Nazareth: final thought

JesusIconNazarethA Final Thought – from Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke”

“This scene is more significant than its brevity might suggest. Its position at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, its emphasis on the Spirit and Scripture, and its depiction of themes that will dominate the rest of the Gospel all point to its paradigmatic character. Readers of the Gospel now understand that all Jesus does in the coming chapters occurs by the power of the Spirit. Jesus teaches, preaches, heals, and casts out demons. He moves among the poor, the outcast, the sick, and the blind. His actions fulfill the Scriptures, especially the Prophets, but even those who awaited the fulfillment of the Scriptures took offense at Jesus and eventually put him to death. This scene suggests that the basis for their hostility toward Jesus was a difference in the way they read the Scriptures. The people of Jesus’ hometown read the Scriptures as promises of God’s exclusive covenant with them, a covenant that involved promises of deliverance from their oppressors. Jesus came announcing deliverance, but it was not a national deliverance but God’s promise of liberation for all the poor and oppressed regardless of nationality, gender, or race. When the radical inclusiveness of Jesus’ announcement became clear to those gathered in the synagogue in Nazareth, their commitment to their own community boundaries took precedence over their joy that God had sent a prophet among them. In the end, because they were not open to the prospect of others’ sharing in the bounty of God’s deliverance, they themselves were unable to receive it.”

“Not only is this scene paradigmatic of Jesus’ life and ministry, but it is also a reminder that God’s grace is never subject to the limitations and boundaries of any nation, church, group, or race. Those who would exclude others thereby exclude themselves. Human beings may be instruments of God’s grace for others, but we are never free to set limits on who may receive that grace. Throughout history, the gospel has always been more radically inclusive than any group, denomination, or church, so we continually struggle for a breadth of love and acceptance that more nearly approximates the breadth of God’s love. The paradox of the gospel, therefore, is that the unlimited grace that it offers so scandalizes us that we are unable to receive it. Jesus could not do more for his hometown because they were not open to him. How much more might God be able to do with us if we were ready to transcend the boundaries of community and limits of love that we ourselves have erected?” [Culpepper, 108-9]

Sources:

Commentaries

  • Culpepper, R. Alan. “The Gospel of Luke.” New Interpreter’s Bible. Ed. Leander E. Keck. Vol. 9. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004) 102–109
  • Geldenhuys, Norval. Commentary on the Gospel of Luke: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1952. 164-170
  • Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997. Print. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. 204-219
  • Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, vol. 3 of the Sacra Pagina series, ed. Daniel J. Harrington (Collegville, MN: 1991)
  • Jerome Kodell, “Luke” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, eds. Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris, (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989). 936 – 980.
  • Brian Stoffregen, “Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes” at crossmarks.com

Dictionaries

  • Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)

Scripture Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. © 1991, 1986, 1970

Nazareth: prophet’s fate

JesusIconNazarethPast as Prologue. 25 Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. 26 It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

The people of Nazareth had heard Jesus’ declaration of the fulfillment of God’s promises as a guarantee of God’s blessing on them, but Jesus affirmed a fulfillment that was not limited to Israel only—God would bless all the poor, all the captives. Neither was the fulfillment Jesus announced radically different from the work of the prophets. Israel’s Scriptures themselves bear witness to God’s blessing on Gentiles as well as Jews. Reminders of the mighty works of Elijah and Elisha follow naturally after the proverb about the prophet and the prophet’s home. Continue reading

Nazareth: hometown prophets

JesusIconNazarethJesus in his native place. There are another group of scholars who connect the people’s question in v.22 with Jesus’ words in v.23 and following. The presumption (and not a bad one) is that Jesus is aware of their expectations: “If Jesus has done these great things in other places, surely he will do even greater things here! He is a home boy and charity and good works begin at home, right?”

In the culture of Jesus’ native place, home and family carry obligations, especially that of giving preference to one’s own family and community. Jesus’ words gives voice to their expectations: 23 He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’” Continue reading

Nazareth: Joseph’s son?

JesusIconNazarethToday. 20 Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. 21 He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” With the reading complete, Jesus takes the posture (sitting) of the teacher – as he was expected to do. All eyes are upon him, his reputation preceding, his choice of scripture provocative – the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. Then simply and powerfully Jesus tells them that this great promise of God given in Isaiah, this promise of the long-awaited Messiah has been fulfilled. Continue reading

Nazareth: the people

JesusIconNazarethContext. One thing that is evident when you look at this Gospel reading (Luke 4:21-30) is that the narrative really begins at v.14. As mentioned last week, it is as though the story was cut in half (last week vv.14-21) and we never got to know the reaction of the people in the synagogue. Fortunately, the story continues as Luke 4:21-30 is the Gospel reading for this Sunday (4th Ordinary, C). Many Lucan scholars hold that the two halves together are key and make clear the four major points in Luke’s account:

  • the announcement of Jesus ministry as the fulfillment of God’s salvation-time,
  • a statement about the content of Jesus’ ministry based on the quotation from Isaiah,
  • the foreshadowing of Jesus’ final suffering and rejection,
  • the foreshadowing of the movement of the gospel from Jew to Gentile. (found in Stoffregen)

Continue reading