Yeshua Rejected in Natzeret
16 Now when He went to Natzeret, where He had been brought up, on Shabbat He went to the synagogue as usual. He stood up to read, 17 and He was given the scroll of the prophet Yesha‘yahu. Unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written (emphasis added)
He went to the synagogue as usual, like any good Jew. He stood up to read publicly from a scroll. The custom in the synagogue now is to read through the Torah each year, with portions of several chapters read on Monday, Thursday, and Shabbat mornings, ending and beginning over again on Simchat-Torah (“Rejoicing of the Torah”), which comes at the end of Sukkot (September 29th this year). At an earlier stage in Jewish history, three years were taken to read through the Torah.
There is a second reading called the haftarah (“conclusion”); it consists of portions from the Prophets and Writings related to the Parashat-hashavua’ (“[Torah] portion for the week”). While there is uncertainty over exactly what the first-century customs were, it seems clear that if Yeshua was given the scroll of the prophet Yesha‛yahu, He was being offered the haftarah reading. Since there is uncertainty about the practices of the time, it is not clear whether he found the place set by the lectionary for that Shabbat, or the place He himself chose, or the place where the scroll happened to open.
18 “The Spirit of Adonai is upon me
because He has anointed me
to announce Good News to the poor;
He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the imprisoned
and renewed sight for the blind,
to release those who have been crushed,
19 to proclaim a year of the favor of Adonai.
20 After closing the scroll and returning it to the shammash, He sat down, and the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 He started to speak to them: “Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled!” 22 Everyone was speaking well of Him and marveling that such appealing words were coming from His mouth. They were even asking, “Can this be Yosef’s son?”
Verses 18–19 quotes Isaiah 61:1–2a but do not include the immediately following words, “ … and the day of vengeance of our God.” Although usually, a citation of Scripture implies the surrounding context, here Yeshua may have stopped short so that he could say, Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh (up to but not including the “day of vengeance”) was fulfilled.
Take a few moments to digest what He just said: “Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled!” Remember the setting. He was early in His ministry and speaking to His family and neighbors. No wonder C.S. Lewis opined that Yeshua was either a liar, lunatic, or the Lord.
For at His first coming, He healed and brought Good News of the Kingdom and salvation (Mt 4:17); it was not His time to take vengeance or judge (Yochanan 8:15, 12:47).
Shammash in Hebrew or shammes in Yiddish. A synagogue attendant or caretaker, the “servant” of the congregation (the word literally means). The Greek word here is upêretês (“attendant, servant”).
23 Then Yeshua said to them, “No doubt you will quote to me this proverb: “Doctor, cure yourself!” We’ve heard about all the things that have been going on over in K’far-Nachum; now do them here in your hometown!’ 24 Yes!” He said, “I tell you that no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 It’s true, I’m telling you – when Eliyahu was in Isra’el, and the sky was sealed off for three-and-a-half years, so that all the Land suffered a severe famine, there were many widows; 26 but Eliyahu was sent to none of them, only to a widow in Tzarfat in the Land of Tzidon. 27 Also, there were many people with tzara’at in Isra’el during the time of the prophet Elisha; but not one of them was healed, only Na‘aman the Syrian.”
28 On hearing this, everyone in the synagogue was filled with fury. 29 They rose up, drove him out of town, and dragged him to the edge of the cliff on which their town was built, intending to throw him off. 30 But he walked right through the middle of the crowd and went away. ~ Luke 4: 16-30
Everyone was filled with fury since Yeshua was implying that God’s grace would be withheld from them and given to the Gentiles. They drove him out of town and intended to kill Him by tossing Him off a cliff (4:29). Yet, He miraculously escaped what would have been a premature death (4:30). It was not yet His time. His death would be at the time and place of His choosing.
Our next post will examine a Great Catch of Fish and the calling of Shim’on, Ya’akov, Yochanan, and Andrew.
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