Scenes in the Synagogue (3)
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
A Question of Trust and Consequence of Doubt. 'He came into his own country . .. and when the Sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue', 6. 1, 2. The Lord came to Nazareth where He had been brought up and entered the synagogue where in all probability He had been taken by His mother as a boy and listened to the reading and exposition of the Law. He had previously visited Nazareth and preached in the synagogue, Luke 4. 16-32. As He rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, their anger was so great that they thrust Him out of the city and would have cast Him over a cliff but He passed through their midst and came down to Capernaum, now called 'his own city', Matt. 9. I.
Criticism of the Carpenter
As He taught in the synagogue the opposition consisted of unkindly criticism and cynical distrust. They asked, 'from whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him . . . Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?', 6. 2, 3.
Three issues of fundamental importance are raised with regard to His Person. First, they questioned:
The Source of His Words
He spoke with authority and not as the scribes, so where did He gain such knowledge? There was neither a university nor school of the prophets at Nazareth and yet His teaching surpassed anything He might have gained from the learned Rabbis. Secondly, they questioned:
The Scope of His Wisdom
Later, in Jerusalem, the Jews marvelled saying, 'How knoweth this man letters having never learned?', John 7. 15. By 'letters' was meant learning and knowledge of the scriptures, the main province of Jewish learning. They did not infer that He had received no education, but that He had not been taught by the great Rabbis, whom they regarded as having the key to the interpretation of the scriptures. His wisdom and knowledge astonished His hearers just as His 'understanding and answers' had done as a boy many years before. He claimed that His teaching was that of the Father who had sent Him, John 7. 16. Thirdly, they questioned:
The Significance of His Works
Four words are used in the Gospels to describe our Lord's miracles. 'Wonders' indicated the effect upon the onlookers; 'signs'the significance of the miracle, giving proof of the divine credentials of the worker; 'powers' described the source, that is, of God, and 'works' is used frequently by John in his gospel. 'The wonderful is for John only the natural form of working for Him whose name is Wonderful', (Trench). The miracles are never described as 'wonders' alone, for the Lord never performed a miracle to satisfy human curiosity or to receive popular applause for a supernatural display. John declared that the miracles he had selected were, 'that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name, John 20. 30, 31.
'They were offended at Him', 6. 3, 4. The humble origin of the Lord Jesus was a stumbling-block to His reception by His fellow countrymen. Though they had rightly rejected any human source for His power, they were not prepared to attribute it to His deity. Like many intellectuals they knew Him historically on the human level, but would not open their hearts and minds to the divine revelation. They could not accept Him as the God-Man. As God He was David's Lord; as Man He was David's Son, 12. 35-37, and though the scribes were stumbled at this, the 'common people heard him gladly'. His own brethren failed to believe on Him until after His resurrection, John 7. 3, 5; Acts 1. 14. The Lord was unable to do a mighty work there except to heal a few sick folk, and 'he marvelled because of their unbelief, 6. 5, 6.
He who marvelled at the faith of the Roman centurion, Matt. 8. 10, also marvelled at the unbelief of His own people. They might be staggered at Him but not more than He was staggered at them. The cross is still an offence, a stumbling-block to those who merely require a sign or seek after wisdom for salvation, 1 Cor. 1. 22-24.