When Jesus began His ministry, He wasted no time riling up the religious community. In the power of the Holy Spirit following the 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, Jesus soon went into the synagogue on the Sabbath.
A report had gone throughout Galilee that He was apparently a holy man. Have you ever heard of men of God today who have fasted for 40 days? The Holy Spirit is strong in them. As it was with Moses after his time on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, these people have – if not an actual glow – then certainly a metaphorical glow. Their speech rings with the truth of God; sometimes they have insightful words of wisdom and knowledge; often they have a healing touch. If this is true of ordinary men, consider what it must have been like with Jesus!
This presumed holy man enters the synagogue and unrolls the scroll of Isaiah to read. The indication He gives is that the words He reads pertain to Him. Everyone is dumbfounded. Aside from John the Baptist, God has been silent for 400 years. Is this man the fulfillment of whom John spoke would come? Has Yahweh finally returned to raise up Israel once more as His Chosen People, even as He promised through the prophets? Could this man be the Prince to Come? Would He be the One to deliver Israel from captivity? All these kinds of thoughts are likely going through the minds of those present.
Then, someone points out that Jesus is the son of Joseph the carpenter. Remember Jesus? He was that snot-nosed kid who was always so smart-alecky; after all, He knew the answers to all the questions people had about God. He even pretended to be on a par with the learned rabbis when He went up to Jerusalem. Remember how He caused His parents such worry? Who is He to teach the Words of Isaiah and to even claim that He is God’s chosen man to fulfill the prophecy? Absurd!
The men in the synagogue are now in heated discussion. Some say that any man who spends 40 days in the desert must be holy; others argue that no prophet has ever come from Galilee. This man is surely an imposter.
Jesus then speaks Words that cut to the quick. He rebukes them in their flawed thinking that a prophet couldn’t arise in their midst. Besides, if He can’t do miracles here like what He did in Capernaum, He must be a fraud. Really?
Then, Jesus thoroughly irritates them. He speaks of how God moved in the days of the prophets. Elijah did a miracle of provision with the widow of Zarephath; Elisha healed Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy. Were there no needs in Israel at the time? Of course there were. But God chose to make Himself known to pagans rather than His own children. The clear implication that Jesus makes is the accusation that Israel wasn’t worthy of Yahweh doing these things for them. These pagans had faith; but Israel didn’t.
How could that be? Wasn’t Israel the offspring of Abraham? If so, then no others were worthy of Yahweh’s touch (maybe a little pride working through all this?). How dare Jesus point this out! Their indignation rocketed off the charts.
Jesus so offended them that they were determined to kill Him. He had obviously blasphemed by implying that God was working through Him. They would avenge Yahweh and rid themselves of this heretic!
So, these men of God (remember, this all started in the synagogue) took Jesus to the cliff outside of town, intending to throw Him over it and eliminate Him from among them. Luke 4:30 tells us what happened next:
But passing through their midst, he went away.
How did this happen? Let’s not miss the import of this short sentence. Jesus was surrounded by hostile men. They wanted nothing more than to rid themselves of His presence. Surely, they had hustled Him up that hill holding firmly to Him the entire time. At the moment they attempt to cast Him over the cliff, their grip loosens; somehow they no longer have hold of Him. He turns and walks through this crowd of angry men. They can do nothing. Do they see Him passing by or are they blinded? The text doesn’t tell us. All we know is that Jesus has supernaturally escaped.
When He’d gone, what might have been the response from these men? Were they astounded? Did they remain full of rage? Had they witnessed this miracle or had their eyes been veiled? Did some believe? Were there a few who became accusers in the ongoing effort to silence Jesus?
Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost. These men were among those. Although, there were many who recognized that Jesus was the God who had come to deliver Israel, as a whole His children failed to see because their hearts were hard. This resulted in Israel remaining barren for another 1,900 years until God once more decided the time was right to redeem His people.
Sadly, as Jesus lamented over the lost opportunity to the people of His day, great catastrophe would befall them because, as Luke 19:44 records His Words:
“… you did not know the time of your visitation.”