Rejected by His Fellow Nazarenes
Winter, 31 AD

 

"Jesus was a wanderer, a walker wherever he went. His staff in his hand, his knees punching the front on his robe, he strode the lesser paths, never hurrying. At every village he turned aside and spent time with the villagers. A day or two, five days, the Sabbath. He ate with them, slept wherever offered shelter, talked. Taught. Healed." (Excerpt from the novel “Jesus,” by Walter Wangerin Jr.)

According to John's Gospel, two days after meeting the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well (John 3:43), Jesus left for his native Galilee. He decided to preach his message there because he knew its roads, towns and villages, and he understood his fellow Galileans.


In the footsteps of Jesus...


Unlike John the Baptist, Jesus did not conduct a ministry of baptism, nor did he preach only to those who came to him. His ministry was not about solitude. Rather, he went to the people and even sought them out, healing the sick and urging those who heard him to repent of their sins in preparation for the coming of the kingdom of God. Whereas John was fiery and passionate, Jesus was gentle and persuasive. His was a message of joy. In Galilee Jesus experienced many successes. Most of his listeners were impressed by his learning and deeply affected by his message. However, some were hostile, especially in his own hometown of Nazareth, where he received one of his worst receptions.

 
(Above) Interior of synagogue at Nazareth Village

After his baptism by John, according to Luke, Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth. Like he had done so many other Sabbaths during his youth, he went to the village synagogue. As was any Jew's right, he stood up to read. At one end of the room, opposite the entrance, stood the curtained chest containing the sacred scrolls. The attendant handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah to Jesus, who chose as his text Isaiah 61:1-2:


"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19).


Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down (it was customary to stand while reading, but to sit while teaching). With everyone's eyes focused on him, he continued:


"This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:21).


His messianic claim amazed his listeners:


"Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things? Is not this the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:55).


Jesus then said to them, quoting two proverbs and two Old Testament stories:


"'Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your home town what we have heard that you did in Capernaum. I tell you the truth,' he continued, 'no prophet is accepted in his home town. 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'" (Luke 4:23-27)


(By mentioning Capernaum Luke makes it clear that by this time Jesus had already ministered elsewhere in Galilee.)

The people of the synagogue viewed this statement as blasphemy. They rejected the idea that 'their' Jewish messiah could have been sent to the Gentiles. Filled with anger, the orthodox Nazarenes "got up, drove Jesus out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way" (Luke 4:29-30).


Localizing this incident...


(Right) Jebel Kafza, the so-called "Mount of the Leap," or "Mount of Precipitation," to the south of downtown Nazareth and facing the Jezreel Valley (Beyond, to the east, is the rounded dome of Mount Tabor, one of two possible sites of the Transfiguration; also the scene of the great victory by Barak over the Canaanite forces lead by Sisera during the time of the prophetess Deborah — see Judges 4).

Although Luke says that Jesus "walked right through the crowd," a tradition developed that he jumped from one of the hills around the town. According to Catholics and Protestants, Jesus leaped from this mountain, while the Greek Orthodox hold that he jumped from a different hill.

Only a few remnants of a small medieval church and several rock-cut tombs are found on the mountain, but the view is breathtaking. You can easily imagine Jesus as a child or young man taking in the sweeping panorama, stretching from Mount Carmel to the west, to Mount Tabor to the east and the Jezreel Valley and Mount Gilboa to the south. On the southern slope of the mountain, known in Hebrew as Har Kedumim ("Mountain of the Ancients"), is a cave, once inhabited during the prehistoric and early historic periods. Excavations have yielded about a dozen species of Neanderthal Man, designated by archaeologists as "Galilee Man." These people are among the earliest to have had a formal burial.

Jesus' Life Home n Jesus' ministry in the towns around the Sea of Galilee