All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked (Luke 4:22)
From miracles to teachings, God continued to reveal His grand salvation plan for mankind. Jesus’ teachings were simple and yet filled with power, authority and Godly wisdom that quite often lead Him to quote the words of the prophets and their subsequent fulfilment in Him. Whether His audience was a crowd (Matt 5-7), or a single person (John 4:5-42), Jesus taught excellently. His message was always received with mixed reactions though His glory was always revealed.
Today we are delighted to reflect on His first sermon at Nazareth. It was a dramatic declaration of His global purpose of the salvation for this world as He struck at the core of the Jewish erroneous world view. Luke records that Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath “as was his custom.” He was handed the scroll, He unfurled it to a particular passage – Isaiah 61, and He began to read. Fascinated attention is on Him in verse 20, and open admiration in verse 22. But Jesus doesn’t stop there, He goes on to remind them of the story in 1Kings 17:8-24, of the time when there was famine in Israel, and God had sent the Prophet Elijah to a Zarephath to sustain him. I still wonder why amongst all people in Israel, God sent this great prophet to a woman who was a widow, Gentile (Sidonian), was poor and miserable with a very genuine excuse (1Kings 17:12).
Unmoved by the widow’s excuse, he kept insisting that He should be given a small meal of bread. The widow’s response is of great faith and obedience to God, and through this God restored food and water, oil and wine to the people of Israel. Zarephath didn’t square in the Jewish value system, why if anyone ought to be singled out as a model of faith, it ought to be one of the prominent men of the community, not some poor widow up north.
Jesus brought forth another example of a gentile (2Kings 5), Naaman who was an army commander of the Syrian army and a leper. He was cleansed by the power of God when all other lepers –all Hebrews were left unclean. All the Jews cared about was that vengeance had to be poured out in its fullness to the Gentiles. Jesus isn’t trying to offend the Jews but He is emphasizing to everyone the beginning of the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah that a New Creation has begun in which there is good news for the poor, release for the captives, sight for the blind and liberation for all those who are oppressed. The Good News isn’t a gift for the Jews to hoard for themselves but a responsibility for everyone to share graciously with others.
Jesus reminded the Jews and us of Zarephath and Namaan so that we might pick lessons of how He reveals His glory to anyone at any time regardless of social status and level of ambition. Simply believe His great teachings, and you will realize His glory.