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Dooley Noted: Lies we want to believe

By Dr. Adam Dooley

Nazareth is one of those places in Scripture we know little about apart from the fact that it was Jesus’ hometown. Though He was born in Bethlehem, our Savior grew up in the region of Galilee in this small village with 300 total occupants, covering roughly three-square miles. In those days, sons who married typically stayed home, simply adding additional living space to their father’s house. Consequently, it was not uncommon for miniature cities to be made up of small populations that were related to one another. In other words, most Nazarenes were relatives of Jesus, meaning nearly all were descendants of King David.

Why does this matter? Because Jews from the tribe of Judah not only expected the Messiah to be one of their number, but also to rise from the from the streets of Nazareth. The prophetic words of Isaiah convinced the residents there that the messianic shoot, or branch, tied the heir of King David’s throne to their town (Isaiah 11:1-2). Additionally, when Jesus showed up to preach in their synagogue, the Nazarenes who surrounded Him were aunts, uncles, and cousins who wondered if the boy they had known for so long could be the Promised One (Luke 4:16). 

When Jesus stood up to read from the scroll of Isaiah that day, He made the audacious claim that He was the fulfillment of the prophet’s words (Luke 4:17-21). First, Christ highlighted the spiritual poverty of His audience by claiming that God the Father anointed Him to preach the gospel to the poor (Luke 4:18). Bearing much greater significance than their material situation, the goal was to help us see ourselves as religious beggars with nothing to offer God. 

Second, Jesus explained His mission to proclaim release to the captives (Luke 4:18). Again, the phrase is more illustrative than literal because the emphasis was far greater than releasing those captured as prisoners of war. Instead, our Savior was highlighting the bondage of sin and how it ruins our lives. All around us people’s addictions to drugs, pornography, materialism, pride, etc. trap them in hopelessness. Yet, Christ was boldly declaring to His audience, and us, that from this point forward He can set us free!

Third, Jesus came to bring recovery of sight to the blind (Luke 4:18). Again, by means of a physical metaphor, the Son of God is reminding us that He came to help us see God clearly. Even today, so many are blind to spiritual realities without realizing it. We are blind to the things of God; blind to the truth of Scripture; blind to the repulsiveness of sin; and blind to the judgment that awaits those who do not know the Lord. Yet, remarkably, Christ is declaring, “I can help you see reality!”

Finally, Jesus emphasized the freedom He offers to those oppressed (Luke 4:18). Our world is full of pain and suffering, leaving many shattered or broken. Injustices scar our lives. Some wounds never seem to heal. Many burdens are just too heavy to carry. These verses are an invitation to find rest and release from all that troubles us in Christ (Matt. 11:28). The simple but profound application of Jesus’ four-part sermon is that He is THE ONE who provides all the hope of which Isaiah spoke (Luke 4:21). 

Initially, the crowd in Nazareth received these words favorably. Tragically, however, they would soon exchange Jesus’ spiritual metaphors for their political, social, and medical aspirations. They wanted salvation, just not the kind Jesus was offering. Instead, they sought deliverance from Rome, material wealth and prosperity, healing from all their diseases, and the right to claim the earthly lives they always wanted. 

Thus, rather than celebrate the kingdom implications of Jesus’ words, the people sought tangible proof of their legitimacy. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked (Luke 4:22). 

“Who does He think He is?”

“I used to change His diapers when He was young!”

“I gave Him His first job!”

“How can He possibly help us?”

Sensing their selfishness, Jesus quoted a popular proverb of the day to expose the wickedness of the people (Luke 4:23). Finally, in one of His more popular but controversial statements, Jesus insisted that a true prophet is without honor in His hometown (Luke 4:24). Just as the people rejected Elijah and Elisha, they were now rejecting their coveted Messiah (Luke 4:25-27). And then, in their foolish rage, the Nazarenes sought to kill Jesus (Luke 4:28-30).

May I gently suggest that we are often guilty of the same grave error? 

This ancient incident remains instructive because of our tendency to substitute our short-term goals for the eternal realities of the gospel. We are anxious for a Savior, as long as He gives us everything we want. A God who solves all our problems is appealing, but we deem any talk of a crucified life as offensive. We are much more interested in a God who affirms our truth instead of the One who claims to be THE TRUTH.

In our blindness, a Jesus made in our own image is much more attractive than the Savior who desires for us to resemble Himself. We often have little desire to live for eternity because what we want most is for God to give us everything we desire right now. Contemporary American Christianity is often nothing more than name-it and claim-it psychobabble. Riches, good luck, and healing are ours for the asking, we insist, because what God wants more than anything else is to make us happy.

The same lies that deceived Nazareth still deceive many today. How about you? Will you worship the God who prioritizes what you need ahead of what you want? Can you faithfully serve the One who will often tell you NO? Are you willing to worship Jesus more than yourself?
Dr. Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at adooley@ebcjackson.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

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