Skip to content

Skip to table of contents


At the Synagogue in Nazareth

At the Synagogue in Nazareth

LUKE 4:16-31



There is no doubt a stir of excitement in Nazareth. Before he left to be baptized by John a little over a year ago, Jesus was a carpenter here. But now he is known as a man who performs powerful works. The local residents are eager to see him do some of these works among them.

Their anticipation rises as Jesus, according to his custom, goes to the local synagogue. The service there includes prayer and a reading from the books of Moses, as is done “in the synagogues on every sabbath.” (Acts 15:21) Portions of the prophetic books are also read. When Jesus stands up to read, he likely recognizes many faces from his years of attending this synagogue. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah is handed to him. He finds the place where it tells of the One anointed by Jehovah’s spirit, which passage is found today at Isaiah 61:1, 2.

Jesus reads about how this foretold One would preach a release to the captives, a recovery of sight to the blind, and the coming of Jehovah’s acceptable year. Jesus hands the scroll to the attendant and sits down. All eyes are intently fixed upon him. Then he speaks, probably at some length, and his comments include the significant statement: “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.”​—Luke 4:21.

The people marvel at “the gracious words coming out of his mouth,” and they say to one another: “This is a son of Joseph, is it not?” But realizing that they want to see him perform powerful works like the ones they had heard about, Jesus continues: “No doubt you will apply this saying to me, ‘Physician, cure yourself. Do also here in your home territory the things we have heard were done in Capernaum.’” (Luke 4:22, 23) Jesus’ former neighbors likely feel that healing should begin at home, for the benefit of his own people first. So they may think that Jesus has slighted them.

Realizing their thinking, Jesus mentions some events in Israel’s history. There were many widows in Israel during the days of Elijah, he notes, but Elijah was not sent to any of them. Rather, he went to a non-Israelite widow in Zarephath, a town near Sidon, where Elijah performed a lifesaving miracle. (1 Kings 17:8-16) And in Elisha’s day, there were many lepers in Israel, but the prophet cleansed only Naaman the Syrian.​—2 Kings 5:1, 8-14.

How do these people from Jesus’ hometown react to what they might see as unfavorable historical comparisons that expose their selfishness and lack of faith? Those in the synagogue get angry, rise up, and rush Jesus outside the city. They take him to the brow of the mountain upon which Nazareth is built, and they try to throw him over the edge. But Jesus escapes from their grasp and gets away safely. Jesus now heads down to Capernaum, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.