Football players who kicked field goals always approached the football straight on, that is until Pete Gogolak came along with his angular soccer-type kick. Gogolak's 41-yard field goal during Cornell's 1961 season was the first by a soccer kicker, and it changed the kicking game forever. The scriptures had been read and sermons had been delivered in the synagogue in Nazareth for many years—all pretty much the same way until Jesus spoke there for the first time.
Jesus returned to his hometown as a celebrity. Although Jesus had grown up there, people from the entire district of Galilee where talking about him. Some were saying that he had performed mighty works in Capernaum—even Luke confirms that (Luke 4:14-15).
Luke, however, chose not to begin his coverage of Jesus’ ministry talking about those things but rather about what happened in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. Luke does this because of what that experience reveals about our response to the gospel.
Jesus was asked to read from the prophets, so he stood up and read from the Isaiah scroll in what is for us Isaiah 61:1-2. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Jesus then sat down and delivered a sermon. He said he had come to fulfill these verses. That he had come to save the poor, the prisoners, the blind and the oppressed. The people of Nazareth who knew him were unmoved by his words. They didn’t feel they were poor or blind. What Jesus did was a real game changer for the people of that village.
Jesus told the people two stories—one about a widow and the other about a leper. Once, God chose to meet the needs of Elijah through a Gentile widow. She was destitute and only had a handful of flour left. Elijah asked her to use that flour to make him a piece of bread first. The woman did, and remarkably she never ran out of flour or oil as long as Elijah stayed with her. She was very poor, but fortunately she realized it. The people of Nazareth didn’t realize how poor they were, therefore they couldn’t trust Jesus. The second story was about a leper named Naaman who was from Syria. He came to Elisha and dipped in the Jordan River at Elisha’s command. He was healed because he believed the prophet’s words and he realized he was a leper and could do nothing to change his situation.
Jesus’ message was a game changer because these people who had a few minutes earlier spoken well of Jesu, now hated him. Jesus saw the real heart of the problem, and he nailed it. Both stories were insulting to the people of Nazareth. They did not see themselves as needy. To the contrary they saw themselves as good and respectable. So great was the insult that they tried to kill Jesus.
Jesus forever changed the game for all of us. We can’t pretend we are good when the truth is we are destitute, poor and blind. We can ask the savior to liberate us from sin, or we can become hostile toward Jesus, but there is no other choice available.