Daily Archives: October 18, 2010

He Came to Save All Peoples

Luke 4:[16] And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. [17] And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

[18] “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
[19] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

[20] And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. [21] And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [22] And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” [23] And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” [24] And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. [25] But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, [26] and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. [27] And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” [28] When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. [29] And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. [30] But passing through their midst, he went away.

What a striking passage of Scripture. Jesus reads from Isaiah 61 and other texts and sits down and verse 22 tells us that everyone there speaks well of Him. They marvel at his gracious words. These are people He grew up with. This is His home town. There are people there for whom he did some carpentry. His synagogue teachers are likely present. His boyhood chums, the girls who would have loved for Him to ask them to marry Him but had to choose second best because He just didn’t seem interested. They are there. They are all very pleased that this local boy is demonstrating such insight into the Scriptures.

And then Jesus baits them. He knows their hearts. They are thrilled that He is one of them until He starts peeling away the surface praise and revealing the true state of their hearts. And that is exactly what He does. He knows that they have heard about the things He has been doing in nearby towns and cities. The water into wine miracle has already happened in Cana and the news of that has no doubt trickled into Nazareth. The people there want a similar display. Jesus knows this and that is why He cites the proverb “Physician heal yourself”.

And then Jesus just blows things out of the water. His work, He tells them, is not just to His own little hometown. It is not even just for Israel. He quotes from the Old Testament about God doing great things for Gentiles in the time of the prophets. And just as quickly as that, everyone turns on Him. A few moments ago they were all a buzz about this orator and miracle worker being from their own town. Now they drag Him out to a cliff to murder Him.

Only Luke records this incident and it fits well with the purpose for which God inspired him to write it. Imagine Theophilus, the recipient of this letter (1:4) as a Gentile believer, who lived during the days of the first theological crisis of the church – can Gentiles be saved as Gentiles – reading this account. Jesus came to offer life to Gentiles – as Gentiles. Jesus sets the purpose of His mission right from the start. It is to save the world – not just Jews. It cost Him dearly.

And if we are faithful to the Gospel, it will cost us too. The problem with the Jews of Jesus’ village was that they thought the Messiah was exclusively for the Jews.

There is a similar problem today but it is the reverse side of the coin. Today the issue is not so much is Jesus for non-Jews, but rather, is Jesus the One whom non-Jews need? The question is not “can Gentiles come to Jesus?”, but rather “Must Gentiles come to Jesus?” What Jesus is saying here is not only that Gentiles can come but that He came for them because without Him they are lost. Jesus is the only Saviour for anyone who will be saved. There is no other way.

Theophilus would have rejoiced to read this account and know that he was included in the people Jesus came to win. Today this very truth is what offends people. But it is still true. Jesus came for all peoples. And all people need Him. Let us who know the life that Jesus gives to all, be sure to tell everyone that He is for them and that nothing and no one else will do. It may get us dragged to a hill to be thrown off. But it is what needs to be delivered if people are going to be saved.