Matthew 13:45-58 Part 3

Jesus completes this great parabolic address to the crowds of people who were standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Matthew records seven Kingdom parables and one parable about the parables in which He transfers the mantle of the “scribe” over to the true scribes of the Kingdom – His Apostles.  And their instruction is likened to great, precious things brought out of the treasury of the Kingdom – both new and old.

And, then, when He had finished these parables, as verse fifty-three indicates, He went away from there.  In verse fifty-four Matthew has Him arriving in Nazareth on the Sabbath.  Now, since He delivered the Kingdom parables on the Sabbath, it looks as if this is a continuation of that same Sabbath day.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, because Nazareth is only five or six miles from Capernaum, and only a two-hour walk.

But we also need to consider something that has been mentioned before, that Matthew’s purpose in writing is not necessarily to provide the Church with a perfect time-line of historical events.  His purpose is more to narrate the events of essential Divine significance and to set them in their historical perspective!  So, with that purpose in mind, this may not be that same Sabbath – especially since the text doesn’t indicate that this is later in the day.

But Jesus did go to Nazareth, as verse fifty-four says.  I’ve translated it “native town.”  The word here is patrides which implies the place of His father, or His fatherland.

In the text which is printed for you I mistakenly typed, “He was teaching in their synagogues” – plural.  But the Greek text has “synagogue” - singular.  Apparently there was only one in Nazareth.  And the synagogue, remember, was the “gathering” of Jewish people around which the community functioned, and the idea of it had been in existence since the Babylonian captivity five hundred years before.

But Matthew says, verse fifty-four:  “…and having come into His native town He was teaching them in their synagogue, so as to their astounding….”  It was the custom for the synagogue leader to give the floor to prominent men from out of town.  So Jesus would have picked up a particular scroll, or book, from the Scriptures and read.  And then when He finished He would speak to the assembly about the text.  And that’s what the words here in verse fifty-four indicate – “He engaged in teaching them.”  And He did so “as to their astounding!”

Now this word “astounding” is from a root which means “to expel” or “to drive out.”  And the sense of it is “to drive out of one’s senses by shock.”  “Appalled” is a good word to use.  The assembly of people in Nazareth were shocked and appalled – driven out of their senses – astounded, by what Jesus was teaching in their synagogue.

Now, it’s for us to see here that Matthew is not attempting to portray this home-town group of Jews as being filled with admiration and awe and wonder at the wisdom and prominence of this home-grown boy!  This is not pride and esteem for the town and its ability to produce superior young men!  They are aggravated and shocked and galled by what they were hearing.  There may even be a degree of envy here, but the main sense is that they were terribly offended!

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we knew what He said to them to cause all of this?  Well, we do!  At least part of it.  It’s recorded by Luke in his fourth chapter.  So let’s listen carefully to it, and let’s see if we can determine just what it was that He said that caused the whole town to be so appalled, and to rise up, as one, in murderous intent!


“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.  And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah.  And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’

And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the attendant, and sat down.  And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him.  And He began to say unto them, ‘This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.’  And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.  And they said, ‘Is this not Joseph’s Son?’

And He said unto them, ‘You 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, ‘Truly I say unto you, no prophet is accepted in His own country.  But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, 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 Elijah sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.  And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, save Naaman the Syrian.’

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 edge of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong.”


Now, let’s get the whole picture here.  Here is this Man, maybe thirty-five or so years old, who had been raised in the city of Nazareth since He was three or four; He was taught carpentry and woodworking by His father and apparently worked with him making furniture and other things; who, at the appointed time moved to Capernaum and began attracting huge crowds with His speaking and with some miraculous deeds.  His fame had spread; and there was probably no one in Nazareth who had not heard of His activities in the region.  Many had probably witnessed some of the miracles in their traveling and trade.

After maybe a year and a half away, this now-famous Son of the city comes back to town and is given a teaching seat in the synagogue; and He reads about the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the poor and the imprisoned and the blind.  And then He tells them that He is the fullness of that prophecy.

The townspeople have these warm feelings about Him, because He had certainly been compassionate to those who were poor and sick.  They probably thought that Jesus’ plans were to be a rabbi and leader of a synagogue and a compassionate and benevolent man who had some wondrous extra powers!  Maybe He would eventually be a Scribe and sit on the Sanhedrin!  And certainly He would do some of His miracles here and heal the people.  In fact, they asked Him to do the same things He had done in Capernaum.

But, then, Jesus made the connection between Himself and Elijah and Elisha, who did not go to widows and lepers in Israel – but to Gentiles!  The two people He referred to – the widow and the leper – were a Sidonian and a Syrian!  And the people in the synagogue immediately made the connection in their own minds that He was referring to Himself as the Messiah, and that He would go, not to the Jews, but to the Gentile nations!  And that so angered them that they took Him outside the city to the top of a hill in order to kill Him!  His own towns-people!  Including maybe some in His extended family!

How could this native Son, whose mother and brothers and sisters were still there, claim to be the Messiah of Israel?  And, further, how could He dare apply the Scriptures in such a way as to forsake the Israel of God in favor of the pagan heathen of the world?!   This was the most appalling thing that could possibly have come out of His mouth!

The people of Israel were looking for a Messiah who would sit in the seat of David, and who would free the Jews from their pagan rulers, and who would bring healing and prosperity back to the nation, and who would eventually rule the whole world from Jerusalem.  And every king who arose to the throne was watched by the nation with great anticipation.  “Is this the one?”  Is this the king promised by God who would slay the Gentile world with his sword?  Is this God’s promised king who would bring Israel back to its glory and receive the honor and worship of all the pagan kings and nations of the world?

From Solomon to Jereboam and Reheboam to Hezekiah and to Zedekiah, each new enthronement brought confident and enthusiastic expectation that God might bring His Messiah.  But each time their hopes and aspirations were dashed when the new king proved himself to be something other than a Messiah!

And then the kings of Israel ceased to be!  And pagans began to rule Israel.  First it was the Assyrians.  And then Babylonians and Persians!  And then Greeks!  And then Romans!  And, worst of all, the Herodians – an Edomite family, descendants of Esau!

And the more desperate the situation became, the more anticipatory the people were for the successor to David’s throne!  And their eschatological hope was for exactly the opposite of the One Whom God sent!

And when Jesus arrived in His Own home town to preach this:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord,” and when He indicated that the Messiah was not sent to the Jews but to the Gentiles, the people were appalled by it and went into a murderous frenzy!

When Jesus said to them that “a prophet is not without honor except in His Own fatherland,” He was referring to the prophets of old who were not received in Israel and who were then sent to the Gentiles!  And there they were received with honor!  The prophets of God who called Israel to repentance – from Elijah and Elisha to Malachi – were rebuffed and ignored and hunted and beaten and killed.  The last, John the Baptist, was beheaded in the house of Herod.  But they were received with honor by Gentiles!

Elijah and Elisha are mentioned here in the text of Luke – received by the widow and the leper.  Joseph was cast down by the sons of Jacob and became second in command only to Pharaoh of Egypt.  Daniel became second in command to the king of the Medo-Persian Empire!  Jonah was received by Nineveh and the whole city repented at his preaching!

And when God sent Jesus to Israel, He was mocked, humiliated, beaten and killed.  But the Gentiles would honor Him and receive Him as their King!  So verse fifty-seven of our text is a prophetic proverb, isn’t it?  “And Jesus said, ‘a prophet is not without honor except in His native town and in his house.’”

Shocked and appalled by Him, they cried out with envy, “Where did this one come up with all this ‘wisdom’ and these miraculous deeds?”  You see, the text doesn’t indicate at all that these were words of admiration for Jesus.  They were more of a “mocking” nature.  They had a “cynical” tone – with envy and abhorrence as underlying emotions.

And as the scene at the synagogue progresses, the cynicism and skepticism and hatred and anger become more and more vocal as each is supported by the others.  And the shouting and the anger gets louder and louder; and people get red-faced and shake their fists at Him.  This Child of Mary – the Carpenter – Joseph’s boy – James’s brother – the One who has all these sisters in town with their husbands and children – where did He acquire all of this?!

As Matthew says here in verse fifty-seven, “and they were being entrapped in Him.”  There’s that word again that we’ve seen so many times – “skandalizo.”  Not just offended; certainly not just “stumbling” as some translations have it; but entrapped!  The word literally means “as in a trap which is sprung with a crooked stick holding the bait!”

Let me explain just a little bit more about this entrapment, because the anticipation of all Israel about their coming Messiah isn’t all of the story here.

These people in Nazareth are just struck with shock and appalled with the nonsensical novelty of this whole occurrence!  (from their perspective, of course)  That Jesus, an uneducated man, a local child, employed from his youth as one who worked with his hands, from a little town of Nazareth which is a mixed-race area of northern Israel, with no outward means of ever even getting close to royalty, would ever presume to call Himself God’s promised Messiah!  And then to take a giant leap even from that presumption and claim that the unwashed masses of the world were going to be the beneficiaries of His Messianic work and give Him honor, rather than Israel!

But those were the actual facts of the matter!  And that ought to have filled them with wonder at the grace of God; but it only caused more darkness!  They were being compelled to admire and worship Him, and to beg for forgiveness for Israel; but they didn’t!  They treated Him with contempt and mocking.  They rejected the Prophet, Priest and King from God because He hadn’t been educated by men; and He hadn’t been recognized as royalty by men.  And especially because He said what was prophesied!

And the miracles – indications of the terrible state of sin and decay in men – ought to have affected them powerfully.  But they actually caused the people to veil their eyes from the Truth!

The miracles of Christ were actually indications from Christ of the fallen and decaying and chaotic nature of man, and they caused men to veil their eyes from the Truth!  The people of Nazareth wanted Jesus to perform miracles, but they didn’t believe His preaching!  He spoke from the Old Testament prophecy about Himself, but that sent them into murderous hatred – they wanted to see miracles and they became ensnared in Him!

Remember that Paul once said that tongues, or miracles, are for unbelievers, not believers.  But prophecy preaching, is not for unbelievers, but for believers!  Miracles presupposed unbelief on the part of those before whom they were exhibited.  They are evidence of the fallen state of mankind.  But prophecy, or preaching, is the evidence of the victory over the fallen-state-of-mankind.

When Jesus passed through Samaria (recorded in John chapter four) He spoke, and the Gentiles believed.  But upon entering His Own country, miracles are again required of Him, and He then says this; “a prophet has no honor in His Own native land.” (verse forty-four)

And in our own text, Jesus goes to the synagogue to preach, and His Words caused them to arise in abhorrent anger against Him.  The Jews demanded signs!  Miraculous evidence!  They rejected the preaching of the Law and the Prophets.  They wanted nothing but miracles and signs!

And verse fifty-eight says, “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”  And the reason was that they tried to kill Him because of His preaching!  The Luke passage says that He eluded them and went away.

Now, in our own time the congregations of the country are saying, “Let them perform mighty works, and then we will listen to their doctrine.”  It’s as if men despise the Words of God unless there is first, support from great visual and emotional things – tongues, miracles, great crowds, excitement.  But even if God would overwhelm them with mighty works, it would be more miracles they would desire rather than doctrinerather than preaching.  Miracles are for the blind – and they are blinded even more because of them.  Great crowds are for the deaf.  Great excitement is for the hard of heart.

The Church needs to hear the preaching of Jesus.  It is He Who opens the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf and succors the poor in spirit and releases the captives from the prisons of separation and darkness.  But religion in America is becoming more blind – requiring more and more signs.  And the more visual and emotional stimulus it receives, the more blind it becomes.  It desperately needs preaching – not miracles.  We see this blindness in the rejection of God’s Law, the self-centered lawlessness, and the rejection of authority.

Nazareth became the microcosm of the whole Jewish state.  The rejection of Jesus and His preaching in Nazareth is indicative of the rejection of God’s Messiah by the entire nation of Israel.  The whole fatherland of Jesus – His entire heritage (except for the remnant) gave him no honor – as it had not given honor to the prophets before Him.  The nation clamored after His miracles, but it never saw the utter depravity which those miracles represented.

This morning we see a true sign from God.  The sign and seal of His Covenant.  It was instituted by Jesus the night before His betrayal and trial.  This true Man from God became our true Passover – release from the captivity of our sin nature.  The Lord gave us His body and His blood in order that we might be in Him, and He in us.  We eat and drink these things to indicate that union.

And I would provoke you to cast off your Egyptian bondage and receive your Passover.  It is the New Covenant in His blood.  And union in Him means resurrection in the New Man – Jesus Christ.

But it’s the “poor in spirit” who are brought to their knees in repentance – who know they are blind, and deaf, and imprisoned in sin and darkness.  It’s those who become spiritually poverty stricken due to their own unworthiness to receive the grace of God in His Messiah.  It’s the ones who mourn their own rebellion and lawlessness against God and His Holy One.

It’s not the ones who require signs.  It’s not the one who require miracles.  It’s not the ones who seek self-fulfillment in excitement and entertainment and crowds of people!

The Churches of America desperately need the preaching of the Christ!  For “the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for those who are believing.”  And the Gospel is concerning His Son Jesus Christ.  Unless they hear preaching of the Word of God, they will be just like the people of Nazareth!  They want signs; they want miracles; they want tongues; they want excitement; they want socializing; they want programs and buildings and all the “bells and whistles.”  The one thing they do not want is preaching of the Law and the Prophets and the Christ!

But we will pray.  We will pray – and anticipate that time when God will turn us once again to His Son.  And that men and women and children will love Him and obey Him and seek after His righteousness.  Then they will love to hear His preaching.