Outsiders Being Healed Over Insiders
Read 2 Kings 5: 1-15 and Luke 4: 16-30
Jesus changed things. When Jesus left heaven to come to earth, the people of Israel had been through hundreds of years of silence from God. Crickets. This left plenty of time to envision what the long-awaited Messiah would look like and what He would do for Israel. Unfortunately, the widely accepted view of the coming Messiah was one of a conquering King, not a suffering Savior. The people of Israel wanted freedom from Rome when they needed freedom from sin. To add insult to injury, Jesus was preaching a message of freedom for all. The thought of Gentiles having the same access to God as Jews was repulsive. So repulsive, some were ready to throw Jesus off a cliff after listening to his teachings. That is quite a response to a sermon!
In Luke 4, we find Jesus teaching in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth. Jesus reads from Isaiah 61 and then sits down to continue teaching. The listeners are very impressed with the graciousness of His words, but they quickly become quite catty and demanding. They have heard of the miracles Jesus has performed in Capernaum and they want a sign as well. Jesus has just claimed to be the fulfillment of the Scripture He read and the people want Him to prove it. It’s like they think they should have home field advantage. “Come on, Jesus, you’re from here. Throw us a miracle or two”.
Jesus responds to their self-indulgent request with two stories from Scripture. He reminds them of the story recorded in 1 Kings 17 when the prophet Elijah performs a miracle for a widow in the non-Jewish region of Sidon. There is widespread famine at this time which would mean there were many hungry widows within Israel but Elijah was sent by God to perform a miracle for an “outsider”. A heathen and a woman. Jesus was not one for buttering up the hometown. He then recounts the story of Naaman found in 1 Kings 5: 1-15.
Naaman was the commander of the army of the King of Syria. Syria was a consistent enemy of Israel. The Scripture tells us that Naaman was a given victory by God. The Scripture also tells us that Naaman was a leper. Being a leper was a death sentence both physically and socially in Old Testament society. Apparently, in one conflict, the Syrians had kidnapped a young girl from Israel. She had been given as a servant to Naaman’s wife. She tells Naaman’s wife that a prophet from her home could cure Naaman. Naaman’s people talk to her people and Naaman is indeed healed by Elijah.
Naaman, like the widow of Sidon, was an “outsider”. Well, this is about all the Synagogue attendees can take. Luke 4: 28 reads, “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath”. They then proceed to try and throw Jesus off a cliff.
This reaction is striking to me. The people in the synagogue that day chose to overlook the incredible statement that the Scripture had been fulfilled. The long-awaited Messiah had come. The silence had been shattered. Their freedom was at hand. The Kingdom of God was in sight. What they chose to hear instead was – others would be included. Their reaction should have been one of overwhelming joy and excitement but it was wrath and murderous intent.
At first glance, it would be easy to judge the synagogue attendees that day. How could they be so blind? How could they not make the connection?