We’re doing a series, I’m not sure how long it’ll go, but we’re looking at conversations with Jesus during His life and ministry, and one of the ones that is most fascinating and definitive is found in Luke 4. So you can open your Bible, if you will, to Luke chapter 4, and we’re going to be looking, starting at verse 16, in just a few moments.
A number of years ago I was asked a question, actually, by a rabbi, who asked me, “If people know the facts about Jesus Christ, why don’t they acknowledge Him as Savior? What causes people to resist that?” And just recently I had a similar conversation with someone who said, “When people know the truth, why is it that they don’t receive Christ as their Savior?” Really, that comes down to one great reality, and this passage will reveal that to us.
Some people would say, “People need more information.” And that’s true—you have to have the revelation of God; you have to have the truth; you have to have the biblical gospel. Others would say, “People need more proof. They need some kind of defense for the veracity of the claims of the gospel.” Others would say, “Well, what people really need is to know that God loves them; and if we just keep telling them over and over and over and over that God loves them, that’s going to kind of win them over on the sheer basis of the force of His love.” Or we can approach people and say, “Look, your life will be a whole lot better if you come to Christ. You’ll be happier, you’ll be fulfilled, you’ll have purpose, you’ll be satisfied.”
And while there’s an element of truth in those things, they’re not really the issue. And because we don’t necessarily understand the foundational issue in gospel ministry, we really don’t know how to do evangelism the biblical way. So we’re going to go into this story of Jesus, and He’s going to lay it out for us so that we know what the foundation of all evangelism really is, and that’s going to be clear to you, I trust, in a few minutes.
So we come to Luke chapter 4, and Jesus is in Nazareth, His hometown. He had lived there till He was thirty years old and began His ministry. So Nazareth is the town that He was familiar with—relatives, friends, neighbors—everybody there knew Him, knew Him well. It was a very small place. Everybody knew who this carpenter’s son was.
But this day that we find in Luke 4 shakes up their understanding of Christ to such a degree that they actually make a concerted mob effort to kill Him, to throw Him off a cliff. And if you ask the question, “How could it get to that?” you’re asking the right question. How is it that His friends and neighbors, people that knew Him best—over thirty years they didn’t know that He was God or the Messiah, but they certainly were exposed to the perfection of His nature and character. How is it that in one day they can try to throw Him off a cliff? Well, you’re going to find out.
Look at verse 16. He’s in Galilee now, and this is part of His Galilean ministry. This is where He begins His year-and-a-half ministry in Galilee, having returned there; and He’s operating, verse 14 says, “in the power of the Spirit. News about Him [is spreading] all through the surrounding district. He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.” So things looked initially very good.
So “He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up”—and this is the most familiar place to Him—“and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath.” Now that would be a routine thing. He would have done that since His childhood. Faithfully, every Sabbath, He would have gone to the synagogue with His family. Synagogues were essentially a house of instruction. They’re very much like a church; it’s not a temple. It’s not a place where sacrifices are made, it’s just a gathering place for the explanation of Scripture, instruction from the Old Testament.
And the way they basically ordered that was they had a set prescribed pattern of reading the Old Testament. And in fact, in a typical synagogue service, there would be seven readers who would read a portion of the Old Testament and made some comment. And following those seven there would be a final one, who sort of gave the major address. And the final one was called a maftir, and his responsibility, usually, was to do an exposition from the set reading of the prophets, the Old Testament prophets. And that is what is happening as we open the door to the synagogue in Nazareth.
On this occasion, “He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.” This is the first time, that we know of, that Jesus actually took an official position in the synagogue as a reader, which meant He would read the prescribed passage and He would give an exposition of that passage. And since He is given the text of Isaiah, verse 17 says, “The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him.” This is very likely that final message after the seven had gone on with their discussion of Old Testament; this is the culminating message from the prophets, and particularly from the book of Isaiah. In actuality, the text for this particular Sabbath was Isaiah 61:1 and 2, Isaiah 61:1 and 2, and that is a messianic text. That is a messianic text.
So Jesus is handed the scroll, “and stood up to read” it, and reads the prescribed passage; and this is what it said, verse 18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
Now this is a messianic text. In fact, you can see it’s in the first person, even, in the book of Isaiah. So the Messiah Himself is speaking of His own ministry to come, and He says it will be a ministry with the anointing of the Spirit of the Lord. And then Jesus, in verse 20, “closed the book, gave it back to the attendant, sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” This is beyond shocking. He is saying, “I am the Messiah.”
We know that He was under the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit. We see that earlier in His ministry. We see it in His baptism. We see it when the Spirit of God comes upon Him, empowering Him for ministry, like chapter 4, verse 1, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness.” Down in verse 14 again, “the power of the Spirit” is operating through Him.
Jesus is simply declaring what has already been demonstrated: He is the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1 and 2. This, again, is messianic. And since the Messiah has come, and since He has come with the good news—you notice that: “the gospel,” verse 18—this then is “the favorable year of the Lord.” This is the year when the Lord deposits His great favor on the world. The age of salvation has come, the Savior has come, the spiritual jubilee has arrived, the long-awaited kingdom is here. This is beyond comprehension for the people of Nazareth, who know this man, who have known Him His whole life and know Him only to be the man that He was, fully human, truly human. And now this same man, so familiar to them in this small village, stands up and declares that He is the Messiah, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s great prophecy, and that He has arrived with the good news. And He is the one who is declaring now that He is present, the favorable year of the Lord has begun, the age of salvation is now launched. “I am the Messiah, and this is the day of salvation,” is His message.
I mean, it’s a beyond stunning thing for Him to say. They have no reason to believe that He’s the Messiah, none. He didn’t do miracles in the first thirty years of His ministry. He’d done them recently, nearby in Capernaum and the surrounding area, and He had done a wonderful miracle at a wedding in Cana, and there was a lot of reporting about the miracles that He did down in the south around Jerusalem. But it’s still a huge leap for them to look at this very familiar young man and to all of a sudden believe that He’s not who they thought He’s always been, but rather, He is God’s anointed King and Messiah. And part of the problem for them was that He had such humble beginnings. He didn’t come from Jerusalem. He wasn’t from a famous family. He wasn’t well known. He wasn’t a rabbi. He wasn’t a scribe. He wasn’t a Pharisee or leading scholar. He wasn’t part of the religious establishment. And so it just seems beyond belief that He’s referring to Himself and says, “This prophecy has been fulfilled today in your hearing.”
Now “the eyes,” it says in verse 20, “of [the whole] synagogue were fixed on Him” because they wanted to hear what He said. He “stood up to read,” “sat down” to speak, and He gave them an exposition of Isaiah 61:1 and 2 and, no doubt, comments on chapter 58, verse 6, which is “the favorable year of the Lord.” You don’t have the message there; we just have the text that He used from the Old Testament. But this text was just the beginning. And it says, “He began to say to them,” verse 21, “‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,’” because He probably had much more to say beyond that.
But I’m not sure they could have gotten past that. Nonetheless, when He gave the sermon, it’s interesting; verse 22 gives you their initial response: “And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips.” That’s not surprising. That’s not shocking. “No man ever spoke like this man,” was a comment made about Him. It’s not shocking that He was the greatest speaker they had ever heard, He was more cogent than any other speaker, more accurate than any other speaker, more clear than any other speaker, more passionate than any other teacher—that He was literally riveting them to the subject that He was addressing, of the arrival of the Messiah and the gospel.
What they were hearing from His lips they’d never heard from anyone, and in verse 22 it says, “They were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’” “Is this not Joseph’s son? How can we make the move from somebody we know so well, who is Joseph’s son, local carpenter’s son, who Himself was a carpenter and a builder? How do we move from that to ‘This is the Messiah?’ How do we do that?”
Now I want you to go back to verse 18 and understand the message. The good news comes to a certain group of people: “He anointed Me to preach the [good news]”—or “the gospel”—“to the poor. Sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed.” I have to tell you, that passage—and they knew it well from Isaiah—was both an announcement and an indictment. He was bringing good news not to the spiritual elite, not to the people who thought they were righteous, not to the people who thought they knew God, not to the people who were the rulers and leaders of the synagogue, but rather “the Spirit of the Lord is upon” Him to preach the gospel to “the poor,” the prisoners, “the blind,” and the “oppressed.” Now all those people would be those that were cursed by God, in their system of suffering.
So the Messiah arrives, and quoting from Isaiah 61 declares that He has brought good news, but it’s not good news for the self-righteous. It’s not good for the spiritual elite. It’s not good news for those who think they’ve earned their standing with God. It’s good news to the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed.
And here you meet the foundational reality that you must understand in all evangelism. Before you start talking about God loving people—and that’s certainly true—before you get caught up in talking about evidence of the truth of Scripture, before you get into the technical realities of forgiveness and justification and all of that, there is a first point that has to be established before the good news can be brought to any person, and it is this: “Are you among the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed?” That’s where it all has to begin. That’s why no amount of, “God loves you. God loves you. Jesus loves you. He loves you just the way you are”—while that is true to some degree (not totally true) that’s not where evangelism begins. It begins with what’s wrong with you. And this is how we have to view the unsaved: not as wonderful people who need just to be loved, or be told that God loves them, or to be given more evidence, or to hear apologetic defenses of the truth. All evangelism begins with the recognition that the only people for whom this is going to be good news are the destitute people—the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed. And those are spiritual pictures of the human condition. This is how you have to view the unconverted people in the world. Let’s look at those four, just briefly.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon [Him],” so this is the work of the Spirit through Him. He’s preaching the good news, but He’s preaching, first of all, to “the poor”—not the materially poor, the spiritually poor. The spiritually poor. The word here is ptōchos in the Greek, and it basically means “to shrink, cower, or cringe like a beggar.” In other words, this is utter and complete destitution. He has good news for the people who are spiritually bankrupt, spiritually destitute, reduced to begging in shame in the shadows, spiritually speaking.
It’s not the normal word for “poor”; that’s another word that means someone who has a little. This is one who has nothing. This is a level of being a beggar. This is the kind of poverty that our Lord spoke about in Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of [God].” If you want to enter the kingdom of God, you start with a recognition of your utter bankruptcy, spiritually. Nothing to be proud of, nothing to be confident in, nothing to offer God, no achievements. He’s looking, rather, for the humble and broken people, Isaiah 66; and as Psalm 51 says, He’s looking for the broken and contrite heart. All evangelism begins with this point: The good news is only good news if you understand the bad reality of the condition of the sinner. A sinner is helpless under the law of God, has nothing with which to commend himself to God—spiritual poverty.
Secondly, sinners are described as “captives,” prisoners, literally “prisoners of war in exile awaiting execution.” “He sent Me to proclaim release”—aphesis, can mean “forgiveness”—“forgiveness to the captives,” to set the captives free. Messiah comes to those who know they are spiritually destitute, to those who know they are prisoners to sin and Satan and death and hell. And He brings the good news of forgiveness and deliverance, liberation, and freedom. Jesus is the spiritual liberator. As the hymnwriter said, “He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free.” So the poor and the prisoners, those who understand their bankruptcy and the dire conditions from which they cannot extract themselves spiritually, are the ones for whom this is good news.
And a third illustration of the unconverted, a “recovery of sight to the blind.” This is another way to describe unconverted people: They are blind. Sinners, all of us, are naturally blind. Ephesians 4:18, we are “darkened in [our] understanding”; that’s natural blindness. We are satanically, 2 Corinthians 4, “The god of this world has blinded [our minds],” lest “the light of the gospel” should shine to us. We are personally blinded, Romans 1, because we fail to live up to the light, and we literally compound our blindness by our rejection. And we are even judicially blinded, as you see in Isaiah 6 and in John 12 and Romans 11, that God has blinded their eyes so they cannot see. So it’s a four-dimensional blindness: naturally blinded, judicially blinded, satanically blinded, personally blinded. And that’s why it says in 1 John that unbelievers walk in darkness, and John 3 says they hate the Light.
So the Messiah has come to those who know they are spiritually blind. Jesus came and said, “I am the Light of the world; whoever follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the Light of life.” Second Corinthians 4:6 says God has literally shed His Light on us through the glory that is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. First Peter 2:9, you are a people, a people of God whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light.
So again, when you’re talking about how you begin the gospel, you start with whether a person understands the condition they’re in: poor, imprisoned, and blind. And that’s not all.
A fourth one is “to set free those who are oppressed.” This sometimes is translated “downtrodden,” those who are under the massive weight and burden of their blindless and their sinfulness and their bondage. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 11, we looked at it a few weeks ago, “Come unto Me, all you who are weary and”—what?—“heavy-laden.” You’re carrying around an oppressive burden.
Poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed by sin and guilt; and they have no power to deliver themselves from this complete condition. So Messiah comes to bring riches, spiritual riches to the poor, forgiveness to the sinners, light to those who are blind, and liberation to the oppressed. That’s why Messiah came; and that is why it’s “the favorable year of the Lord.”
So the message that our Lord is giving is salvation. That’s why He stops halfway through Isaiah 61:2. He doesn’t give the last half of that verse because the last half of Isaiah 61:2 says, “The day of vengeance of our God.” That’s future. This is not the day of vengeance; this is the day of salvation.
What an amazing, amazing, really incomprehensible morning that Sabbath was in Nazareth. Not only because He had declared Himself to be the Messiah to people who knew Him very well, but because He had essentially said, “Everything you are counting on before God is absolutely useless. You are not spiritually rich. You are not spiritually free. You are not spiritually sighted. You are not spiritually delivered. You are poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed.” This is very offensive to them because they bank everything in life and eternity on their self-righteousness. This is a diagnosis that they can’t accept.
But initially their response is they “were speaking well of Him,” verse 22, “and wondering at the gracious words . . . falling from His lips; and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’ And He said to them, ‘No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, “Physician, heal yourself!”’”—In other words, “If You’re really who You say You are, prove it, prove it.”—“‘”Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”’” Capernaum is twenty miles away, and Jesus did massive miracles in Capernaum. So they’re saying, “You don’t expect us to believe that You, this familiar son of a carpenter, are the Messiah fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. You’re just the carpenter’s son. So if You want us to believe You, You’re going to have to repeat the miracles. You’re going to have to do them here for us.”
They could not gainsay the fact that His teaching was impeccable, that His articulation of the truth was unparalleled, that He had a holy and pure passion for that truth, flawless reasoning, accurate interpretation, linguistic dexterity and clarity. They couldn’t argue with whatever it was that He said in the sermon. But the fact that He claimed to be Messiah is beyond the possibility of their understanding. “So if You want us to believe it, do some miracles.”
Well, He had already done miracles, and even in nearby Cana, turning water to wine. Everybody knew; nobody denied His miracles. But they’re assuming that the problem they have in accepting Him is Him, not them. He’s got to make more evidence visible. It’s not their fault that they don’t believe in Him. And to some degree Jesus understands that, in verse 24, He concedes.
He said to them, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.” It’s really hard to see your hometown person as somebody very significant. That’s kind of an axiom. That’s just a truism. If you know somebody in a familiar way and that person is not at all special, it’s hard for you to imagine that they’re the noblest person who ever walked the earth, and Messiah of God.
So Jesus concedes that it’s hard to see somebody familiar to you in a different way. But Jesus knows what’s going on. They want proof. Proof isn’t the issue. They have to recognize their spiritual condition as poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed.
How is He going to get that across to them? He’s going to tell them two familiar accounts from the Old Testament. One, a story of Elijah; and the second, a story of Elisha. And they make the main point. Look at verse 25. Here’s how He gets to His point: “But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.”
This is powerful. They’re very familiar with that story, days of Elijah, 850 BC, the days of Ahab and Jezebel, the worst rulers in Israel. And at that time there were many widows, many widows; and they were needy widows. Why? Because there was, according to verse 25, “a great famine [coming] over the whole land.” A famine was produced; there was no rain “for three years and six months.”
There were lots of destitute widows in Israel, but God didn’t do anything for them. Look at verse 26: “Yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.” This is a distasteful story for them. God doesn’t send a prophet to any hungry widow in Israel during the time of judgment. Why? Because Israel was under judgment for idolatry with Baal, Baal worship.
So Israel’s under judgment. And what does God do? He sends the prophet not only to a Gentile, but to a Gentile woman who is a widow. This is crushing to Jewish pride. “Sidon,” Gentile territory. “Zarephath,” a Phoenician city, the home of the godless father of Jezebel whose name was Ithobaal because of his attachment to Baal. It means “Baal is alive.” He was a wicked man who had murdered his predecessor and was a priest of false gods.
The famine affected the Gentile area as well as the area of Israel. And God sends His prophet to deliver a widow, but this widow’s not a Jewish widow; this widow is a Gentile woman, who would be the lowest of the low. And there’s a reason for telling that story. Go back to 1 Kings chapter 17, we’ll just look at it very briefly. It’s a fascinating story.
First Kings 17, So Elijah, the word of the Lord comes to him, and it says in verse 8 of 1 Kings 17, “The word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Arise, go to Zarephath’”—just as Luke says—“‘which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; for behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.’” This is a Gentile area. He goes to Zarephath; he finds a widow gathering sticks. He calls to her and says, “[Give] me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” This is kind of a rude approach, don’t you think? This is a widow in a famine picking up sticks, and he’s asking her for water. And it gets even worse.
“As she was going to get it”—she responded in kindness—“he called to her and said, ‘[Oh, by the way, while you’re at it,] bring me a piece of bread in your hand.’ But she said, ‘As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.’” Obviously she knew about the God of Israel—“as your God the Lord lives.” She says, “All I have is enough for one more meal with my son.”
And “Elijah said to her, ‘Do not fear; go, do as you have said, make me a little bread cake from it first, bring it out to me, afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel, “The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.”’” What an amazing promise. “You put your trust in me, you do what I tell you to do, and you’ll never lack flour or oil again.”
“So she went and did according to the word of Elijah; she and he and her household ate for many days. And the bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.” This is the point: If you want proof, you have to give everything to the Lord. That’s the point.
This is a widow who had only enough for one meal, and she had to divide that up and give a portion to the prophet, based upon a promise. The prophet said, “Do this, and you’ll never lack.” That’s a picture of what the Messiah is offering: “I’m offering you everything you will ever need. I’m offering you salvation in its fullest sense. The question is, are you willing to trust Me?”
“You won’t see the miracle until you make the sacrifice.” Did you get that? You won’t see the miracle until you make the sacrifice. “And then if you make the sacrifice, put your trust in Me; God will bless you.” Did He ever.
Verse 17 says her son “became sick,” so severely sick that he died. And “she said to Elijah, ‘What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!’ He said to her, ‘Give me your son.’ And he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, laid him on his own bed. He called to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?’ Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, called to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.’ The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. Took the child down”—verse 23—“gave him to the mother; and said, ‘Your son is alive.’ And the woman said, ‘Now I know that you’re a man of God and the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.’”
The proof only came when she made the sacrifice. Rather than looking for the miracle, reach out for the salvation that the Messiah offers, and the miracles will follow. If you’re wondering whether Jesus can save, whether Jesus is the Savior, entrust your life to Him; the proof will be immediate and clear.
She has nothing. This is desperation. This is a poor, prisoner, blind, and oppressed. She’s got nothing but a handful of oil and a handful of flour to mix together into some dough to bake a last meal, and then die. What’s she got to lose? If she gives some to the prophet, maybe she dies a half hour sooner or a few hours sooner; but she’s still going to die. She really doesn’t have a choice. She has no way to preserve her life or her son’s life. The only thing that made sense was to trust the word of the Lord through the prophet.
This is the spiritual condition of people for whom the gospel is good news. And God blessed her faith; and He always does. You’ll never know the truth about the gospel until you know the Savior of the gospel.
And the Lord wasn’t through; He had another story to tell, an equally disturbing one, from their standpoint. Verse 27, “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed.” Many widows in Israel; none of them received help from a prophet. Many lepers in Israel, this dreaded disease; “none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
So now we’re in the time of Elisha, about fifty years later, sixty years later. And this is a Gentile; this is an enemy. This is a warrior; this is a soldier. This is a commander who attacked Israel; this is a commander who killed the Jewish people, who took them captive. Second Kings 5 tells his unforgettable story: “Naaman, captain of the army”—great man, highly respected, valiant warrior, “but he was a leper,” outcast. And there was “a little girl from the land of Israel” who was serving Naaman’s wife. And “she said to her mistress, ‘I wish that my master were with the prophet who’s in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.’” She believed the prophet could heal her pagan master’s leprosy.
Well, he’s going to make sure that that happens if it can. In verse 5 of chapter 5, he takes off for Israel and for the king. He’s got “ten talents of silver,” “six thousand shekels of gold,” “ten changes of [clothing].” What’s he going to do? He’s going to buy his healing. Doesn’t work that way. The king was frightened by this offer, thought he was setting him up for some kind of disastrous attack.
To make the long story short, Naaman gets to the prophet Elisha, verse 9, “came with his horses, chariots, stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying”—he didn’t even go out; he just sent a servant out to this very important man—“‘Go wash in the Jordan seven times.’” Somebody titled that sermon one time “Seven Dunks in a Dirty River.” That’s what he was asking. “Go wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you’ll be clean.” He didn’t even go out to meet him.
“Naaman was furious, went away . . . thought, ‘[He’ll] come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’” He needed a whole lot more fanfare than a messenger telling him to go dunk himself seven times in the muddy Jordan. That was humiliating. “What’s wrong with the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus. Couldn’t I wash in them?” “So he turned and went away in a rage.” He was not yet willing to understand his bankruptcy, destitution, and hopelessness. He had to humble himself.
Well, his servants came to him in verse 13 and said, “If the prophet had asked you to do some great thing, you would have done it. How much more then, when he says, “Wash, and be clean?” “So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.” And verse 15, he said, “There’s no God in all the earth, only the God of Israel.”
Sinners have to be humbled. They have to be brought low. At first, Naaman was not willing to humble himself. But he later realized better to be humble and live than be proud and dead. Again, salvation is for the destitute, who have nowhere to turn. And they can’t buy it; it comes as a gift. It comes as a gift.
So Jesus ended that exposition with those two Old Testament accounts. Notice how the people responded, verse 28: “All the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things.” He had just destroyed their works-righteousness system, their system of you-earn-your-way-to-God’s-favor. He had just devastated that. They were furious.
So they went from being impressed in verse 22 to being angry in verse 28, “and they got up” from their seating in the synagogue, “drove Him out of the city, led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.” They were so offended at the idea that God saves poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed, that God ignored Israelite widows and Israelite lepers and saved a destitute Sidonian woman and a Syrian warrior—Gentiles both. They hated that. That’s why Jesus said He did not come to save the righteous, because this is what the “righteous” do with the gospel. It makes them angry.
Verse 30 very simply says, “Passing through their midst, He went His way.” He disappeared before they could throw Him off the cliff.
The Lord has always saved the people who are more desperate. The reason people don’t come to Christ is because they refuse to see themselves in their true sinful condition. It’s fine to talk about the love of Christ, it’s fine to talk about apologetics, fine to give them more information on theology of the gospel. The big issue is, Are they willing to be humiliated, to be shamed, to be humble? And do they have enough faith to give that faith to the Lord and let Him prove Himself?
Put your trust in Christ. You want to find out if Christianity’s true? Cry out to the Lord to save you; you’ll find out really fast. You won’t need a book on apologetics.
Our Father, we thank You for Your truth. We thank You for the living and abiding Word of God. Now bless us as we share around this Table together.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.
This sermon series includes the following messages:
Please contact the publisher to obtain copies of this resource.Publisher Information