Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The Unfelt Need
There is a category in book publishing called “Felt Need”. Felt Need books are designed to attract people who know they need something—like they are lonely, or have lost a loved one, or need help parenting. As we find Jesus introducing Himself and His mission to a hometown crowd—we find the opposite. They have a need that only He can fulfill, but they don’t feel it, they don’t know it, and to suggest that they are in need leads them to react strongly and violently.
He was baptized by John, anointed by the Holy Spirit, spoken of by the Father and then driven by the same Spirit into the wilderness for a series of tests, where the Devil tried to get Him to act independently of God to fulfill His physical needs, take a shortcut to kingship by bowing to Lucifer, and try to get the Father to prove His love by forcing Him to rescue Jesus from a fall.
Now He steps out of the wilderness and into the public spotlight—getting mixed reviews from those He meets.
All through this section (through 9:50) we answer the question: “Who is this Man?” Jesus teaches and heals—sometimes to acclaim, sometimes to severe opposition. Last time the Devil introduced us to Jesus as the “Son of God”. Now Jesus gets to do the introducing Himself.
14 – 15
We know from Matthew’s gospel (4:12-13) that Jesus left the area of the Judean wilderness when He heard of John’s arrest by Herod. Judea was not Herod’s realm so Jesus marches right into the heart of Herod’s territory. His new home was the Galilee region and so He spent time there doing what He usually did—entering the synagogues on the Sabbath and teaching from the Scriptures.
The idea of a synagogue came about during the Babylonian exile when the Jews needed a common place to gather and worship.
Luke notes that early in Jesus’ ministry he was “acclaimed” by everyone. It means to “praise, extol, magnify and celebrate”.
This wasn’t the case when He returned to where He grew up—in Nazareth.
16 – 21
This event takes place in Matthew 13:53-58 and Mark 6:1-6. Luke compresses Jesus’ early ministry in Galilee to focus on this event because it is so important in many respects.
To understand what Jesus did here, we need to learn a little about synagogue life in Palestine at the time of Christ. It took ten men to even have a synagogue. The congregation would recite the Shema (Deut 6:4-9):
“Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Then they would have said a prayer, then a reading from the Torah (the first five books of the Bible, the books of Moses), followed by a reading of the prophets. The scroll would have been read in Hebrew, then translated into Aramaic, the dominate language of the region. After that someone would do a teaching to tie the Law and the Prophets reading together. The service would then close with a benediction.
There’s a strong likelihood that Jesus spoke during that exposition period of the service. He already has a reputation as a rabbi and often travelling rabbis were invited to speak. Since Jesus grew up there it would have been an even greater honor. I suspect that Mary was there—and perhaps that’s where we get this story, but we don’t know for sure.
They stood up to read, then sat down to teach. Jesus reads from Isaiah 61:1-2a. He stops just short of the rest of verse 2 which reads: “…and the day of our God’s vengeance.” This is one of the places that shows us that prophecy can have both a near and far fulfillment. Right now is a time of grace from God. Later there will be a time of vengeance (Revelation 6:16, 14:10).
The section from Isaiah should not be confused with the Lord being anointed to solve a physical problem but a spiritual one.
- It isn’t poor in money so much as poor in spirit (knowing they have a lack in their hearts)
- freedom to people taken captive by sin, and
- giving sight to those who are blinded to their own spiritual condition.
- In that condition we are oppressed—and the Messiah comes to set us free from all of that.
The idea of “proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor” speaks of the Year of Jubilee (Lev 25:8-17) where all debts were canceled and slaves freed. They didn’t know it, but Jesus is speaking clearly of God’s grace and forgiveness, poured out through the sacrifice of what this man would do by going to the cross.
The Jews would, however, have known that this was a Messianic section. Jesus then astounds them by saying that literally as they were hearing this—it was being fulfilled. The reaction is interesting—and mixed.
The lines seem to have been drawn depending on whether or not people knew Jesus growing up. Those that took the words on face value were “amazed by the gracious words” but those who thought of Him as no more than Joseph’s boy—thought otherwise. How do you receive Jesus’ gracious words? Do you take them as He gave them or do you overlay them with your own preconceptions or misconceptions? Perhaps it is the behavior of Christians that changes your opinion of the Christ. Perhaps it is what other people have told you about Him. I would challenge you to simply listen to the words, then look at Jesus’ actions and let that be the arbiter of your opinions as you ask God to help you understand.
Apparently some of the folks in Nazareth were more curious than seeking. They came for a magic show, not to meet the Messiah. They came already believing that Jesus was nothing more than a hometown boy pretending to be something special. Because of that Jesus did not “perform” miracles for them as He did in Capernaum.
24 – 27
In citing these examples, Jesus is laying the groundwork for His ministry to the Gentiles and calling the people of Nazareth out as rejecting the Messiah just because He grew up there—just as the Jews in general will reject Him because He didn’t play their game and be a political Messiah who would perform on command.
The story of Elijah comes from 1 Kings 17:1-24 when the prophet went to a Gentile town in Phoenicia to the northwest of Israel. The second story involves the prophet Elisha and comes from 2 Kings 7:1-19. It is about a Gentile Syrian army officer. In both stories the Gentiles were in desperate need. The widow in Zarephath was about to fix her last meal. Elijah performed a miracle and she had flour and oil to last until the drought was over. In the case of Naaman, he was sick with the chronic and often terminal disease of Leprosy. God performed a miracle for him when he dipped into the Jordan River 7 times.
In a way Jesus is saying “these Gentiles knew of their need, and turned to Yahweh who provided for them. You have the Messiah right in front of you but you 1) don’t see your need and 2) are not placing yourself under the Messiah’s care but are doubting Him.”
Well, needless to say, this rebuke didn’t go down too well.
28 – 30
It’s possible that the people felt Jesus was trying to be something He was not, namely the Messiah—and they sought to execute Him for blaspheme by throwing Him off of a cliff. I think more likely they were just so mad that He’d called them out that they just wanted to kill Him. What happened could be a miracle—and in fact could have been the real fulfillment of Psalm 91 that Satan referred to earlier in the chapter—that God actually did give orders to the angels to let Jesus pass right through and not struck on the stones at the bottom of the cliff.. It’s also possible that His presence was so forceful that even though they were angry, they couldn’t carry it out and let Him by.
Either way, it is a dramatic ending and becomes a bit of a parable and a prophecy of how the nation will treat Him as His ministry grows.
I want to point out something from this story that we might miss if we just sail over it. The two Old Testament stories that Jesus shares in talking about the people of Nazareth are very unusual and specific—and as it turns out, full of meaning.
In the widow of Zarephath story, Elijah is suffering from the drought brought about by Israel’s worshiping of other gods. He’s starving so God tells him to go to this Phoenician city and ask a widow to take care of him. When he finds her and asks for some food she tells him that all she has left is a handful of flour and a few sticks. She’s about to make bread for their last meal before they starve to death as well. Elijah tells her that her flour will not run out, nor the oil until the drought is over. She believes him and sure enough, they had plenty.
In the story of Naaman here is this Gentile enemy of Israel who is in desperate need. He comes to where he’s heard there is healing, through a prophet of Israel named Elisha. Elisha doesn’t tell Naaman to do something hard but to do something very simple, just dip into the Jordan River. At first Naaman scoffs but later changes his mind and obeys the prophet and he is cleansed.
What the stories have in common is that we have two people, both with a felt need and both with no reason to think that their need would be met. They are at the end of their resources. They are going to die. But they listen to God’s prophet who tells them something very simple—and they completely invest themselves in it. For the woman it was to not fear but to go ahead and make up that last loaf and that she would have no more hunger. For Naaman it was to go ahead and obey God though it seemed so simple and he would have no more disease.
The people of Nazareth were very much like these two in their spiritual condition. They were sick with a terminal disease called sin and hungered for something to really satisfy—they felt the consequences of the disease and the hunger, but did not know the real reasons behind their need. Here a prophet of God had come along and done nothing more than to proclaim that their long prison sentence was over, that the blindness of their eyes to the truth had ended now that good news had been preached AND fulfilled. Yet they rejected it.
How about you? Do you know your need of Jesus? Do you know your sickness and hunger? Does the gospel seem too simple? Does Jesus seem too simple? Don’t make the mistake of the people of Nazareth. Instead be like the widow—realize your dire situation and place your entire trust into Jesus. Like Naaman, do the simple thing of obeying the gospel when it says:
Acts 2:38 “Repent,” … “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
And I think this goes for Christians as well. This age, and even our own brains inoculate us to two things:
- The reality that though we are forgiven, we still have an old nature that thinks, says, and does things that are sinful.
- Our old nature tries to get us NOT to trust in Jesus.
We know we have needs for intimacy, security, meaning and purpose—but we fulfill them in ways God did not intend and in ways that get us to trust things in this age and ourselves and our own strength instead of the Lord.
Ask Him to reveal your unfelt need and then to show you how He wants to fill those needs through an ongoing, active, personal relationship.