The Logic of Christ

January 22, 2009 | 10 comments
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16 ¶ 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 for to read.

  17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

  18 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,

  19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

  20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

  21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

  22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?

  23 And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.

  24 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.

  25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;

  26 But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.

  27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.

I listened to this passage last week and its been bothering me since.  I’m having a hard time teasing out what Christ is trying to say.

Here are the key parts.  Christ identifies himself as the Christ and the congregation is skeptical.  Christ phrases the reason for their doubt in this way:

No prophet is accepted in his own country

In other words, the congregation knows him as Joseph’s son and therefore thinks of him as ordinary, not as a Christ figure. Christ appears to refute that reason for doubt in this way:

many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, 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 Elias 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 Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.

What’s the refutation?  He seems to be saying that no matter how miserable your circumstances, don’t expect God to bail you out.   God’s mercy is unaccountable.  Is that the argument?  A God inscrutable enough to save only one of the starving widows, or to heal only the leprosy of the foreign oppressor, is inscrutable enough to raise up his Son as Joseph’s seed in Nazareth?

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10 Responses to The Logic of Christ

  1. J. Madson on January 22, 2009 at 4:53 am

    I think his point has to do with the city Sidon and that Naaman is from Syria. He is commenting on the spirituality of Israel and condemning them.

    Is he not implying that just as they reject him now, the widows in Israel, in the time of Elias, would not have had the faith of Sarepta? Likewise, only Naaman had faith to believe.

  2. Ariel on January 22, 2009 at 7:31 am

    I read it as “You want me to do miracles for you before you will accept me. No prophet is accepted in his own country. Elias was sent to the widow of Sidon because the widows of Israel would not accept him. Eliseus healed the leper from Syria because the lepers from Israel would not accept him.”

    To me, this says “Those prophets ministered only to those who already had faith that they could do the miracles, not to those who wanted miracles as a basis for their faith. Likewise, I will not do miracles for you before you accept me.”

  3. SilverRain on January 22, 2009 at 8:00 am

    I think that the people in the synagogue were expecting Him to start doing miracles to prove that what He had just said was truth. (As in verse 23.) Then, He points out that none are healed or helped by God except those who are humble enough and faithful enough to both ask for and accept miracles.

    If you look at the Biblical stories of the widow and of Naaman, they are both about those who acted upon faith without any earlier proof that their faith would be rewarded. (The widow gave Elias her last bread, and THEN her oil and meal were refilled, and Naaman humbled himself and acted upon the words given him by the prophet, despite first feeling that what was asked was beneath him.)

    In other words, the miracles aren’t to prove He is who He says He is, they are to reinforce the faith of those who already humbly believe.

  4. gary on January 22, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I don’t think that the examples used by Jesus are really intended as a direct refutation. I think they are used to emphasize that prophets often are without honor among their own, and Israel in general was often like the faithless in Nazareth. Great miracles were performed among non-Israelites because the Israelites had rejected their own prophets, even as Jesus was being rejected by his own in Nazareth.

  5. Catania on January 22, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    When I read this section of Scipture, I’m usually pretty amazed. If you were a Jew – at the time – and you were looking forward to your Savior – and your people were poor, captive, broken-hearted, diseased and bruised – wouldn’t you stand up and rejoice at the realization that the Messiah had finally come? Not only this – he is speaking to his people. He is in the synagogue. He is where the Jews should have known and seen that He who spoke to them was not simply Joseph’s son, but was actually Jehovah, and that he was mighty to save them.

    But they didnt.

    Just like the people in Northern Israel refused to accept Elijah as their prophet. In fact, not only did they reject Elijah, they sought to kill him.

    Just like the people in Israel wouldn’t be healed by Elisha, but instead, it was the faith of a Gentile that was tested and then blessed.

    “…and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” (2 Nephi 26:33).

    God rememebers us all, but he can’t come to us – we must come to Him – then he is mighty to save. Perhaps it is the Widow of Zarapheth was going to the Lord in prayer. She obviously displayed her faith before Elijah blessed her. We know that Namaan had to display faith by 1. Tavelling to Israel. 2. Accepting the fact that Elisha wouldn’t see him personally. 3. Washing in the dirty river Jordan 3 times. After he did these things, he was healed.

    The blessings of the Gospel are open to us all, we just have to come unto Christ and accept Him as He is instead of what we think he ought to be.

  6. Raymond Takashi Swenson on January 22, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Any of the people who were in the synagogue that day should have considered the question, “If the Messiah is going to be a Jew, wouldn’t he have to come from some Jewish family, with brothers and sisters, and live in some Jewish community like ours? So why NOT from Nazareth?” The Nazareth neighbors clearly were people who did not believe in miracles, including the miracle of the Messiah living in their own town. And since a Messiah would have to come from somewhere like that, they were really unwilling to believe in the reality of ANY Messiah.

    Faith and hope precede the miracle. Just like the Methodist preacher who told Joseph Smith that his vision of the Father and Son was not acceptable, these men, who were gathered to worship a God of miracles, did not really believe in the reality of miracles. And so they did not experience miracles. And in that way they were like the Israelites of the days of Elijah and Elisha, who were so hard-headed and practical in their religion that they rejected the possibility of miraculous food and miraculous healing, as fundamental to their world view. The days of Moses and the healing of lepers and the provision of manna from heaven were over.

  7. Julie M. Smith on January 22, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    A few thoughts:

    (1) He doesn’t just identify himself as the Christ, but v18′s “recovering of sight to the blind” identifies him as divine. We’ve mostly lost this idea, but in the OT, only God has the power to give sight. Mortals can raise people from the dead, but they never restore sight. So that might explain v22 a little more.

    (2) I’d paraphrase the rest of the passage thusly:

    v23: So I’m sure you’d like to see some fireworks, too.
    v24: Proverb: no one recognizes greatness in their midst
    v25: Noteworthy incidents from Israel’s history where miracles were performed for people outside of the covenant and not in it, because of the wickedness of the latter. (Note that they form a gender pair, something common in Luke.)

    (3) I see the whole argument as something like this: I am who Isaiah prophesied, and I won’t demonstrate it to you if you don’t have the faith to believe it without a demonstration. I’ll take the show on the road and demonstrate it to those outside of the covenant if they do have faith. And that, of course, is exactly what happens as Jesus interacts with the Syro-phoenician woman, the woman at the well, various centurions, etc.

  8. Latter-day Guy on January 23, 2009 at 12:53 am

    “I’ll take the show on the road…”
    [blasphemy, blas for you, blas for everybody]

  9. Agellius on January 23, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    I am having a little trouble with it too. The way I read it is:

    Jesus reads the prophecy and then proclaims that he is its fulfillment. I don’t see a clear expression of skepticism from his audience. What I see is first, they are amazed at how graciously he speaks. This sounds like they are impressed by him. At the same time they say, “Isn’t this Joseph the carpenter’s son?” To me it sounds less like, “You can’t be the fulfillment of the prophecy because you’re only Joseph’s son.” And more like, “Where’d this come from?! We’ve known this guy all his life and all the sudden he’s coming out with this amazing stuff!”

    The passage doesn’t show them demanding proof. Rather it shows Jesus saying, “I know you’re going to ask me to perform miracles because you’ve heard that I have performed them elsewhere.” And then he talks about how no prophet is accepted in his native place. This seems to be an explanation for why he won’t perform miracles for them: Because they won’t accept him. Maybe he’s saying that it would be like throwing pearls before swine: that he would perform the miracles and they would reject him anyway, and they would be wasted. The overarching meaning might be, what is a recurring theme in the NT, that the gospel would have to be preached among the Gentiles because most of Jesus’ own people, the Jews, would reject it.

    I don’t think I agree with what others have said, the he expected people to put their faith in him without his having to perform miracles. Because I think the whole reason for his performing miracles elsewhere was to prove his claims about himself. If he wanted people to believe without miracles then why did he perform them at all?

    I wonder if the key to the whole thing is the meaning of the proverb Jesus quotes, “Physican, heal thyself.” Does anyone know exactly what that’s supposed to mean?

  10. Bruce in Montana on January 23, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Well, I think it means to take care of your own faults instead of the faults of others.
    Jesus expected this to be said to him like, “perform miracles in your own country instead of other countries”.

    …my 2 cents…mileage may vary

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