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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Gospels

Chapter 39 - Luke 4:16-31 - The Gracious One and His Gracious Word Light & Truth: The Gospels by Bonar, Horatius




The Gracious One And His Gracious Word.


Luke 4:16-31



     Looking at this scene generally, we notice three outstanding points (1.) The grace of Christ; (2.) The sovereignty of God; (3.) The pride of man. But in connection with these there are several others which fall to be noticed.

     The place is Nazareth. The scene is a Jewish synagogue. The actors are (1) the Son of God and (2) the congregation of Jewish worshippers. Christ is not a stranger here, they know Him well, for He has been brought up among those hills of Galilee. Here He began his ministry; and it might have been expected that his first sermon in a place where He was so well known would have been welcomed.

     The scene consists of two parts,-the sermon, and the remarks of the hearers,-and then the strange events that followed up the sermon. The sermon is just like the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. The grace of Father, Son, and Spirit is here. It is the gospel of the grace of God that comes from the speaker's lips. The hearers wonder at the gracious words. The first impression is good. But the wonder dies away; the admiration passes into cavil: "Is not this Joseph's son?" Can we listen to the carpenter, the son of the carpenter? This is the sermon-scene. It brings out the narrowness of the human heart, and shews the folly of those who say that were the genuine truth but presented to man, he would receive it. Here was the best discourse ever preached,-no error either in word or doctrine,-full of grace,-the very gospel,-and that from perfect lips,-yet man only wonders, and cavils, and rejects. What proof of our need of the Holy Spirit in order that we may believe. That Spirit could have taken out the stony heart from these Nazarenes, and made them receive instead of rejecting Christ's sermon; yet he did not put forth his power, even though the Son of God was the preacher. And why? Even so Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.

     But let us look at the after-sermon-scene, which brings out these points more fully.

     I. Man's thoughts as to Christ's work. Man does not indeed at first speak. It is Christ that reads their thoughts and interprets their question, "Is not this Joseph's son?" The unbelief that lay at the root of it He brings out. They were seeking a sign. They wanted miracles. Do your Capernaum wonders here! Heal your own fellow-townsmen! Thus their unbelief scoffed. But more. They wanted to direct or manage Christ's work; to tell Him where and how to work! They would have Him take their advice. If He works at Capernaum, and not at Nazareth, He is acting unfairly; shewing partiality; He is respecting persons and places! Vain, proud, selfish man! He would be God! He would control and manage Christ!

     II. Christ's answer. (1.) Ye would not receive me though I did work miracles here. My whole life among you has been one long miracle of holiness and love, yet ye despise it, and ask for more! Ye would not honour a prophet who was one of yourselves. Ye want some unknown worker of miracles from afar! Such is man's heart as interpreted by the Son of God. (2.) God is sovereign. He selects persons and places according to his own good pleasure. He selected Sarepta, and He chose Naaman, passing the cities of Israel and the thousands of other lepers. For He does what He pleases. He cures some, and passes by others; He does miracles at one city, and not another; He heals one leper, but not another. Is He, therefore, a respecter of persons? This is the language of infidelity and blasphemy; of men who say God has no right to rule according to his will. He does not indeed respect a rich man because he is rich, nor a king because he is a king; but He does choose one and pass by another. He chose Israel, not Egypt; Jerusalem, not Babylon; is He therefore an unjust respecter of persons? He chose David as his king; He chose a Sidonian widow; He chose the Syrian captain; is He a respecter of persons? Is He not entitled to do as He sees best? Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

     III. Man's anger. They were filled with wrath, and rose up to slay Him! Their anger was kindled by this solemn assertion of God's sovereignty. They thought they had a right to blessing. The Lord denied this; and shewed them that sovereign pleasure of the infinite Jehovah on which all creation hangs. He gives or takes; kills or makes alive; wounds or heals; as it pleases Him. It is He who makes one man, or one nation, or one city to differ from another. Britain has the Bible, China has not. So God has willed. Spain is in the darkness of Popery, Scotland in the light of Protestantism. Even so Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. He doeth according to his will. Behold He breaketh down, and it cannot be built again. He openeth, and no man shutteth; shutteth, and no man openeth. The deniers of God's sovereignty cannot account for any of the differences that exist on earth. They must maintain either universal perdition or universal salvation.

     Few things make man so angry as the assertion of God's sovereignty. It was so in the case of Christ. Why? Because it prostrates him, and makes him feel wholly in God's hands.