“Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
Jesus was teaching at the local synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, where his mother and other family members would also be in attendance. We believe it was Mary who actually provided Luke with most of the details about this particular event. As we read Luke’s account, we can easily imagine her sitting there listening to the whispered remarks of those around her, her awareness of their reactions heightened by her maternal sensibilities.
At first the audience appeared to be responding quite favorably to the things Jesus was saying. They expressed amazement at the gracious words falling from his lips and said to one another, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” But behind the outwardly positive reaction there was hidden an inward resentment. Here he was, this man who had grown up in their town and who had lived and worked among them for his entire life, and yet never once performed the kind of miracles that they heard he was doing elsewhere. And why not? Didn’t they also have those among them who were suffering with sickness and disease?
Jesus knew what was in their hearts and he exposed their resentment saying, “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.