They do not receive any such privilege because of their lack of faith. They wanted a messiah, but they wanted something different. Unfortunately for them, they had created their own construct of acceptability. God was limited to their understanding, their plan, their design. However, God is not a God that is here for our taming or domesticating. The people of Nazareth missed an incredible opportunity to embrace their Savior. I wonder how they felt as His ministry grew and the miracles were poured out elsewhere. I wonder what they saw in His face as He passed through their midst.