Miracles and Teachings Near Galilee
Rejection in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30; John 4:44)
As Jesus traveled through Galilee, he eventually came back to his home town of Nazareth. As was his custom, on the Sabbath he went to the synagogue. There he stood up to read and he was handed a copy of Isaiah. It was customary to stand while the word of God was being read (Nehemiah 8:5). The passage he selected was Isaiah 61:1. A reading from the Law and the Prophets was a regular part of synagogue worship as can be seen in Acts 13:15. Generally after a passage is read, a brief commentary is made on the passage. Some commentators note that readings were fixed so that the Law (the first five books) and most of the Prophets (the remainder of our Old Testament) were covered during the year. Since Luke mentions that Jesus sought and found a particular passage, it is possible that he selected a reading that was not scheduled for the day.
Jesus had been teaching in other synagogues where his words were well received (Luke 4:15). As he sat down after the reading all eyes were upon him to see what he would say about this particular passage. Jesus’ opening remark was that this passage concerning the joy of the Messiah’s coming stood fulfilled. Everyone had heard of Jesus’ teachings and how he had thrown the money changers out of the temple (John 4:45). Therefore the implications of Jesus’ remark is that he had fulfilled this prophecy and thus he is the Messiah. While they marveled at how well he spoke as he continued; the implication being that more was said than was recorded for us. His speech confirmed what they had heard from others concerning his teaching. Still, they could not see past the fact that the man in front of them was Joseph’s boy whom they saw growing up.
Jesus predicted that mere words would not convince these people. They would be asking Jesus to do miracles like those they heard he had done in Capernaum. Perhaps the fact that he had done miracles in other towns, but not in his own home town had wounded their pride. They thought he should have started among those he knew first. The fact that he hadn’t done any in their presence, to them indicated that the rumors were false, despite the teaching they just heard.
From history, Jesus pointed out that people rarely accepted the words of a prophet from their own country. In our day we sometimes say, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” To prove the point, he cites the fact that during the three and a half year famine, Elijah provide relief only to widow of Zarephath, from the region of Sidon. Thus relief was given to a Gentile while famine was sent against the Israelites. Second, there were many lepers in Israel, but the prophet Elisha only healed Naaman, a Syrian.
The Jews were very prideful of their position as God’s people, even in this small town in a poor section of the country. Jesus’ point that God cared for the Gentiles wounded their self-esteem. The fact that God would give relief to a single Gentile over all the Israelites suffering in a similar manner was too much to contemplate. And so they reacted in anger against the one who made them see what they refused to accept. They pushed Jesus out of town and up a nearby hill with the intent of pushing him off the cliff on the side of the hill. Somehow in the midst of the confusion, Jesus walked right through the crowd and left. Thus the miracle they had earlier demanded was done in their midst, but without their notice.
Isn’t it interesting that the first to accept Jesus are the Samaritans and the first to reject him and attempt to kill him are Israelites from his own home town?
The Nobleman’s Son (John 4:46-54)
Matthew and Luke’s accounts mention that Jesus’ next stop was in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13 and Luke 4:31). Because John mentions Jesus’ rejection in John 4:44 and that this was his second miracle since leaving Judea (John 4:54), I am assuming that this occurred between leaving Nazareth and arriving at Capernaum. It is also possible that this event occurred during Jesus’ tour of Galilee (Luke 4:42-44), in which case John’s remark would be that the healing was the second miracle that John recorded and not the actual second notable miracle done.
Jesus had returned to Cana and while there a nobleman from Capernaum tracked him down. His son was near the point of death with an illness and hearing that Jesus was in the region, set out to plead with Jesus to heal his son. Even early in the events of this story we see the faith of the nobleman because he went in search of Jesus instead of staying at his son’s side, thus showing he believed that Jesus could heal his son and he went personally instead of sending servants.
Jesus responds with a statement directed at the Galileans and not just this man (the statement is made in the plural). The Samaritans had believed because of Jesus’ teaching and without any miraculous signs, but the Jews were constantly asking for a miracle before they would believe. Jesus’ rebuke doesn’t deter the man, he continues to plead with Jesus to come and heal his son. The case was too urgent to spend time discussing whether the Jews needed miracles to produce faith.
Jesus tells the man to leave because his son lives. And here we see the great faith of the nobleman. He ceases to plead and leaves because he believed what Jesus said without proof. As he journeys home, his servants meet him to tell him his son lives. He asked when the change took place and they said the fever left at 1 p.m. the day before, which was the same time Jesus told the man his son lived. The distance from Cana to Capernaum is only eleven miles, but if the servants lingered to make sure the boy had recovered and the man stopped to eat on the way home, it is likely that they didn’t run into each other until after sundown (the next day for the Jews). The nobleman already displayed great faith, but this evidence made his faith in Jesus even stronger. And as his household heard what had happened, they too believed.
The power Jesus displayed is notable. He did not have to be present for the healing to take place. There is no way that this miracle could have been accomplished by ordinary means. Jesus was too far away. There was no time for anyone to deliver a cure while the nobleman was gone because he went straight home. If someone were inclined to say that it was just a coincidence that the boy became well while the man was gone, he still must explain how Jesus knew the precise time the boy became well from a great distance.
Jesus Moves to Capernaum (Matthew 4:13-17)
After his rejection in Nazareth, Jesus moves to Capernaum on the north edge of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum then becomes his base of operation in that he visits here more often than he does other locations. The move itself fulfilled a prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-2. Nazareth is in the territory of Zebulun and Capernaum is in the territory of Naphtali. Both Zebulun and Naphtali are in the region of Galilee. The name “Galilee” means circle or region; thus Galilee of the Gentiles refers to the northern region of Israel that was occupied so many times by neighboring nations. It was this prophecy in Isaiah that the Sanhedrin latter overlooks when they asserted, “Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee” (John 7:52).
It was the region of Galilee that had been so heavily oppressed that God chose to reveal the glorious news of His Son. Throughout Galilee Jesus taught the people to change their ways because the kingdom long foretold would shortly arrive.
The Healing of the Demonic (Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37)
Mark tells us upon his arrival in Capernaum, Jesus went to the synagogue the first Sabbath after his arrival and began teaching. His teaching was unlike what the people were used to hearing. Jesus taught with authority; in other words, he taught with confidence as one who knew his topic well. The scribes, the traditional teachers of the law, would be much like our modern-day teachers. They knew much about God’s word, but there would be many things that puzzled them to which they would admit that they were uncertain as to the meaning. They, like we do today, would cite scholars to support their views. Jesus didn’t cite others for support of his explanations of the Scriptures. He often started his explanations with “but I say unto you.” The people were amazed at Jesus competency with the word of God – not necessarily with the eloquence of his discussions.
One of the prevailing ideas in Gentile society in these days was that people could be possessed by either good or bad spirits. The gospels consistently state that demons who possessed people were unclean. These demons, while causing maladies of various sorts, are not to be confused with the maladies themselves. Demons had intelligence and personalities. Here it is shown that demons possessed knowledge that others did not.
On one Sabbath day, a demon possessed man entered the synagogue and claimed that Jesus unfairly came to destroy them. As many aggressors do in self-defense, the demon portrayed himself as the victim. However, keep in mind that it was the demon who sought out Jesus and not the other way around. The demon, to prove his claim of being out-muscled, declared that despite his human form, Jesus was the Holy One of God (Psalm 16:10; Daniel 9:24). These incidences where demons acknowledge Jesus for who he is forms the proof of James’ statement, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!” (James 2:19).
Jesus simply tells the demon to be quiet and to leave. The demon apparently was reluctant to do so as he sent his host into convulsions, but with a cry he left. The power and authority Jesus demonstrated is amazing. He followed no ritual. He did not invoke the name of God or another authority. His words indicate that he told the demon to leave on the basis of his own authority.
Being in the synagogue on a Sabbath day, the event was witnessed by many Jews. His teachings were new and his obvious authority beyond what any had witnessed. Thus this miracle bolstered the people’s acceptance of Jesus’ teaching. Word of Jesus spread throughout the region.
The Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law (Matthew 8:14-18; Mark 1:29-34; Luke 4:38-41)
Leaving the synagogue, Jesus goes to Simon Peter’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever (or great fever) so those of Simon’s house as Jesus about the condition. Once again the authority of Jesus is seen as he rebuked the fever, took her by the hand, and lifted her up. The fever immediately left the woman. Unlike modern medicine, there was no long recovery period. Simon’s mother-in-law immediately arose and began serving her guests.
By that evening everyone who had someone sick brought the person to Jesus. Basically the whole city turned out that night. He healed all sorts of diseases and cast out many demons. Matthew points out that this fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 53:4.
The demons cried out that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God, but Jesus quieted them, not allowing them to speak of this matter. Knowing that these demons were from Satan, we should wonder why they were so eager to announce who Jesus was to the people. However, Jesus had no interest in witnesses to himself from evil sources. Even though what they cried out was accurate, it was being given from a credible source.
Jesus Tours Galilee (Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:35-39; Luke 4:42-44)
After the long night and a short rest, Jesus arose before dawn for a solitary place outside town and prayed. It was a while before the disciples found him and they told him that everyone in town was looking for him. Luke notes that a crowd from town followed as well. But rather than return to Capernaum, Jesus said they needed to visit other towns. His purpose was to preach and he wouldn’t be able to accomplish this in one town.
The crowd tried to prevent Jesus from leaving, but he left away preaching about the kingdom in synagogues throughout Galilee. Matthew notes that he continued to heal people of every sort of disease and to cast out demons. The variety of healings being done is important to note. Many modern-day “healers” will only attempt to “heal” certain maladies, usually ones that are easily faked or not easily verified whether the disease existed or was healed. Jesus’ healings showed no limitations. Word spread so that people from surrounding areas and countries were coming to have him heal them. The fact of the continual crowds indicates that Jesus’ healings were genuine.
As Jesus traveled, large crowds followed him wherever he journeyed.