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Series A - Matthew
Series B - Mark
Series C - Luke
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Edward F. Markquart

Series B
Jesus Rejected at Nazareth, Mission of the Church, 2x2
Gospel Analysis

Series C

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

Pentecost 4B: Mark 6:1-13

Epiphany 3C: Luke 4:14-21

Epiphany 4C: Luke 4:21-30

The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled, THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2006.

Basic text for the course: SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, P. 31. 

#33. Jesus' Preaching at Nazareth

Matthew 13:53-58, Mark 6:1-6a, Luke 4:16-30

All four gospels report that Jesus was rejected by his hometown and home synagogue.

All four gospels say that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.

Matthew and Mark place this story about Jesus’ preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth later in the story of Jesus’ life. 

It seems that Mark and Matthew’s location of this story is better than Luke’s. That is, most Biblical scholars lean towards Mark’s outline as being the earliest outline of Jesus’ life and perhaps the most historically reliable. But…it doesn’t really matter. That is, our goal in this course is always to hear the message and the meaning of a particular story. The message and the meaning of the story is much more important than the historical minutia.

Luke’s version of the story is the most intricate and interesting of the gospels. Once again, Luke is the master storyteller.  We will focus primarily on Luke’s version, but use Matthew and Mark’s accounts as well.

Luke’s account of this incident is the gospel text for Epiphany 3C and 4C. Mark’s account of this incident is the gospel text for Pentecost 5B.

-When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.  He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, Matthew begins the story with these words. Jesus had finished teaching these particular parables and now goes to the synagogue of his hometown Nazareth. Mark’s gospel simply says that Jesus came to his own hometown and his disciples followed him.

-When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, Luke reminds us that Jesus had been brought up in the little village of Nazareth. The gospels of Mark and Mathew do not give us the name of the town of Nazareth.

-He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. Luke also tells us it was the custom of Jesus to attend synagogue on the Sabbath (and implies that it should be our custom to attend weekly worship as well.). The Gospel of Mark also emphasizes that this event occurred on the Sabbath. The Jewish synagogue Sabbath worship consisted of a reading from the Law and a reading from the prophets, and that a guest rabbi could select any passage from the prophets that he chose to. 

The following verses come uniquely from the Gospel of Luke and are not reported in Matthew and Mark:

-He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. We can see that a scroll of the Book of Isaiah was in Jesus’ hands. Books had not been invented yet. Jesus had a scroll in his hands.

-He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

-"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Jesus quoted from Isaiah 61:1,2a.  By quoting Isaiah, Jesus states the themes of his mission: “Good news to the poor, release to the captives (in prison), recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to those who are oppressed, and a declaration of the year of the Lord’s favor.” The life of Jesus became a living out of his first sermon.

Jesus did not quote from Isaiah 61:2b. That is, what you quote is important but it is also important what you don’t quote. Isaiah 61:2b said, “The day of the vengeance of our God.” Jesus did not quote the line from Isaiah about vengeance. Jesus intentionally omitted the quotation about vengeance, and I believe that this was intentional and foretelling of Jesus’ ministry to come. There are far too many people of all religions who practice vengeance today, and self-righteously claim that their vengeance is from God. 

Jesus’ quoting from Isaiah 61:2a and not from Isaiah 61:2b is an indication of how well Jesus knew his Bible. He could quote exactly the words that he wanted from it.

-And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. There is tension in Luke’s description of the event. We can imagine all eyes riveted on Jesus,

-Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." These prophecies will be taking place now in Jesus’ ministry.

This ends Luke’s insertion. This ends the Gospel Lesson for Epiphany 3C.

-"Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! (Mark’s version) Where did Jesus learn all this spiritual wisdom? Is he not merely a carpenter, a mason, a maker of yokes for oxen? How can he do all these miraculous deeds of power?

-All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. The towns people were pleased with these words of Jesus…until a few moments later when Jesus taught that true faith was also found outside of Israel and among the Gentiles who were from towns beyond the borders of true faith. Mark’s version is this:

-They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" The townspeople remember Jesus as being part of the family of Joseph.  Notice the parallels in Matthew and Mark. Joseph is known to have been a town carpenter. Mary, his mother, was known. As were Jesus’ four brothers: James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. And there were sisters and the word is plural so we assume two or more sisters. This particular gospel gives us much information about the details of Jesus’ family.

Mark says, “Is this not Mary’s son?” Joseph is omitted and scholars wonder why. Perhaps he was deceased.

-Is not this the carpenter, We hear that Jesus was a carpenter, builder or stone mason. In Matthew 13:55, we hear that Jesus’ father  Joseph was also a carpenter. In other words, Jesus’ occupation was from the “working class.”

-the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" Both Mark and Matthew (who copies 90% of Mark) give us the only place in the New Testament which gives us a profile of Jesus’ family. The gospels of Luke and John do not give us this information.

- And they took offense at him. This is the key line of the text. The word, “offense,” also means “scandal.” The people present were offended and scandalized by Jesus’ words.

-Where then did this man get all this? Only Matthew. The people were wondering where “this upstart Jesus” got all this wisdom and teaching. Jesus hadn’t attended a rabbinic school and received a rabbinic education. 

-He said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, "Doctor, cure yourself!' Only Luke. In other words, the people thought that Jesus was crazy and needed to be cured. We remember that Luke himself was a physician and would know this proverb.

-And you will say, "Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.' " Only Luke. In other words, “Do the healings here in your own hometown of your childhood that you did in Capernaum, your adult hometown.”

-And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown. (Luke’s version)

-Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." The hometown people including one’s own relatives were too close to the ordinariness of the prophet. The prophet was a kid from earlier years who played games with his buddies. They knew him well. They were too familiar with their buddy to think of that buddy becoming a famous prophet. Likewise within the family: “He’s my kid brother. How could HE be a prophet? No way!!!”

-And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. The people in his own hometown did not believe in Jesus. His family and friends were too close to him and that familial closeness got in the way of seeing the true and full identity of Jesus. Because of that, Jesus worked no miracles in their lives.

-And he was amazed at their unbelief. The key to discipleship is always belief, belief in God, belief in Jesus. We soon will hear many stories of deep and simple trust in Jesus to heal and restore lives.  But the family and friends of Jesus did not exhibit transforming belief in him but doubting, believing reservations about him.

Luke then adds two stories:

-But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." Luke adds the stories of two prophets, Elijah and Elisha, who were sent to people outside the Jewish religion.   Elijah was sent to Sidon, a town outside and north of Israel.  Elisha was sent to Namaan the Syrian, a person outside the country. In other words, these two Jewish prophets were sent to the Gentiles, to outsiders, to nations and people outside of Israel. Luke is laying the groundwork for the story about the Apostle Paul and his missionary work to the whole world of Gentiles. The people of God are forever finding true faith outside their narrow definitions, boundaries, and theologies.

-When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. They were so angry at Jesus that they were going to kill him. The people of God often become angry when they hear that God loves other people outside of their predetermined boundaries. From the perspective of the hometown people, God’s love should be confined to the Jews. Nowadays, we play similar theological games when we believe that God’s love should be confined to Christians, when we believe that God should love Christians more than people of other religions like the Muslims or Hindus.

Discussion Question:
Why do you think that Jesus was not accepted in his own hometown and in the synogogue of his boyhood?

#99. Commissioning the Twelve

Matthew 10:1-16, Mark 6:7-13

It seems wise for a preacher to focus on either the first story about Jesus’ rejection by his hometown family and friends or to focus on the second story about the mission of the twelve disciples. It seems difficult to focus on both stories in one sermon.

For background on this portion of the text, see the Gospel Analysis for Pentecost 4A, Matthew 9:36-10:1-8:

Also see an “evangelism” sermon based on that text:

-He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two,The twelve disciples become the hands, feet, legs, hearts, and minds of Jesus. That was the way it was originally and still is true today. For Jesus to complete his mission in today’s world, he needs hands, feet, legs, hearts, and minds. The harvest is overwhelmingly great and Jesus needs willing hands, willing hearts, willing minds and willing spirits. Jesus gets work done today through his disciples who are committed to doing the work.

Twelve is the same number as the twelve tribes in the Old Testament and twelve disciples of the New Testament.

These were not twelve religious professionals or rabbis, etc. The word, “disciple,” means learner or pupil, and disciples are people who learn from Jesus, our master.

The twelve disciples were varied in their personality and disposition: four fishermen, two people with hot tempers, a government tax collector who worked for the Romans, a political zealot. It can be imagined that there were various personalities and dispositions among the disciples so that they could relate to various personalities and dispositions among the people with whom they related.

“Sent them out two by two.” Here in this passage, the twelve disciples are sent out two by two. We find this same theme of two by two in Luke’s version of a similar story of the sending out of the seventy. (See page 165, #177.)

Today, we think of young Mormon missionaries going out two by two. Why two by two? It gives courage, confidence and strength to go out with a partner. One reason Mormon missionaries are the most effective missionaries in the world today is because of this simple method: training in missionary faith for two years and then go out two by two.

That simple formula made for effective evangelism two thousand years ago and formula is still effective today. Some scholars would trace the roots of the concept of going out “two by two” to the Old and New Testament injunction to have two witnesses in order to ascertain the truth (Deuteronomy 19:15; Numbers 35:30, Luke 10:10-15.).

Discussion Question:
Why do you think the disciples were sent out two by two? (Have a group secretary to record the answers and turn them in after the class.)

Answers to the above Discussion Question:
Why do you think the disciples were sent out two by two? One classes' responses:

  • Support and encourage each other
  • A shared synergy and energy
  • Safety in numbers; draw strength and security from one another
  • Shared knowledge about Christ
  • Two heads better than one; two people see things differently
  • Keep each other from straying from goals
  • Hold each other accountable
  • Learn from each other e.g. a new witness learns from a more experienced witness
  • Perseverance, less willing to quit
  • Flexibility in dealing with varieties of people
  • Easier when two handle everyday details e.g. food, lodging
  • Help each other out during times illness or death

-and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.People are more effective when they know that they have been invested with authority. They spoke the gospel with authority. They told about the power of God in their lives with authority. The opposite of having power and authority in one’s faith is to have a doubting, half believing faith that lacks credibility, power and authority.  Jesus himself had an inner spiritual authority, and people listen to him because he had that authority. This principle is still true today. When laypeople speak with conviction about Jesus Christ, there is authority in their voice and in their stories and their reasoning. Being authoritative is not being autocratic or domineering. This turns people off.

-As you go, proclaim the good news, "The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. (only Matthew) Word and deeds. The message of preaching is the reign of God, the kingdom of God, and that God wants to rule people’s hearts, minds and lives. We all need to be ruled by the wisdom, peace and sanity of God and God’s ways. And we are to be agents of healing, especially healing the sin that permeates and destroys all of our lives. Jesus’ advice to his original set of disciples still rings true for us today.

These are signs of the reign of God, that God is ruling a person or a family or a city or a nation. As has been said previously, these signs were reported to John the Baptist in order to persuade him that Jesus was the Messiah. What are the equivalent signs today that Jesus reigns and rules in an individual, a family, a city or a nation? Perhaps such signs today of God’s rule are good homes, good schools, good hospitals, good medical care, good government, good jobs, good faith…for all the people and not just for a minority or even a sizeable majority.

-He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts;  but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. The Spirit of Christ is given to us, and we cannot buy that Spirit of Love. The Spirit of Christ and his love is freely given and is not for sale nor can it be purchased with any amount of money.

The disciples are told to carry no gold or silver with them and they are to dress simply.  One tunic. Two pairs of sandals.  That’s all.  What is behind this?  I am convinced that Jesus is aware that some people may be attracted to Christianity for the wrong reasons e.g. Christianity will make you healthy, wealthy, and popular.  Fancy clothes and bulging wallets may send the wrong message.  The only thing the disciples have to offer is the kingdom of God, the power and presence of God to heal their lives, to make a difference in the way they live.  Nothing more. Jesus’ advice to his original set of disciples rings true for us today.

-These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  (only Matthew) The first thing the Jewish disciples were to do was to go to their own people, with their own customs and their own language. That was the most natural thing to do. Acts 1:8 gives the paradigm for Christian evangelism: “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That is, evangelism starts with its “own kind” and then branches out. So it was for these first disciples who were all Jews so they naturally went with the gospel to people of their Jewish culture. It will be noted that only Matthew’s gospel tells the disciples to go first to the lost sheep of Israel. That was not the concern of Mark or Luke in their version of the story of the call of the first twelve disciples.

Later in Matthew’s gospel, in his version of the story of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was very sick with a demon, Jesus also says that he could not help this Gentile woman because “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:21-28, p. 144.)

-He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.  This text is a missionary text. To welcome guests and travelers into one’s home was a common courtesy during New Testament times. These traveling missionaries were to stay with families who welcomed them into their households.  If a family was hospitable and trustworthy, the first missionaries were to give them a blessing as they left that hospitable home. If the family in the house was cold, indifferent and unreceptive, the early missionaries were to wipe the dust off their feet as a sign to the inhospitable family that God would punish them for their rejection of the gospel and their rejection of the missionaries of the gospel. These people had the opportunity to listen and accept the gospel and they missed their opportunity. A poet once said, “Three things can not come back: the spoken word, the spent arrow, and the lost opportunity.”

-If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them."

-Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. (only Matthew) We will hear this same theme of judgment for towns that reject Jesus. We see this on page 100, #108, and the woes pronounced on the Galilean cities. We will study this theme of God’s judgment and wrath for those who do not repent when we study page 100, #108. Let us simply be reminded that Sodom and Gomorrah are a New Testament symbol for evil (Matthew 11:23-24, Luke 10:12-13; 17:29; Romans 9:29; II Peter 2:6; Jude 7). These towns rejected Jesus, the message of Jesus, and the kingdom of God, and their rejection will result in the punishment of God.

-So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. These disciples knew keenly well that to be a disciple of Jesus mean to “clean up one’s life” and turn away from self-destructive beliefs and habits.

-They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. These first disciples were healers. Disciples in this generation today still are used by God to heal sickness, whether it is found in an individual person, ethnic group, nation or our community.

-See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (only Matthew) The disciples were going out into a world that was incredibly evil and dangerous and that dangerous world is still with us today. In this kind of hazardous world today, disciples need to be incredibly wise, and still have a genuine innocence to them. Jesus’ advice to his original set of disciples rings true for us today.

Winston Churchill embodied a crafty wisdom. One time, when approached by a Frenchman as Great Britain was being bombed and defeat seemed inevitable, Winston Churchill used the analogy of a lobster. Churchill said to the effect that there was a time in a lobster’s life when it shed its hardened shell and became extremely vulnerable to its enemies in the depths of the ocean. The lobster, without its shell, crawled into a crevasse in the rocks for safety and hid until its armored shell grew back. When the shell grew back, the lobster would ready to face its enemies. So too with Great Britain. It needed to be in a defensive position until Great Britain grew a new armored shell and was ready for battle.  … Yes, Christians are called to be as crafty as serpents and as wise as doves

Study Luke’s version of the same story on page 165-167. Notice that Luke sends seventy disciples out two by two. We recall that Moses appointed seventy elders in Exodus 24:1,9-14. Moses needed help to do the work of the Jewish nation and Jesus needed seventy disciples to go out ahead of him. Notice the parallels in commissioning of the seventy in Luke 10:1-16 to the to the commissioning of the twelve in Matthew 10:1-16. In Luke 10:17-20, on page 167, you will notice that the seventy return from their mission and report that even “the demons are subject to us in your name.” That is, the power of evil was finally confronted and destroyed…even by the disciples. Jesus said that he saw “Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (See Revelation 12:7-10, 20:1-3 where St. Michael and all his angels defeat Satan and throw him out of heaven and down to earth.) This is the first time in Luke’s gospel that Luke labels the power of evil by calling him Satan. This is a clear indication that Satan is to be finally being defeated and bound here on earth. This defeat of Satan in Luke 10:17-20 constitutes the first of six healing miracles in Luke.

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