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The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:


“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,


to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’ ” 24And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

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This was also the reason why he delayed his baptism till the thirtieth year of his age, (Luke 3:23.) Baptism was an appendage to the Gospel: and therefore it began at the same time with the preaching of the Gospel. When Christ was preparing to preach the Gospel, he was introduced by Baptism into his office; and at the same time was endued with the Holy Spirit. When John beholds the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ, it is to remind him, that nothing carnal or earthly must be expected in Christ, but that he comes as a godlike man,297297     “Un homme rempli de Dieu;” — “a man filled with God.” descended from heaven, in whom the power of the Holy Spirit reigns. We know, indeed, that he is God manifested in the flesh, (1 Timothy 3:16:) but even in his character as a servant, and in his human nature, there is a heavenly power to be considered.

The second question is, why did the Holy Spirit appear in the shape of a dove, rather than in that of fire? The answer depends on the analogy, or resemblance between the figure and the thing represented. We know what the prophet Isaiah ascribes to Christ.

“He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench,” (Isaiah 42:2, 3.)

On account of this mildness of Christ, by which he kindly and gently called, and every day invites, sinners to the hope of salvation, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the appearance of a dove And in this symbol has been held out to us an eminent token of the sweetest consolation, that we may not fear to approach to Christ, who meets us, not in the formidable power of the Spirit, but clothed with gentle and lovely grace.

He saw the Spirit of God That is, John saw: for it immediately follows, that the Spirit descended on Christ There now arises a third question, how could John see the Holy Spirit? I reply: As the Spirit of God is everywhere present, and fills heaven and earth, he is not said, in a literal sense, to descend, and the same observation may be made as to his appearance. Though he is in himself invisible, yet he is spoken of as beheld, when he exhibits any visible sign of his presence. John did not see the essence of the Spirit, which cannot be discerned by the senses of men;298298     “A parler proprement, il ne descend point, et semblablement ne peut estre veu.” — “Strictly speaking, he does not descend, and in like manner he cannot be seen.” nor did he see his power, which is not beheld by human senses, but only by the understanding of faith: but he saw the appearance of a dove, under which God showed the presence of his Spirit. It is a figure of speech,299299     “C'est une maniere de parler par Metonymie, (ainsi que parlent les gens de lettres.”)—”It is a way of speaking by Metonymy, (as learned people talk.”) by which the sign is put for the thing signified, the name of a spiritual object being applied to the visible sign.

While it is foolish and improper to press, as some do, the literal meaning, so as to include both the sign and the thing signified, we must observe, that the connection subsisting between the sign and the thing signified is denoted by these modes of expression. In this sense, the bread of the Lord’s Supper is called the body of Christ, (1 Corinthians 10:16:) not because it is so, but because it assures us, that the body of Christ is truly given to us for food. Meanwhile, let us bear in mind what I have just mentioned, that we must not imagine a descent of the thing signified, so as to seek it in the sign, as if it had a bodily place there, but ought to be abundantly satisfied with the assurance, that God grants, by his secret power, all that he holds out to us by figures.

Another question more curious than useful has been put. Was this dove a solid body, or the appearance of one? Though the words of Luke seem to intimate that it was not the substance of a body, but only a bodily appearance; yet, lest I should afford to any man an occasion of wrangling, I leave the matter unsettled.

Luke 4:15. He was glorified by all. This is stated by Luke for the express purpose of informing us, that, from the very commencement, a divine power shone in Christ, and compelled even those, who cherished a malignant spirit of contradiction, to join in admiring him.

16. And he came to Nazareth The Evangelists are very careful to show by what sort of proofs Christ became known, a striking instance of which is here related by Luke. By explaining a passage in Isaiah, and applying it to the instruction which was immediately required, he turned upon him the eyes of all. He entered, according to his custom, into the synagogue Hence we conclude, that not only did he address the people in the open streets and highways, but, as far as he had opportunity, observed the usual order of the church. We see also that, though the Jews were become very degenerate, though every thing was in a state of confusion, and the condition of the church was miserably corrupted, one good thing still remained: they read the Scriptures publicly, and took occasion from them to teach and admonish the people.

Hence also it is evident, what was the true and lawful method of keeping the Sabbath. When God commanded his people to abstain from working on that day, it was not that they might give themselves up to indolent repose, but, on the contrary, that they might exercise themselves in meditating on his works. Now, the minds of men are naturally blind to the consideration of his works, and must therefore be guided by the rule of Scripture. Though Paul includes the Sabbath in an enumeration of the shadows of the law, (Colossians 2:16,) yet, in this respect, our manner of observing it is the same with that of the Jews: the people must assemble to hear the word, to public prayers, and to the other exercises of religion. It was for this purpose that the Jewish Sabbath was succeeded by the Lord’s Day.

Now, if we make a comparison of dates, this passage will be sufficient to prove clearly, that the corruptions of the Papal Hierarchy, in our own time, are more shocking and detestable than those which existed among the Jews under the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. For the reading of Scripture, which was then in use, has not only grown obsolete under the Pope, but is driven from the churches by fire and sword; with this exception, that such portions of it, as they think proper, are chanted by them in an unknown tongue. Christ rose up to read, not only that his voice might be better heard, but in token of reverence: for the majesty of Scripture deserves that its expounders should make it apparent, that they proceed to handle it with modesty and reverence.

17. He found the passage There is no doubt that Christ deliberately selected this passage. Some think that it was presented to him by God;322322     “Aucuns pensent que par la volonte de Dieu il l'ait recontre sans le chercher.” — “Some think that, by the will of God, he found it without seeking for it.” but, as a liberty of choice was allowed him, I choose to say that, by his own judgment, he took this passage in preference to others. Isaiah there predicts that, after the Babylonish captivity, there will still be witnesses of the grace of God, who shall gather the people from destruction, and from the darkness of death, and restore, by a spiritual power, the Church, which has been overwhelmed by so many calamities. But as that redemption was to be proclaimed in the name and authority of Christ alone, he uses the singular number, and speaks in the name of Christ, that he may more powerfully awaken the minds of the godly to strong confidence. It is certain, that what is here related belongs properly to Christ alone, for two reasons: first, because he alone was endued with the fullness of the Spirit, (John 3:34,) to be the witness and ambassador of our reconciliation to God; (and, for this reason, Paul (Ephesians 2:17) assigns peculiarly to him, what belongs to all the ministers of the Gospel, namely, that he, “came and preached peace to them which were afar off, and to them that were nigh:”) secondly, because he alone, by the power of his Spirit, performs and grants all the benefits that are here promised.

18. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me These words inform us that, both in his own person and in his ministers, Christ does not act by human authority, or in a private capacity, but has been sent by God to restore salvation to his Church. He does nothing by the suggestion or advice of men, but everything by the guidance of the Spirit of God; and this he declares, in order that the faith of the godly may be founded on the authority and power of God. The next clause, because he hath anointed me, is added by way of explanation. Many make a false boast, that they have the Spirit of God, while they are destitute of his gifts: but Christ proves by the anointing, as the effect, that he is endued with the Spirit of God. He then states the purpose for which the graces of the Spirit were bestowed upon him. It was, that he might preach the Gospel to the poor Hence we conclude, that those, who are sent by God to preach the Gospel, are previously furnished with necessary gifts, to qualify them for so important an office. It is, therefore, very ridiculous that, under the pretense of a divine calling, men totally unfit for discharging the office should take upon themselves the name of pastors. We have an instance of this in the Papacy, where mitred bishops, who are more ignorant than as many asses, proudly and openly vaunt, that they are Christ’s Vicars, and the only lawful prelates of the Church. We are expressly informed, that the Lord anoints his servants, because the true and efficacious preaching of the Gospel, as Paul says, does not lie “in the enticing words of man’s wisdom,” but in the heavenly power of the Spirit.

To the poor The prophet shows what would be the state of the Church before the manifestation of the Gospel, and what is the condition of all of us without Christ. Those persons to whom God promises restoration are called poor, and broken, and captives, and blind, and bruised The body of the people was oppressed by so many miseries, that these descriptions applied to every one of its members. Yet there were many who, amidst their poverty, blindness, slavery, and death, flattered themselves, or were insensible to their condition. The consequence was, that few were prepared to accept this grace.

And, first, we are here taught what is the design of the preaching of the Gospel, and what advantage it brings to us. We were altogether overwhelmed by every kind of evils: but there God cheers us by his life-giving light, to rescue us from the deep abyss of death, and to restore us to complete happiness. It tends, in no ordinary degree, to recommend the Gospel, that we obtain from it inestimable advantage. Secondly, we see who are invited by Christ, and made partakers of promised grace. They are persons, who are every way miserable, and destitute of all hope of salvation. But we are reminded, on the other hand, that we cannot enjoy those benefits which Christ bestows, in any other manner, than by being humbled under a deep conviction of our distresses, and by coming, as hungry souls, to seek him as our deliverer: for all who swell with pride, and do not groan under their captivity, nor are displeased with their blindness, lend a deaf ear to this prediction, and treat it with contempt.

19. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord Many think that here the prophet makes an allusion to the Jubilee, and I have no objection to that view. But it is proper to observe, that he purposely anticipates a doubt, which might disturb and shake weak minds, while the Lord held them in suspense, by delaying so long the promised salvation. He therefore makes the time of redemption to depend on the purpose, or good pleasure, of God. “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee.” Paul calls it the fullness of the time, (Galatians 4:4,) that believers may learn not to indulge in excessive curiosity, but to acquiesce in the will of God, — and that we may rest satisfied with the conviction, that salvation was manifested in Christ, at the time which seemed good in the sight of God.

20. The eyes of all who were in the synagogue God touched their hearts, I doubt not, with astonishment, which made them more attentive, and induced them to listen to Christ, while he was speaking. For they must have been withheld from opposing this discourse at the commencement, or breaking it off in the midst, when they were sufficiently disposed, as we shall see, to treat Christ with contempt.

21. Today is fulfilled Christ did not merely affirm in a few words, but proved by a reference to facts, that the time was now come, when it was the will of God to restore his ruined church. The object of his discourse was, to expound the prediction clearly to his hearers: just as expositors handle Scripture in a proper and orderly manner, when they apply it to the circumstances of those whom they address. He says that it was fulfilled in their ears, rather than in their eyes, because the bare sight of the fact was of little value, if doctrine had not held the chief place.

22. And all gave testimony to him Here Luke draws our attention, first, to the truly divine grace, which breathed in the lips of Christ; and then presents a lively picture of the ingratitude of men. Using a Hebrew idiom, he calls them discourses of grace, — that is, discourses which manifested the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. The inhabitants of Nazareth are thus compelled to acknowledge and admire God speaking in Christ; and yet they voluntarily refuse to render to the heavenly doctrine of Christ the honor which it deserves. Is not this the son of Joseph? Instead of regarding this circumstance as an additional reason for glorifying God, they bring it forward as an objection, and wickedly make it a ground of offense, that they may have some plausible excuse for rejecting what is said by the son of Joseph. Thus we daily see many who, while they are convinced that what they hear is the word of God, seize on frivolous apologies for refusing to obey it. And certainly the only reason why we are not affected, as we ought to be, by the power of the Gospel, is, that we throw hinderances in our own way, and that our malice quenches that light, the power of which we are unwilling to acknowledge.

23. Physician, heal thyself From the words of Christ it may be easily inferred, that he was treated with contempt by the inhabitants of Nazareth: for he states publicly those thoughts, which he knew to exist in their minds. He afterwards imputes to them the blame of his declining to work miracles among them, and charges them with malice, in bestowing no honor on a prophet of God. The objection, which he anticipates, is this: “There is no reason to wonder, if his countrymen hold him in little estimation, since he does not dignify his own country, as he does other places, by working miracles; and, consequently, it is but a just revenge, if his own countrymen, whom he treats with less respect than all others, are found to reject him.” Such is the meaning of the common proverb, that a physician ought to begin with himself, and those immediately connected with him, before he exhibits his skill in healing others. The amount of the objection is, that Christ acts improperly, in paying no respect to his own country, while he renders other cities of Galilee illustrious by his miracles. And this was regarded by the inhabitants of Nazareth as a fair excuse for rejecting him in their turn.

24. Verily, I say to you He reproaches them with the blame of preventing him from exerting his power among them as he did in other places, by working miracles: for the unbelief of men presents an obstruction to God, and hinders him from working, as might be desired, for their salvation, (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5.) Christ could not perform any miracle among them, because “they did not believe on him,” (John 12:37.) Not that it is in the power of men to bind the hands of God, but that he withholds the advantage of his works from those who are rendered unworthy of them by their infidelity. The answer given by Christ amounts to this: “If you wish to have a share in miracles, why do you not give place to God? or rather, why do you proudly reject the minister of his power? You receive, therefore, a just reward for your contempt, when I pass by you, and give a preference to other places, for proving by miracles, that I am the Messiah of God, who have been appointed to restore the church.”

And, certainly, it was intolerable ingratitude that, when God was pleased to have his Son brought up in their city, such a person, who had been among them from his infancy, was despised. Justly, therefore, did he withdraw his hand, that it might not be exposed to the derision of those wicked despisers.326326     “Afin de n.e servir de passe temps a de si meschans contempteurs des graces de Dieu.” — “That it might not serve for amusement to such wicked despisers of God's favors.” Hence we learn what value the Lord puts on his word, when, in order to punish for the contempt of it, he takes from the midst of us those favors, which are the testimonies of his presence. With respect to that saying, no prophet is acceptable in his own country, the reader may consult what I have said on a saying of the same import, recorded by the Evangelist John: “A prophet hath no honor in his own country,” (John 4:44.)

25. There were many widows After throwing back upon themselves the blame of their being deprived of miracles, he produces two examples to prove, that they ought not to think it strange, if God prefers strangers to the inhabitants of the country, and that they ought not to find fault with him for obeying the call of God, as was formerly done by Elijah and Elisha. He throws out an indirect hint as to their vanity and presumption, in entertaining a dislike of him, because he had been brought up among them. When there was a great famine for three years and a half, there were many widows in Israel, whose want of food Elijah was not commanded to relieve, but he was sent to a woman, who belonged to a foreign nation, Zidon, (1 Kings 17:9.) In like manner, Elisha healed no lepers among his countrymen, but he healed Naaman, a Syrian, (2 Kings 5:10.)

Though his reproofs strike the inhabitants of Nazareth with peculiar severity, yet he charges the whole nation with ingratitude, because, for a long period, almost all of them had proceeded to more shameful contempt of the Lord, in proportion as he had approached nearer to them. For how did it come about, that a woman, who was a foreigner, was preferred by God to all the Israelites, but because the prophet had been rejected by them, and compelled to seek refuge in a heathen land? And why did God choose that Naaman, a Syrian, should be healed by Elisha, but to put a disgrace on the nation of Israel? The meaning, therefore, is, that the same thing happens now as in former times, when God sends his power to a great distance among foreigners, because he is rejected by the inhabitants of the country.

Meanwhile, Christ intimates that, though he is despised by his countrymen, his glory is in no degree diminished: because God will still be able, to their shame and confusion, to dignify and exalt his Son, as he formerly gave honor to his prophets in the midst of the Gentiles. In this way the foolish glorying in the flesh is repressed, when we see the Lord rain, not only where and when he pleases, but in distant corners, to the neglect of that country which he had chosen for his residence. Hence, also, may be collected the general doctrine that we have no right to prescribe any rule to God in disposing his benefits, so as to prevent him from rejecting those who hold the highest rank, and conferring honor on the lowest and most contemptible; and that we are not at liberty to oppose him, when he entirely subverts that order, which would have approved itself to our judgment. Our attention is, no doubt, drawn to a contrast between Israel and the heathen nations: but still we ought to hold, that none are chosen, in preference to others, for their own excellence, but that it proceeds rather from the wonderful purpose of God, the height and depth of which, though the reason may be hidden from us, we are bound to acknowledge and adore.

28. Were filled with wrath They perceived that the object of those two examples, which Christ had produced, was to show, that the grace of God would be removed from them to others:327327     “Que la grace de Dieu leur seroit ostee, et envoyee a autres;” — “that the grace of God would be taken from them, and sent to others.” and therefore they considered that he had spoken to their dishonor. But, instead of having their consciences stung to the quick, and seeking a remedy for their vices by correcting them, they are only driven to madness. Thus ungodly men not only resist, with obstinacy, the judgments of God, but rise into cruelty against his servants. Hence it is evident, how forcible are the reproofs which proceed from the Spirit of God: for the minds of those who would willingly evade them,328328     “Qui les laisseroyent volontiers escouler sans y penser;” — “who would willingly allow them to steal away, without thinking of them.” are inflamed with rage. Again, when we see that the minds of men are so envenomed, that they become mad against God, whenever they are treated with some degree of roughness, we ought to implore the Spirit of meekness, (Galatians 5:23,) that we may not be driven, by the same fury, into such a destructive war.329329     “Afin que ne soyons transportez a entreprendre une guerre si folle, a nostre grande confusion;” — “in order that we may not be hurried away, to undertake a war so foolish, to our great confusion.”

30. But he, passing through the midst of them When Luke says, that Jesus passed through the middle of the crowd, and so escaped out of their hands, he means that God rescued him, by an extraordinary miracle, from immediate death. This example teaches us that, though our adversaries may prevail so far, that our life may seem to be placed at their disposal, yet that the power of God will always be victorious to preserve us, so long as he shall be pleased to keep us in the world, either by tying their hands, or by blinding their eyes, or by stupifying their minds and hearts.