Monday of the Third Week of Lent. The reading is from Gospel of Luke 4:16-30.
The Rejection at Nazareth – Luke 4:16-30
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.
But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
The town of Nazareth
Nazareth is the largest town in the North District of Israel. In the New Testament, the town is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and as such is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical events.
According to the Gospel of Luke, Nazareth was the home village of Mary. It was here she was told by Angel Gabriel that she would bear Jesus as her son.
The hometown of Joseph was Bethlehem. In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph and Mary resettled in Nazareth after fleeing to Egypt from their home in Bethlehem.
- When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. (Mathew 2:19-23)
In today’s reading we read,
- He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. (Luke 4:16)
So, Jesus returned to his home town of Nazareth where everyone knew him well, saw him grow. And then as it was his custom he went to the synagogue where he was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus spoke about the text being fulfilled at that very moment.
All those who heard him spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that flowed from his mouth; wondered and asked themselves “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
Sensing their doubts as to his wisdom Jesus said,
- “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” (Luke 4:24)
And the people of his own hometown rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.
In Luke 4:25-26 we read,
- Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
The story of Elijah and the widow (1 Kings Chapter 17) is set during the reigns of King Ahab of Israel. It describes how Elijah proclaimed a drought on God’s authority and how he survived during the drought.
I am giving below 1 Kings Chapter 17. It is indeed good reading.
1 Kings Chapter 17
- Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab: “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, during these years there shall be no dew or rain except at my word.”
- The word of the LORD came to Elijah:
- Leave here, go east and hide in the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan.
- You shall drink of the wadi, and I have commanded ravens to feed you there.
- So he left and did as the LORD had commanded. He left and remained by the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan.
- Ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the wadi.
- After some time, however, the wadi ran dry, because no rain had fallen in the land.
- So the word of the LORD came to him:
- Arise, go to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow there to feed you.
- He arose and went to Zarephath. When he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called out to her, “Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.”
- She left to get it, and he called out after her, “Please bring along a crust of bread.”
- She said, “As the LORD, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a few sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.”
- Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid. Go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Afterwards you can prepare something for yourself and your son.
- For the LORD, the God of Israel, says: The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.”
- She left and did as Elijah had said. She had enough to eat for a long time—he and she and her household.
- The jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD spoken through Elijah.
- Some time later the son of the woman, the owner of the house, fell sick, and his sickness grew more severe until he stopped breathing.
- So she said to Elijah, “Why have you done this to me, man of God? Have you come to me to call attention to my guilt and to kill my son?”
- Elijah said to her, “Give me your son.” Taking him from her lap, he carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed.
- He called out to the LORD: “LORD, my God, will you afflict even the widow with whom I am staying by killing her son?”
- Then he stretched himself out upon the child three times and he called out to the LORD: “LORD, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child.”
- The LORD heard the prayer of Elijah; the life breath returned to the child’s body and he lived.
- Taking the child, Elijah carried him down into the house from the upper room and gave him to his mother. Elijah said, “See! Your son is alive.”
- The woman said to Elijah, “Now indeed I know that you are a man of God, and it is truly the word of the LORD that you speak.”
The terms Leper traditionally translated “leper” and “leprosy” covered a wide variety of skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, and seborrhea, but probably not Hansen’s disease (modern “leprosy”); there is no clear evidence of its existence in biblical times.
I am giving below 2 Kings Chapter 5. This too indeed is good reading.
2 Kings Chapter 5
- Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram, was highly esteemed and respected by his master, for through him the LORD had brought victory to Aram. But valiant as he was, the man was a leper.
- Now the Arameans had captured from the land of Israel in a raid a little girl, who became the servant of Naaman’s wife.
- She said to her mistress, “If only my master would present himself to the prophet in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
- Naaman went and told his master, “This is what the girl from the land of Israel said.”
- The king of Aram said, “Go. I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman set out, taking along ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments.
- He brought the king of Israel the letter, which read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
- When he read the letter, the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that this man should send someone for me to cure him of leprosy? Take note! You can see he is only looking for a quarrel with me!”
- When Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, he sent word to the king: “Why have you torn your garments? Let him come to me and find out that there is a prophet in Israel.”
- Naaman came with his horses and chariot and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.
- Elisha sent him the message: “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.”
- But Naaman went away angry, saying, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand there to call on the name of the LORD his God, and would move his hand over the place, and thus cure the leprous spot.
- Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be cleansed?”* With this, he turned about in anger and left.
- But his servants came up and reasoned with him: “My father, if the prophet told you to do something extraordinary, would you not do it? All the more since he told you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”
- So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times, according to the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
- He returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. On his arrival he stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.”
- Elisha replied, “As the LORD lives whom I serve, I will not take it.” And despite Naaman’s urging, he still refused.
- Naaman said: “If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth,* for your servant will no longer make burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the LORD.
- But may the LORD forgive your servant this: when my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down there, as he leans upon my arm, I too must bow down in the temple of Rimmon. When I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD please forgive your servant this.”
- Elisha said to him, “Go in peace. Naaman had gone some distance
- when Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, the man of God, thought to himself: “My master was too easy on this Aramean Naaman, not accepting what he brought. As the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something out of him.”
- So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. Seeing that someone was running after him, Naaman alighted from his chariot to wait for him. He asked, “Is everything all right?”
- Gehazi replied, “Yes, but my master sent me to say, ‘Two young men have just come to me, guild prophets from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two festal garments.’”
- Naaman said, “I insist! Take two talents,” and he pressed him. He tied up two silver talents in bags and gave them, with two festal garments, to two of his servants, who carried them before Gehazi.
- When he reached the hill, Gehazi received these things, appropriated them for his house, and sent the men on their way.
- He went in and stood by Elisha his master, who asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” He answered, “Your servant has not gone anywhere.”
- But Elisha said to him: “Was I not present in spirit when someone got down from his chariot to wait for you? Is this a time to take money or to take garments, olive orchards or vineyards, sheep or cattle, male or female servants?
- The leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” And Gehazi went out, a leper with skin like snow.
- When God calls you (bummyla.wordpress.com)
- A Widow’s Cup of Faith! (psalmsofpraisewomensministries.wordpress.com)
- musings on elijah, the futility of cave dwelling and ego (sailerb.com)
- Elijah Restores the Widow’s Son (brakeman1.wordpress.com)
- The Cornerstone (tvaraj2inspirations.wordpress.com)
- Why don’t we accept the simple truth of God’s love (catholicjournaling.wordpress.com)
- The Testing of Faith (dailybibleplan.com)