As is often the case with preachers delivering a sermon in their home location, there was a measure of pride in the hearers (v. 22). Jesus was putting Nazareth on the map, they would have thought. Of course, Jesus knew that such a response was meaningless unless they took seriously his words.
In every sermon, there has to be explanation and application. It is obvious that the audience here delighted in the explanation, but they resented the application. And that is how we can tell whether or not we are listening correctly to an accurate sermon. How do we respond to the demands of the application?
What does Jesus say to them here? First, he challenges their priorities. They wanted him to perform in Nazareth the same kind of miracles that he had done in Capernaum. This desire suggested that they did not want to identify with him because he was providing salvation but only because he could provide a form of entertainment for them to enjoy. Moreover, their wish was also an expression of jealousy. Why should Nazareth be left out of the list of places where he would help people by his astonishing powepower?
Second, Jesus challenges them about their knowledge of history when he makes the comment that ‘no prophet is acceptable in his hometown’ (v. 24). Since no one disputed what he said regarding this situation, the listeners must have recognised that what he said was true and not an exaggeration. They were challenged as to whether or not they would be different from others or whether they would fall in with how others had responded to those servants whom God had sent. They were about to reveal their choice.
Third, Jesus challenges them about the kind of people that God chooses to help. Jesus mentions two, and neither of them were Jews. He does not say that God sent help to those Gentiles because he had rejected the Jews and was blessing them instead. After all, there were many Gentiles who were not helped. Nor were they selected because of their social level – one of them was poor and the other was a prominent general. Instead they were helped because God has sent his prophet to them.
How should the people of Nazareth have responded to this application? Surely they should have said to one another, ‘Well, God has sent his prophet to us here in Nazareth today. This is a sign that he wants to bless us and therefore we should listen carefully to what Jesus has to say.’ But they did not do that. Instead they became angry because Jesus had put them in the category of outsiders since it was to outsiders that God had sent Elijah and Elisha.
The people of Nazareth did not like to be classified as outsiders because they physically belonged to the nation of Israel. But spiritually they were outsiders; they were spiritually blind, and they were in spiritual bondage to their sins. Because that was the case, they imagined that Jesus was speaking against them whereas he had actually encouraged them to observe that God has sent his Messenger to them.