Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jesus Rejected in Nazareth

This morning's Sunday school lesson:

Jesus was very young when He moved from Egypt back to Israel with His parents. In the years that followed, Mary and Joseph had other children, and the growing family lived in Nazareth. Joseph was a carpenter, and he taught his trade to Jesus.

When Jesus grew up, He was baptized, and then He wandered for 40 days without eating, just praying and wandering. Near the end of this time, Satan noticed that Jesus was really super hungry and decided it was time for some mischief. He told Jesus, “If you’re really God’s Son, turn this rock into bread!” But Jesus quoted scripture: “Man does not live by bread alone.” Then Satan took Jesus to a high place and showed Him all the riches and kingdoms of the world. He said, “If you worship me, I’ll give you all this.” But Jesus quoted scripture again: “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only!” This time, Satan decided two could play at this quoting-scripture thing. He took Jesus to the roof of the temple and said, “OK, then. If You’re really God’s Son, jump off! Scripture says that ‘He will command His angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” But once again, Jesus quoted scripture: “Scram! It also says, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test!’” So Satan left.

The Holy Spirit had come on Jesus when He was baptized, and He was still there after Jesus was done being tempted. He traveled throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues (Jewish churches), and people started talking. Word was getting around that there was a great teacher who was helping people to understand what the scripture said. Word got back to Nazareth, and one day, Jesus decided to go home. That Saturday, He got up in church and read the words of Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Then He rolled up the scroll and sat down. Everyone was watching Him, so He kept talking. “Today, that scripture has been fulfilled!” The townspeople were surprised by what He said, and they wondered, “Wait a minute… Isn’t this Joseph’s boy?” They were impressed!

Jesus went on, “You’re probably going to say, ‘Doctor, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we’ve been hearing about you doing in Capernaum! But no. Prophets aren’t accepted in their hometowns. Remember what you learned about Elijah? There was a famine for three and a half years, and Israel had lots of widows. But God didn’t send Elijah to any of them. He sent him to a widow in the town of Zerephath, which wasn’t even in Israel. Then later, lots of people in Israel had leprosy, but God didn’t send the prophet Elisha to any of them. He sent the Syrian general Naaman to Elisha to be healed.”

This really got the Nazarenes steamed. “What do you mean? You won’t save us? You’ll save foreigners instead?!” But they missed the point. Jesus wanted to do miracles in Nazareth, but the people didn’t understand what the widow in Zerephath and Naaman understood. You have to believe. Those two foreigners from so many years earlier believed in God. Their lives were changed because they believed God could heal them. The Israelites in Jesus’ time thought the Messiah would only be for the Jews. But Jesus was saying that the Messiah was for everyone! They didn’t want to share their Messiah with anyone else.

Nazareth was built at the top of a hill. The Nazarenes were so furious with Jesus that they got up and chased Him out of the synagogue, out of town, and to the edge of a cliff so they could throw Him off! But when they got there, Jesus walked through the crowd and left. If the Nazarenes weren’t gonna listen, maybe people from other towns would.

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