Studying God’s Word

Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19

1 Corinthians 12:31—13:13

Luke 4:21-30 [72C]

On the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear in the Gospel reading the rest of the story of Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth. Luke tells the incident in such a way that it foreshadows the rest of the Gospel storyline. In many ways, Luke 4:16-30 is the “Gospel within the Gospel.” The Gospel reading begins with the same words spoken by Jesus at the conclusion of the Gospel reading last Sunday: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Recall from last Sunday that Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:12. Although some of the Nazorean villagers were “amazed” at his words, others asked the question, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” While this may seem an innocent and even good question from the modern-day perspective, in the ancient world, this was actually a public challenge leveled against Jesus for claiming to fulfill Scripture. Some of the Nazoreans questioned how could a man whose father was a village craftsman claim such authority? Jesus’ initial retort to the public challenge (“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place”) does not alleviate the tensions, since now Jesus claims the status of a prophet. The opening exchange between Jesus and some of the Nazorean villagers foreshadows the tensions that Jesus will experience in his public ministry from many of the Jewish people.   Jesus then goes on to give an extended response (and defense) to those who questioned Jesus’ authority and status. He cites passages from 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 5 where two Israelite prophets (Elijah and Elisha) were sent not to the people of Israel, but to Gentiles (the widow from Sidon and the leper Naaman from Syria). This anticipates the mission to the Gentiles so prominent in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. (In Acts, the roles of Peter and Paul will be central to the Gentile mission of the early church). The reaction of “fury” from the people in the synagogue in Nazareth to Jesus’ assertion that he will turn to the Gentiles with his good news is a preview to Jesus’ suffering and passion. Luke offers the most dramatic and violent account of the Nazorean reaction to Jesus: they drove Jesus out of the town of Nazareth to the brow of the hill upon which the village was built in order “to hurl him down headlong” (compare this reaction to Mk 6:5-6 and Mt 13:58). The sudden and dramatic turn of events (“But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away”) is a prelude to the Resurrection after the cross. It is easy to see why many have claimed Luke 4:16-30 as Luke’s “mini-Gospel.” Luke’s skills as a historian and storyteller are on full display as he reshapes Mark’s version of the rejection at Nazareth to align with his theological and literary aims. In the first reading, we hear the opening verses to the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. The Lord forewarned the young Jeremiah that as a prophet to the nations, he would experience great resistance from all the people of Judah—from the political and religious leaders (kings, princes, and priests) to the common people. The Lord warned Jeremiah: “They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you.” Just as with Jeremiah, we see the Lord’s divine protection in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus who likewise was met with hostility from the very people he was sent to save. But Jesus possessed the depth of love Paul describes in his First Letter to the Corinthians. Jesus’ love was patient and kind, and never failed even in the face of rejection and injury.

Dr. Daniel J. Scholz