What was the significance of Luke 4:25-30?
Prior to these verses we read about Jesus taking the book of Isaiah and reading a portion of chapter 61 in a synagogue in His home town. After He finishes reading, He gives the book back to the attendant and tells them that very day that passage was being fulfilled in their ears. What a remarkable statement.
After this the people thought how great was this teaching asking, wasn’t this the son of Joseph? They were mocking Him not believing someone like this could be teaching such great things with such authority and ignored the message completely. Because of this Jesus proceeds to remind them of a time that foreshadowed what was to come.
Following the passage of Isaiah, Jesus goes on to tell them prophecy relating specifically to them. He says that they would tell Him the proverb, “Physician, heal yourself!” And that which they heard Him do in Capernaum do in His home town.
We know that He did not perform miracles at home because they did not believe Him to be the Messiah. He later tells His disciples in Matthew 13 that “a prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and household.” Jesus knew what they were thinking when He was teaching them in the synagogue. But, it’s what He says after predicting what they would do that causes a dramatic turn of events.
Jesus goes on to say in verses 25-29:
“I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.
All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.”
What just happened?
It would seem that we need a little history to know what it was that offended them to the point of wanting to throw Jesus off a cliff, quite a dramatic change of thought in such a short amount of time.
To fully understand the significance of these passages, let’s take a closer look at the widow in the land of Sidon (in current day Lebanon), and Naaman in Syria.
The obvious is that both these places were not in Israel and were in fact considered Israel’s enemy. Additionally, Elijah and Elisha performed miracles for a gentile. Bringing to remembrance these facts could explain the outrage, but the history will give us a much better understanding.
Sidon, the mother city of Tyre was a place where trade was abundant and many dwelt despite its battles. It has been an occupied city throughout its history, first the Assyrians – then the Babylonians, Greeks , Romans, and so on.
During the time of Elijah Ahab was king over Israel. Ahab married Jezebel through an alliance being she was a princess from Sidon – daughter of the King of Tyre. She successfully encouraged Ahab to abandon his worship of Yahweh all together and even persecuted the prophets of Israel. If it weren’t for Obadiah most of the prophets would have been killed.
The worship of Baal and Astarte/Asherah (male and female deities) became popular throughout Sidon during Omri’s reign (Ahab’s father). But, it was during Ahab’s reign it became prevalent. Archaeological evidence found at Ahab’s ivory palace shows that he filled his house with these false gods, inside and out.
Many times king Ahab and Elijah clashed over the false gods that Ahab worshiped. You may remember the incident where Elijah challenges the false gods of King Ahab’s table to consume an offering. He asked that 850 of the false prophets come and see what their gods could do. They of course failed. Elijah then proceeded to douse the offering with water to show the observers who the true God is. The offering was overwhelmingly burnt up, including the ground that surrounded it.
The king of Israel saw Elijah as a trouble maker and rejected his authority as a prophet, as did many of the people. It was Elijah who warned the king of the drought. After three and a half years Elijah asked for rain and only then did the drought cease.
It was during this time of drought that the prophet performed the miracle of replenishing the oil and flour for the trusting widow who fed him instead of her son. But, when her son dies she blames the prophet. Elijah then asked God to restore the life of the child if it be His will. Once the child was resurrected the widow proclaimed Elijah to truly be a man of the one God and that the word of the Lord from his mouth was truth.
We see through this story that a Gentile woman realized what the king and people of Israel did not. And because of her obedience and faith in the prophet of Israel she saw an incredible miracle that no one in Israel had received up to that point, resurrection of the dead.
Subsequently Ahab was killed in battle by an arrow as prophesied by Elijah. Scripture tells us that dogs (the Septuagint translates it pigs) came and licked his blood. Later Jezebel was eaten by dogs after being thrown out a window.
Syria was also considered an enemy of Israel during the time of Elisha. In it was the city of Damascus in the region of Aram. Syria had conquered Israel with the help of Naaman. Naaman, an Aramean, was a chief commander in the Syrian King’s army and thought of as a great and honorable man. However, he was a leper.
Naaman was told that a prophet from Israel could heal him, therefore he wrote a letter to the king of Israel asking him to cleanse him of his leprosy. Once the king read the letter he tore his clothes asking, “Am I God, to kill and make alive again?” The king thought the letter was written to provoke him into a quarrel since he was clearly not able to heal.
When Elisha got word of what the king had done, he wrote the king asking to send Naaman to him so that he will know there is indeed a prophet in Israel.
After Naaman finally agreed to obey Elisha and wash himself seven times in the Jordan river, he was healed. Naaman then realized and proclaimed that there was only one true God, the God of Israel.
Once Naaman realized who the true God was he had a request of Elisha, forgiveness. Elisha obliges his request and Naaman is forgiven. He tells Elisha that he will never offer sacrifices to any other god from then on.
Again, we see another Gentile who receives blessings because of their faith and obedience. Although they were reluctant at first, both finally obeyed because they had faith in the prophet’s words. In this case Elisha not only healed a Gentile but granted him forgiveness. Indeed a foreshadowing of what was to come.
This shows that it is through faith and obedience that God’s mercy is received, regardless of who it is. Not because it is necessarily deserved, but because He has the power to forgive and bless whom He chooses. As John the Baptist said, “from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” This is contrary to what the Jews believed and did. And those listening to Jesus’ words would not want to remember as it would further validate His message.
There is no doubt that the people whom Jesus was speaking to in the synagogue recalled the bitter memory of them rejecting the prophets and where two Gentiles who by faith received miracles from God, the forgiveness of sin and resurrection. To tell those people that God would not turn to them to receive miracles because they refused to listen and believe was too much for them to hear.
The prophetic story of both Elijah and Elisha would later transpire into nearly all of Israel rejecting the Messiah and the words of the prophets who spoke of Him. As a result of their disobedience and lack of faith God would raise up children to Abraham from all nations. For it was too little of a thing for His Son to save Israel, rather He would save the world.
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