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§ 128. Christ appears in the Synagogue at Nazareth.—His Life is Endangered. (Luke, iv., 16-30.)

From Capernaum Christ went to Nazareth, but the fame of his great deeds at the former place had gone before him. All eyes were turned upon him when he appeared in the synagogue on the Sabbath; they had known him as a very different person from what fame now proclaimed him to be. He took the scroll of the prophets that was handed to him, and, Divinely guided, opened it at Isaiah, lxi., 1. We may infer from the words of this passage that he proclaimed the arrival of the prophetical Jubilee, and declared himself to be the promised one that was to open the eyes of the blind, and to bring liberty to those who languished in the bondage of sin and Satan.

But his hearers were unconscious of their spiritual bondage, and longed for no deliverance; they knew not of their blindness, and asked not to be healed. Engrossed in the affairs of life, they were conscious 187of no higher wants, and, therefore, although his words made an impression, it was only upon the surface. Their astonishment that a man whom they had known from childhood should speak such words of power was soon followed by the doubt, “How comes it that such a man should do such great things?” Incapable of appreciating the heavenly gifts which Christ offered, they wished him (in their hearts, if not with their lips) to work wonders there as he had done at Capernaum.

We have seen already309309   See p. 136. that the fundamental principles on which Christ acted forbade him to accept a challenge of this sort. He could do nothing for those who insisted on seeing in order to believe. Slaves to the outward seeming, and destitute of a spiritual sense, they would have been satisfied with nothing he might do; and he refused them with a rebuke that pointed to the ground of their offence and unbelief: “Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal thyself;whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.” He then quoted, with special reference to Nazareth, the proverb which he had, on another occasion, applied to the whole of Galilee, “A prophet is without honour in his own country;”310310   The Nazarenes represent the character of the whole Jewish people. The doctrine which Christ arrayed against them—that God’s grace is not imparted according to any human standard—contains the germ of Paul’s ninth chapter to the Romans, which meets similar Jewish demands. and illustrated, by examples from the Old Testament (in opposition to their contracted arrogance), the truth that the grace of God, in the distribution and application of miraculous gifts, acts freely; so that they could not extort a miracle by their challenge, if it was the will of God that none should be wrought. He came by no means to heal all the Jewish nation.

At this rebuke the wrath of the scribes and of the rude multitude was enkindled against him,311311   Luke’s account of this is very graphic, but very brief; many other things may have occurred to stir up the anger of the people. But when we remember the fame that had preceded his coming, the striking exordium with which he opened his speech (addressed, however, only to susceptible souls), and, finally, that, instead of complying with their request, he refused and rebuked them at the same time, we may readily conceive why they should be angry at the “son of the carpenter,” now coming forward with the pretensions of a prophet. Their excited selfishness now took the garb of zeal against a false prophet. According to Luke’s account, Christ wrought no miracle here, and this accords with the words he uttered; the less detailed statements of the other Evangelists (Matt., xiii., 58; Mark, vi., 5) imply that he wrought a few. In this last case, it might be supposed that he did not leave the town immediately after the synagogue service, and that, meanwhile, something occur red to excite the people. It is probable, however, that we must consider Luke’s statement the most definite, both in view of the general principles on which Christ wrought his mighty works, and also of the special relation in which he stood to the Nazarenes. and the protecting hand of God alone saved him from the death which threatened him.

This rejection of Christ at Nazareth, due mainly to the disposition of the chief men, is worthy of note as a type of the rejection which 188awaited him at the hands of the leaders of the whole nation from the same cause.

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