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Jesus – “No prophet is acceptable in his own country”

In the previous post, Jesus States His Mission, we read in Luke chapter 4 where Jesus read from a scroll of Isaiah and declared that the words he read there were his mission, and that he was the fulfillment of that prophecy;

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luk 4:18-19 WEB)

What is fascinating is what happened next.

He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began to tell them, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All testified about him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth, and they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will tell me this parable, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done at Capernaum, do also here in your hometown.’” He said, “Most certainly I tell you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But truly I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land. Elijah was sent to none of them, except to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed, except Naaman, the Syrian.” They were all filled with wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things. They rose up, threw him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill that their city was built on, that they might throw him off the cliff. But he, passing through the middle of them, went his way.  (Luk 4:20-30 WEB)

Jesus made a declaration. Jesus read from Isaiah and said that he was the fulfillment of the prophecy. He said the spirit is on him. He says he is anointed.

Verse 22 says the people from that community, Jesus’s hometown, listened to him speak, and then said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” The implication is obvious. Jesus is someone they know. They have seen his humble lifestyle. He’s nobody special. They thought he was speaking crazily to say he was anointed by God.

Jesus knew what to expect next. The people were going to want great things from him like they heard he was able to do in other places. They said as much with “Whatever we have heard done at Capernaum, do also here in your hometown.”  Jesus explained that although there are many people with various challenges in Israel God only chose a select few to experience the miraculous. He gave the examples of the widow in Sidon, and Naaman. In each of those cases, the people receiving the blessing were already seeking God and were obedient to him.

“Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to sustain you.” (1Ki 17:9 WEB)

The widow was a woman of faith whom God blessed for her faith. And Naaman had traveled far and long seeking a man of God, at the behest of his ruler, who believed that there was a God in Israel that could heal him. Even still, Naaman had to obey the simple task Elisha gave him to do under God’s direction and had to be convinced by his servants to do it. Nevertheless, he did and he was rewarded for his faith.

These people in Jesus’ hometown were not believers in Jesus. They did not fall into the category of the widow, and Naaman. In fact, they tried to throw him off a cliff. What a comment that is on how a community can treat a person who rises up for God. Jesus’ point is God doesn’t just pour out blessings on people who challenge him with, “show me your great mighty power.” He rewards faithfulness and believing.

So Jesus knew all this. He taught an important principle that this is what happens to God’s anointed in the towns where they grow up. People can’t see past the human frailties of somebody that’s lived among them for so long.

There is a lesson here. If a person gets called to do something for God, they may have to leave and do it somewhere else. The people who have seen you growing up, have seen you at your worst and your weakest, are probably going to have a hard time believing that you are called into service as God’s person. While you are speaking about some incredible and wonderful aspects of God, it may be that all they can see are those times that you fell on your face.

This principle that “no prophet is acceptable in his hometown” is in all four gospels. It may have been that they are all accounts of the same incident, but at least some scholars put the times that Jesus said this at least two. The account in the gospel of Mark gives a few more details about one of the incidents:

He went out from there. He came into his own country, and his disciples followed him. When the Sabbath had come, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many hearing him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things?” and, “What is the wisdom that is given to this man, that such mighty works come about by his hands? Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judah, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were offended at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house.” He could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people, and healed them. He marveled because of their unbelief. He went around the villages teaching.
(Mar 6:1-6 WEB)

Verse three says that Jesus had brothers, James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. It also says that he had sisters. So it’s obvious that the community knew the family, and thought this stance of Jesus was presumptuous, to say the least.

Verse four elaborates on Jesus’ expression: Jesus says that a prophet is not only without honor in his own country but as far as his own relatives, in his own house, that’s a different story. A man of God may be well-respected in the nation or somewhere else, but to the community where he grew up and even to his wife and kids, well, that’s another story.

Verse five is the insight that Jesus could not do mighty works because of this reaction, although it does say that he laid his hands on a few people and healed them. Verse six identifies unbelief as the limiting factor. It wasn’t Jesus is unbelief that limited him it was the community’s unbelief that limited them from receiving what Jesus could do for them.

The gospel of Matthew says it precisely:

He didn’t do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. (Mat 13:58 WEB)

Again, it wasn’t Jesus’ unbelief that stopped the mighty working of the Savior, it was theirs.

These verses talk specifically about the reception of a prophet. A prophet is a person who speaks for God what God directs them to speak on his behalf. He is a spokesman. However, it is generally accepted that this principle applies where people cannot accept that a person may be called to do something and/or has some special talent or ability.

Jesus set the example for how to respond to the situation where your community, even your family, may not be able to receive what you have been called to do for God. Jesus did his mighty works away from where he grew up. We shouldn’t be surprised if we have to do the same.

These are the words of our Lord: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house.”

© copyright 2010-2020 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.

August 15th, 2010 Posted by | Jesus' Teaching and Miracles, Prophecy | one comment

1 Comment »

  1. […] must be said that there are other verses in Scripture that show the limits of believing. There is a previous article that talks about how Jesus was limited from doing great things because of the believing of the […]

    Pingback by Jesus Taught Miraculous Believing | OriginalChristianity.Net | September 20, 2010

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