A Study of Luke 4:23-30
In Luke chapter 4 the Lord Jesus was preaching in the synagogue of His hometown Nazareth. He began His sermon with a wonderful passage from Isaiah, which spoke about healing the brokenhearted, and recovering of sight to the blind. Jesus had been healing many people in Galilee. And then the Lord Jesus read the minds of His audience. They were thinking within themselves:
Physician, Heal Thyself (Luke 4:23-24, Psalm 14:2-3)
We are not sick. We are not blind, or deaf, or lame. We do not need any healing. Luke 4:23 says:
And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.
And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.
The Lord Jesus knew their thoughts, and He knew what they were saying to Him in their hearts. They wanted to respond to what Jesus said in verse 18 and verse 22. When Jesus preached to them, it was as if He was saying: “This is what you need. You are poor, and blind, and captives of Sin and Satan. You need the Gospel preached unto you. You need to be healed from your blindness. You need to be set free.” But they were saying to Him in their hearts: “This does not apply to us. We are children of Abraham. We are not captives of Sin and Satan. We are on our way to heaven, because we obey the Law and we are children of Abraham. God made this promise to Abraham.”
They did not remember, or they did not want to remember what God said in Psalm 14:2-3,
The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
There is NONE that doeth good, NO NOT ONE. We know that this applies to the entire human race including the Jews, because God repeats this in Romans 3:10-12. But this idea does not agree with the religion of the Jews, and that is why they did not want to remember this.
They said within their hearts: “Whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. Come, Jesus, perform for us some miracles.” But Jesus said: “No prophet is accepted in his own country. Therefore, I am not going to perform any miracle. Besides, have you not read what God did under the prophets Elijah and Elisha? They too were not accepted in their own country.” And then Jesus rehearsed for them two incidents under the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Let us first read about:
The Prophet Elijah (Luke 4:25-26, 1 King 17:8-16).
The Lord Jesus said in verse 25:
But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
But unto none of them was Elias (Elijah) sent, save unto Sarepta (Zarephath), a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.
Elijah suddenly came on the scene in 1 Kings 17. His name means: “God Jehovah”. His name already indicates that he was a very special prophet. And Elijah spoke as if he himself was God.
1 Kings 17:8
And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,
1 Kings 17:9
Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.
1 Kings 17:10
So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.
1 Kings 17:11
And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.
1 Kings 17:12
And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
1 Kings 17:13
And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
1 Kings 17:14
For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.
1 Kings 17:15
And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.
1 Kings 17:16
And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.
Can you see the wonderful picture God is painting for us here?
There was a famine in the land. Elijah was not sent to an Israelite widow, but to the poorest widow in Zarephath in the land of Zidon. This was the same Zidon that the wicked Jezebel came from. This heathen woman obediently does all that Elijah asks of her.
Is that not amazing?
Why did God send Elijah to:
The Widow of Zarephath?
This story truly happened as it is written here. But right away you can see that this story demands a spiritual interpretation. These three people, one of them a growing boy, could not literally survive two or two and a half years on meal and oil. Therefore, remember that the name Elijah means: “God Jehovah”. Of the little meal and oil the widow had, she first gave to Elijah. What she received was a never-ending supply of meal and oil. The meal and oil were used to make cakes of bread. The Lord Jesus Christ said: “I Am the Bread of Life”. This meal represents Christ, and the oil is a symbol of God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, this meal and oil represents an unlimited supply of spiritual food for the widow and her household. God commanded her and God faithfully supplied all that she needed.
Why did God send Elijah to this poor widow, this Gentile dog, in a heathen country?
We can find at least three reasons why Elijah was sent here.
1. The Lord Jesus said: “No prophet is accepted in his own country”. Like the Lord Jesus was not accepted in His own city Nazareth, so the prophet Elijah was not accepted in his own country Israel. The Lord Jesus was not accepted in His own country, because most of the Jews worshipped another god than the God of the Bible. They worshipped a god who would have been pleased with a salvation through obedience of the ceremonial Law. But that is not the God of the Bible!
2. God indicated hereby that the Gentiles were included in God’s salvation plan. Even though the passage in 1 Kings 17 does not say anything about salvation, when Jesus preached in the synagogue of Nazareth, He spoke about salvation in Luke 4:18. Jesus was not speaking about physical healing of the blind, but He was speaking about healing of the spiritually blind. Paraphrased, the Lord Jesus said to the Nazarenes: “You do not like God’s plan of salvation; that is why you reject Me, like you have rejected Elijah.” We also must take this to heart. If we do not like God’s method of salvation through God’s process of Election and the Limited Atonement of Christ, then we too have rejected the Christ of the Bible. If we say: “I don’t like Election or Predestination, regardless what the Bible says”, then we too have rejected the Word of God, and we have rejected Christ.
3. God had elected this widow unto salvation. By the time Elijah left her house, after two or two and a half years, she confessed that Elijah was a man of God, and that she believed the Word of Jehovah from the mouth of Elijah. There was a great famine throughout the land. If Elijah had not been sent to this widow, she would have died of starvation, and she would have ended up in Hell for all her sins. This woman was dead in trespasses and sins. But so were we. God says in Ephesians 2 that we all at one time were dead in trespasses and sins. This is how we came into the world.
Jesus said, “There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, during the great famine, but Elijah was sent by God only to this widow of Zarephath”. God elected this woman, who was a widow.
The Famine (Amos 8:11-12, 1 Peter 4:17)
From the many incidents in the life of the prophet Elijah the Lord Jesus chose the passage during the famine.
Why did He do that?
Remember: “Jesus closed the Book”, in verse 20. It was a closed Book to the Nazarenes. They believed what they wanted to believe, regardless what the Bible says.
But we also have learned that the passage Jesus chose, from 1 Kings 17, has to be interpreted spiritually. There was a literal famine, but the famine also represented a spiritual famine. Before the first coming of Christ there was a spiritual famine. The true Gospel was scarce in Judea and Galilee. God had entrusted His Word to the spiritual leaders of the Jews, but they turned it into a works gospel. The Jews had to work for their salvation. But that was the salvation program that they liked.
The Bible teaches that before the second coming of Christ there will be another spiritual famine. God has entrusted His Word to the New Testament Church, but the Church has neglected the study of the Word. The result is that people do not know any more what God is saying. Just like 2000 years ago, the people listen to what their spiritual leaders say, rather than listen to what God has to say. Instead of studying the Bible, they read books about the Bible. It means that God’s words are replaced by man’s words. And again the Churches have turned the Gospel of salvation into a works gospel. Today in most churches you must accept the Lord Jesus as your Lord and savior. That is a salvation by works. It means that in most churches they have rejected the Word of God, and they have replaced it by ideas that were originated in Hell. On top of that, newer translations of the Bible have added to the confusion.
God said in Amos 8:11,
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.
Those days have arrived. People do not know whom to trust any more. They have lost the sense of discernment for what is true and what is false. In spite of the abundance of study helps that exist today to study the Bible, people do not know how to study the Bible, and so they only listen to what their church tells them to believe. They are putting their trust in man rather than in God. How tragic!
God warned us, through the pen of the Apostle Peter, that this time would come.
In 1 Peter 4:17,
1 Peter 4:17
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
The time to begin the judgment is, or starts, from the house of God.
How can this be if there is only one Judgment Day?
Well, the Judgment on the Church comes like it did on the Nazarenes.
The Prophet Elisha (Luke 4:27, 2 King 2:8-11)
Then Jesus brought up a second example of a prophet who was not accepted in his own country:
And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus (Elisha) the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.
Who was Elisha?
Elisha was the student of Elijah, and Elisha was appointed to be the successor of Elijah. Elisha tagged along with Elijah until the last day of Elijah on this earth.
Then we read in 2 Kings 2:8,
2 Kings 2:8
And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters (of the Jordan River), and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.
2 Kings 2:9
And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
2 Kings 2:10
And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.
2 Kings 2:11
And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
Why did God instruct Elijah to go across the Jordan River before Elijah was going to be taken up into heaven?
God was giving us the principle that the way to heaven is through Hell. The Jordan River is a picture of Hell. The children of Israel had to cross the Jordan River to get into the Promised Land, which was a picture of the Israel of God leaving the wilderness of this world, and going into the New Heaven & New Earth. The Lord Jesus was baptized, or washed, by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, which was a picture of His suffering for our sins on the cross, the equivalent of an eternity in Hell.
The name Elijah means: “God Jehovah”. The name Elisha means: “God Savior”. From their names we can already see that Elijah and Elisha are both pictures of Christ. Elisha asked that he would receive a double portion of the Spirit of Elijah and that request was granted to him. Elisha did twice as many miracles as Elijah did. Elisha was truly a great prophet.
Then the Lord Jesus brought up the case of:
Naaman the Syrian (2 King 5:1, 2 Kings 5:9-14)
Jesus said, “There were many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha, but God passed them all by; they were left in their leprosy. God chose to heal only one leper from a Gentile country. God elected to save Naaman the Syrian”.
We read about him in 2 King 5.
2 Kings 5:1
Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper.
Naaman was a general in the army of the king of Syria. Then Naaman heard from a little Israelite slave girl that there was a prophet in the land of Israel who could heal him of his leprosy. Just think of how God worked miraculously in this incredible situation. This little slave girl was violently taken by the Syrians from her home, and now she served Naaman’s wife. Then she returned good for evil and she told Naaman’s wife how Naaman could be healed from his leprosy.
And is it not incredible that this general in the army believed what this little slave girl said?
Then we read in 2 Kings 5:9,
2 Kings 5:9
So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.
2 Kings 5:10
And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
2 Kings 5:11
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
2 Kings 5:12
Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
2 Kings 5:13
And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
2 Kings 5:14
Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Naaman came to the door of the house of Elisha. Naaman expected to be received with great respect and honor. Instead, Elisha did not even come to the door, but sent a servant to give Naaman a message.
What a putdown!
Naaman went away in a rage.
But why was he so angry?
It was not the message that made him angry. It was the putdown. Naaman came from a long distance, and Elisha did not even greet him at the door of his house.
Why did he get such treatment?
The principle is: “The Lord bringeth low, and He lifteth up”. People have hard hearts. Therefore, God first has to rub our faces in the mud before we pay attention. This is what God was doing with Naaman. He was a man used to giving orders. But now Elisha commanded him, saying:
Go and Wash in the Jordan 7 times (Deuteronomy 24:8)
This command from Elisha is similar to the command we read in Acts 16, where we read: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”. This is a command to believe.
Who are those who will believe?
The Bible says, “No one of his own initiative will believe”. The only ones who will believe are the ones who are drawn by the Father to put their trust on the Christ of the Bible.
Naaman sought help; that was good. But Naaman came with the wrong attitude. He stood proudly outside the humble dwelling of Elisha. Naaman wanted to be treated as a great man who happened to have leprosy. In reality he was only a leper who happened to be a great man. But disease and death flowed though his veins, and that made all his greatness worth nothing. Elisha knew his pride and would not come out to meet him. Paraphrased, Elisha told him to strip off this earthly glory and wash in the muddy Jordan seven times. This, together with the cool reception by Elisha, appeared very degrading to Naaman and he was furious.
Does the water of Jordan have such miraculous healing power that it can heal leprosy?
Of course not.
Was Naaman healed because he obeyed Elisha’s command?
No! Only God can bring healing. The healing was not caused by God doing 99% and Naaman doing 1% of the work. Today many people are proudly proclaiming that they have made a decision for Jesus. Like Naaman they want to be treated as great ones who happened to be sinners.
But God says, No! You are sinners who, for a while, have certain status among worms. “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10).
Leprosy is a horrible disease. Today leprosy can be brought into remission with certain drugs. But prior to the 20th century, a person who contacted leprosy was dead in 9 to 11 years. Leprosy in the Bible is a picture of Sin. A leper was not referred to a doctor, but to a priest.
God says in Deuteronomy 24:8,
Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that thou observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you: as I commanded them, so ye shall observe to do.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who can heal someone of his sins. Christ did that by taking that person’s sins upon Himself and paying for those sins the penalty those sins had earned, the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. Christ did that on the cross in AD 33. Christ suffered only once, to bear the sins of many. Their number cannot be increased nor decreased.
Christ also bore the sins of Naaman the Syrian, because we read that Naaman believed and washed himself and returned to Elisha as a saved man. Christ did not pay for the sins of Naaman because he believed, but he believed because God had elected Naaman unto salvation.
Let us return now to the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 4. There we see the reaction of:
The Nazarenes (Matthew 2:23, John 1:46, Luke 4:28-30)
When we think of Nazarenes we think of the verse in Matthew 2:23, which says,
And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
And we think that to be called a Nazarene is something high and lofty. But let us not mix up a Nazarite with a Nazarene. A Nazarite was someone who had dedicated his life to the Lord. A Nazarite could be from any city in Judah or Israel, but a Nazarene was a citizen of Nazareth. To be from Nazareth was equivalent to being called a reject in that society. The Jews had no high opinion of Nazareth. We read about this in John 1:46, where Philip tells Nathanael about Jesus:
And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
It was an additional humiliation for Jesus to be called a Nazarene. The Nazarenes showed their true character after they heard Jesus preach to them. We read in Luke 4:28,
And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,
And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
But he passing through the midst of them went his way,
Jesus was not telling lies. Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament. But Jesus brought up these two examples to indicate that it was God’s plan all along to bring the Gospel also to the Gentiles. Moreover, the two people who became saved in these two examples were both Gentiles. Their jealousy against the Gentiles was so great that they were filled with wrath.
Could they have known what the Bible says in 1 Kings chapter 17 and in 2 Kings chapter 5?
Ofcourse they knew! They had the Scrolls. But they were against Jesus, regardless what the Bible has to say. They did not want to hear that the Gospel was also going to the Gentiles. “We Jews are children of Abraham, and we demand first class treatment by God. How can God do that, to bring the Gospel of salvation to the Gentiles? Let these Gentiles go to Hell forever”.
That sounds very crude, but this is what the reaction of the Nazarenes boils down to. You can see that these Nazarenes were far from behaving like children of God. Sure. They knew that the Word of God says that they were to love their neighbor as themselves. They knew that in their heads, but they were not about to apply this principle to their neighbor.
So, they were: Filled with Wrath (Romans 2:25, Luke 3:7-8, John 15:18-21)
Because they claimed: We are children of Abraham.
But what does the New Testament have to say about their claim to be children of Abraham, and their claim to be Jews?
We read in Romans 2:25,
circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
The Jews of Nazareth who claim, “We are the circumcision”, have nothing to be proud of. They were breaking the Law left and right. They were willing to commit murder to satisfy their jealousy. In God’s eyes their circumcision was made uncircumcision. In God’s eyes they had become as vile as the Gentiles were. This is not an isolated conclusion. God through John the Baptist also addressed this problem earlier in the Gospel according to Luke, in Luke chapter 3, verse 7,
Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
God speaks here through John the Baptist, and John called them a generation of vipers. If God is able to raise up children unto Abraham from stones, then certainly God is able to raise up children of Abraham from the Gentiles. Jesus agreed with John, and Jesus showed them that the Jews were put aside because of their jealousy. “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first”.
Today this is not a popular doctrine. It is fashionable today to speak highly of the Jews and their religion. Today even Christian churches are very supportive of the nation of Israel, as if we have something in common. But the truth is that we have nothing in common. The Jews do not recognize the New Testament and therefore, by the definition of Revelation 22:19, they are worshipping another god than we do. Other churches hate us for not rallying behind them toward the future millennium, the glorious 1000 years where the Jews are going to play a dominant role in the world. Jesus prepared us for this in:
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.
They know not the Almighty God who sent Christ into the world. And then we read:
He Went His Way (Luke 4:30, Philippians 2:13).
We read in Luke 4:30,
But he passing through the midst of them went his way.
These are ominous words, which ring forth “unto this day”. This meant that these people were left in their stubbornness and unbelief. They did not want to see that they were living in a spiritual famine. They had no need for a Messiah to save them from the wrath of God. They had no need to be saved from their sins. They had no need to be healed from their leprosy. They were children of Abraham.
Like in Romans 1, verses 24, 26 and 28, God gave them up to their wickedness.
We find it difficult, sometimes, to see how this passage could apply to us. We don’t want to kill Jesus. We don’t want to throw Him off a cliff. We love Jesus, but we love our sin too.
We love our sin so much that we want to nail Him to a cross.
Does that sound crude?
Remember this the next time that we are in a rage against our fellow man or woman. Then we are displaying the same attitude as the Nazarenes in this chapter. And when we are filled with anger, don’t excuse yourself by saying: “I am just human”. This reflects that we love our sin too much.
And then there are others who say within themselves: “I came out of a Christian home. I went to Church all my life. I know the Bible by heart. What can this preacher teach me? He is not going to tell me anything new.” You see, when we have this attitude we are like the Nazarenes, who were thinking within themselves, “We are children of Abraham”.
But when God saves us, He does a marvelous work of grace within us. God not only justifies us in His sight, but God also works in our life while we are on this earth. He gives us victory over anger and over self-righteousness. God is the one who receives all the credit for this, for we read in Philippians 2:13,
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
For a saved person to do the will of God becomes more and more the natural thing to do.
And what does it mean “to do the will of God”?
It means to do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
Move your eyes away from the Nazarenes, and toward the widow of Zarephath, and toward Naaman the Syrian. Look at the tender mercies of God for those two heathen, who are really a representation of all those who became saved. What a wonderful loving God we have.
By Alfred J. Chompff