In Nazareth there was a plain, white, rectangular building to which Jesus went every Sabbath day when he was staying there.
For one moment we pause outside the building to notice that its stones are carefully cut and fitted so that no mortar need be used to bind them. Three doorway, the middle one the largest, are before us, and now the folding doors are open, for the time of the morning service is near.
Will Jesus come to the synagogue on this Sabbath morn? Yes, for he has left Judea, the feast being over and is once more in Nazareth. He is even now coming up the steep, narrow street, and he is alone. Where are then his disciples? We feel sure they are at Capernaum and Bethsaida and Cana, for we shall shortly read of their meeting with Jesus again on the Sea of Galilee.
We will, in imagination, quietly enter. The interior, like the exterior, is very plain. There are two rows of columns supporting a very heavy roof and dividing the space into three aisles. The small raised platform, almost in the center of the synagogue, is, surely, the place where the reader will stand to read, and the “delegate of the congregation” stand to lead the prayers. We notice too, that near to the wall that faces Jerusalem (which is here the south wall) is a small raised platform approached by a few steps and carrying a large wooden chest, whilst in front is a burning lamp.
But now we must, in imagination, part, for the men sit on one side and the women on another behind the lattice screen.
The service commences, for all have risen, and with bowed heads silently pray to God. Then the delegate of the congregation from the central platform commences a beautiful prayer: “Blessed be Thou by whose word the world was created; blessed be Thou for ever — Lord, blessed be Thou in songs of praise,” to which the congregation says “Amen”.
A roll is now opened, and from it portions of Scripture are read, to be followed by further prayers, beginning with the words, “Here, O Israel, the Eternal our God is one Eternal God.”
Now the roll of the Law of Moses is brought from the wooden chest and the portion for the day read aloud, and this is followed by one, who has been appointed to do so, speaking upon the Scriptures read.
But who is this standing upon the central rostrum this morning? It is Jesus, and the “huzzan” had handed to him the roll of the prophet Isaiah. he turns the roll until the words found inthe sixty-first chapter of our Bible appear.
Let us listen carefully to the words, so quietly, but feelingly read.
“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 having read thus far, he hands the roll to the “huzzan” and sits down. The whole synagogue is quiet, watching Jesus. They have heard of his works at Cana, at Capernaum, and at Jerusalem. They are expectant.
The words which first broke the silence: “Today is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears,” and the words which followed thrilled the congregation. Men looked at one another with wondering eyes. “Whence hath this man wisdom?” was in their minds. “Is not this Joseph’s son?” they whisper. “Did he not work in yonder carpenter’s shop? Where then did he sit at a Rabbi’s feet to learn this wisdom, and speak with such authority?”
But soon the wonder changes to disrespect and annoyance. The thought springs into their minds, “But who is this that claims to himself such mighty things?” “Does the carpenter of Nazareth think that the Prophet wrote of him, that he should be the one to fulfil the writing that was written? “Let him do some mighty deed that we may know and believe him!” “He has done deeds of wonder at Capernaum, so it is said, then why has he not amongst his acquaintances here at Nazareth?”
And Jesus knows their thoughts. “Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.'” His voice rises as he tells them why he has done no mighty work among them:
“But one widow, out of all the widows that were in the land, was chosen by God to lodge Elijah, and that widow was one of Zidonia. There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was healed, saving Naaman the Syrian. God showed mercy upon these Gentiles, but not upon the Israelites, because of their wickedness in forsaking him and following Baal, though wonders and signs had been wrought in the land. Yet when these Gentiles received the mercy from God they forsook their idols and worshipped Him only.” This is the import of his words, and the synagogue becomes filled with the sounds of wrath.
“Does this carpenter say we are so wicked that he cannot work miracles among us; that we will not believe signs even if they are shown to us?”
Now sounds of commotion arise. They are pushing Jesus from the synagogue. Up the hill the crowd presses, the women terrified, stand clustered around the door of the synagogue, some resentful, but many compassionate. What will the men do in their anger?
Why do they skirt the brow of the hill? Surely they are not about to throw him over? Yes, that is their intent, for they hustle him near to the spot where the rock falls perpendicularly for forty or fifty feet.
Excerpt from The Life of Jesus Christ by W.R. Mitchell
Read what happens next in Luke 4:16-30.