“Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
In the early days of his public ministry, Jesus was invited to teach at the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. Jesus’ mother, Mary, would have also been there, and we believe that it was she who provided Luke with most of the details about this event. As we read Luke’s account, we can easily imagine Mary sitting there among the other congregants, listening to their whispered remarks, her maternal sensibilities heightened to the reactions of those around her.
At first the audience appeared to be responding favorably to what Jesus was saying to them. They expressed amazement at the gracious words falling from his lips, and said to one another, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” But behind their outwardly positive reaction there was a hidden inward resentment. Here was a man who had grown up in their midst, who had lived and worked among them for his entire adult life, yet never once had he performed the sort of miracles that they had heard of his doing elsewhere. How many among their own number had not suffered from sickness or disease, or had a loved one succumb to a deadly illness?
We do not really know what was in their hearts, but Jesus did, and he exposed their resentment by declaring openly, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’ Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” (Luke 4:22-24)
He then went on to back up what he had just said with examples from the lives of Elijah and Elisha, two of their most revered prophets: “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
In Proverbs 9:8 it says, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,” and that is exactly what happened when Jesus reproved the congregation at Nazareth. Jesus had not only wounded their pride, he had also challenged their deeply held prejudices regarding the Gentiles and their right to feel superior to them. Any fleeting sense of admiration that they might have had was immediately transformed into fury. They all rose up as an angry mob against him, and drove him out of town.
Their fury quickly escalated into a murderous rage, up to the point where they were about to throw him off a cliff at the edge of town. However, the timing and manner of his death was not going to be determined by this angry mob. Jesus simply walked right through the crowd and went on his way, leaving the small town of Nazareth behind him. It would never be his “hometown” again.