September 22 – Friday of the Sixteenth Week after Pentecost (1st of Luke) Luke 4:22-30
Pious Resistance: Luke 4:22-30, especially vs. 23: “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal Yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’” When the Lord Jesus visits his hometown of Nazareth (vss. 4:16-30), He proclaims a salvation that requires our total repentance: a profound admission of personal failure, a sustained inward cleansing, and a conviction that God alone can deliver us eternally. The salvation of our Lord is a gift wondrous beyond words, but it comes at a high cost.
We should not be surprised, then, that the Lord’s neighbors seem guarded, even angry, when they hear Jesus’ message. Nazareth appears to be a pious community; its residents attend services at the synagogue regularly. Their resistance to the Lord Jesus’ message deserves our close attention lest we, too, use piety as an excuse to resist life-saving change. Indeed, this passage contains a solemn warning, for the people of Nazareth even try to murder the Lord.
Let us take note that all the people – at least in the beginning – “bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” (vs. 22). The vivid poetic imagery of Isaiah’s prophecy soothes the casual listener with the beauty of God’s promised blessings. If we read them in detachment, such words might seem to provide us with false comfort and confidence.
After the reading, the people of Nazareth wait to see how Jesus will interpret the prophet’s words. He immediately declares Isaiah’s message to be fulfilled by Him, through the ministry He is conducting throughout Galilee (vs. 14). This claim elicits the first sign of resistance, as they ask each other, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” (vs. 22). Familiarity often clouds our spiritual awareness. It leads to false expectations and assumptions that block the hearing of those closest to us.
The pious people in Nazareth are His neighbors and friends – the Lord’s own extended family. They know Him as Jesus, Joseph’s boy, but fail to recognize Him as God Incarnate. The prophetic words cease to seem mellifluous when Jesus applies them to Himself!
Similarly, the familiar words and music of the Divine Liturgy sound beautiful to the ear, vivid and moving. And yet we must watch for signs of resistance within ourselves to these God-given words, for they demand rigorous action on the part of those who would heed their message.
The Lord Jesus “knew what was in man” (Jn 2:25). He realizes the people of Nazareth expect to see the miracles reported from Capernaum, but He also knows that prophets never receive a warm reception from those who know them intimately (Lk 4:23-24).
Likewise, we find it difficult to admit our spiritual poverty, receive illumination, or seek healing from an acquaintance known to us from childhood. The implicit demand, plainly set forth in the message of the Lord Jesus, requires our full surrender and humility. We may find it easier to push away this demand and trust instead in our own piety.
Let us take care never to use our religious devotion as a way to hide from God! Confronted with the Gospel’s demands, we may gradually shift from faith in God to faith in mere devotional practices. In the two examples cited by our Lord – Elijah (vss. 25-26) and Elisha (vs. 27) – the Lord exposes the fallacy of relying on our association with God’s people as a guarantee of salvation, for the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian are both Gentiles.
The Lord wishes to tear us away from the comfort of a nominal relationship with Him. Salvation from Christ is a great mercy, but it requires our complete submission.
Thou art the Christ who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. – Pre-communion Prayer