February 3rd: “Why Not Us?”

In a few sentences Jesus provokes the people from praising him to driving him away. What boundaries have we created to limit the application of God’s grace and thereby limited the action of God’s grace in our lives?

This Week’s Passage: Luke 4:21-30

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year C for Sunday February 3rd

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

21 – – Summary of Jesus’ comments on Isaiah about the year of the Lord’s favor.

22 – – Local boy becomes great preacher and town is inspired.

23 – – Why did the proverb apply? What did they expect Jesus to heal himself from?

– – – People always look for signs and miracles, as entertainment.

24 – – Consider difference between a prophet and a preacher.

25-27 – Why might outsiders be more receptive to a prophet than an insider? Conversely, what are the dangers of an insider speaking prophetically?

28-29 – Prophets are unwelcome.

30 – – But Jesus’ time had not yet come.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Second part of passage on Jesus preaching. Consider as one pericope?
  • Preceded and followed by Jesus going to other towns, where he preaches with authority and casts out demons.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

Mark 6:1-6 – Very terse account. People question where he gained wisdom and power. Jesus amazed by people’s unbelief.

Matthew 13:54-58 – Very similar to Mark 6:1-6.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

Prophet: mouthpiece for God, chosen by God, often proscriptive rather than predictive.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

Jesus begins speaking graciously but shifted to speaking prophetically, telling his neighbors they were closed to the word of God, which riles them to violence.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

Jesus begins speaking graciously but shifted to speaking prophetically, telling his neighbors they were closed to the word of God, which riles them to violence.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: No prophet is acceptable in his hometown.
  • Emotional Center: The people go from speaking highly of Jesus to attempting to kill him.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • Would a more pastoral approach have turned their hearts?
    No. Some people will steadfastly refuse to receive Christ.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Pastors, Elders, and Deacons are set apart, ordained, by God through the voice of the people. None-the-less they are to discern the will of God rather than the will of the people. Unlike political leaders, they do not need to run for office, but must have the courage to do what is right, even at the risk of being run out of town.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

R. Alan Culpepper (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Luke.” Abingdon, 1995.) explains the proverb “Doctor, heal yourself,” as a reaction to the townspeople saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Thus they may have expected a great prophecy that would have healed them of their ignominy (e.g. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” – John 1:46). Yet like the neighbors of Elijah or Elisha, they were unwilling to act with the faith of the woman at Sidon or Naaman. He reflects: “Those who would exclude others thereby exclude themselves. … Jesus could not do more for his hometown because they were not open to him. How much more might God be able to do with us if we were ready to transcend the boundaries of community and limits of love that we ourselves have erected?”

Fred B. Craddock (Interpretation: Luke. JKP, 1990.) interprets Jesus’ two proverbs as indicating the Nazarenes were resentful that Jesus had taken God’s favor to others beyond Nazareth, that included non-Jews.

Perry H. Biddle (Preaching the Lectionary: A workbook for year C. WJKP, 1991.) is reminded that Jesus was and was not Joseph’s son and thus interprets the proverbs cited by Jesus as his moment of differentiation and ceases to be merely “one of us.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Jesus provokes those who might constrict his ministry.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

What boundaries have we created to limit the application of God’s grace and thereby limited the action of God’s grace in our lives?

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