Luke’s account continues Jesus’ remarks and records the hostile response of the congregation. This story is a paradigm (a Greek verb meaning “to show,” “example” or “pattern”) for Jesus’ ministry and for the ministry of the church.
Jesus’ preaching begins with the word “Today.” The waiting is over. The time has come. The Jewish people have waited centuries for the messiah. This story should be instructive to us. We know that Jesus is the Son of God, more than just the son of Joseph. He comes to fulfill the purpose of God, not to be restricted either by the demands of his own townspeople or the narrowing of his mission. Prophets are seldom popular, because God sends them to say unpopular things. They tell of judgment and call people to make changes that they don’t want to make.
The stories are from 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 5:1-14. The Jewish people must not consider their relationship with God to be an exclusive franchise. Jesus reinforced that message by beginning his work in Capernaum (see Matthew 4:13), a place where many Gentiles live. They cannot expect exclusive privileges just because they are Jewish.
Jewish people think of Isaiah 61 as a promise to Israel. They think that the day of God’s vengeance is a promising judgment on Israel’s enemies. However, Jesus reminds them of a low point in their history, when God brought famine on Israel as a judgment but saved a Gentile widow. Jesus also reminds them of God’s mercy on Gentile Naaman. His message is the opposite of the one that they expect to hear, and they are furious.
When a person responds faithfully to God’s call, God will not allow an intruder to defeat that call. God’s servants have been imprisoned, stoned, beaten, and even martyred— but they have not been stopped.
In what ways do we respond to the challenges of mission and ministry today? How might this renew or revitalize our church community?