Luke 4:16-30 ~ Israel's Messiah for the Nations
Sitting down (this was the mark of the start of teaching), Jesus claimed to be the Messiah that Isaiah prophesied by saying, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (verse 21). He claimed to be Israel's anointed one in being God's chosen one to rule and lead God's people, who are spiritually blind and oppressed and are spiritually lacking a place in God's Kingdom. The Messiah is needed to bring God's people under God's loving kingship and rule.
But just how did the Jews respond to such a huge claim? While all spoke well of him (verse 22), Jesus saw through their 'fake' praise at the sarcastic hint in the form of the question: "Is not this Joseph's son?" (verse 22). Jesus then proceeded to state the obvious, that no prophet is acceptable in his hometown (verse 24). He knew that they would challenge Him to prove Himself (verse 23).
Jesus then quoted two examples of rejected prophets, Elijah and Elisha, who lived during the 3.5-year God-sent drought in the dark days of Israel under evil King Ahab. While there were many Jewish widows and lepers, none were assisted or healed. Instead, Elijah helped sustain a Gentile widow, Zarephath (1 Kings 16), during the great famine while Elisha healed the non-Israelite Syrian army commander, Naaman, of his leprosy (2 Kings 5).
When Israel rejects God's prophets, God shows His grace to other nations instead - Israel has no right to monopolize God's grace. Simeon's prophecy in Luke 2 on how Jesus will be opposed and yet lead to the fall and rise of many in Israel begins to take form here in Luke 4. The Jews' attempt to throw Jesus down the cliff in verse 29 marks the start of the prophesied opposition. Despite their murderous intent, Jesus managed to save Himself and escape from the Jews (verse 30) - it is not yet time to lay down His life.
It is in the cross of Jesus where we see Israel's greatest rejection of the Messiah. The cross is the place where God's grace through God's Messiah overflows to us all over all nations (the Gentiles) because of Israel's rejection. We all need what He is offering: forgiveness by His atoning sacrifice. It is a great privilege indeed that God should extend His salvation to people from all nations - us who are not originally God's chosen people.
While the Messiah's manifesto may be 'grace going out to the nations', what would be our manifesto? What will it reveal about our life and commitment? Do we share the Messiah's manifesto? Indeed, our manifesto should be influenced by the grace that the Messiah has shown us. We are now made God's people as part of Jesus' mission and God's plan right from the very beginning.
Will you proclaim a Christ-centred manifesto in your life?
Ps. Heartiest congratulations to all those who were baptized on Sunday, including dear Xin Hui and Roong Jien - keep on growing in Him!
PPs. Will be away to be challenged about full-time ministry this coming long weekend (1st-4th October) at the October Conference... =)