Where did all these Gentile Christians come from?
by Joel Settecase
If you are like me, you are not Jewish. If you’re not Jewish, you are a Gentile. Those are the only two options: Jew or Gentile. But whether you are Jewish or Gentile, perhaps you stopped to think about this fact: the vast majority of Christians are Gentiles, who worship a man they believe to be the Jewish Messiah.*
The Old Testament (or the Tanakh, as my Jewish friends call it) was written by Jewish people, for Jewish people, and about the God who specifically chose the nation of Israel for his people.
Yahweh, the Lord, was indeed “the God of Israel.” Gentiles, meanwhile, historically worshiped pagan deities like Baal, Asherah, Ra, Zeus, Jupiter, Thor, etc. Yet today Christians, the majority of whom are descendants of those pagan-god-worshipers of ages past, worship the God of Israel. Why the switch?
The answer comes from today’s reading: Luke 4:16-30. Read it before you read on.
Now, let’s break down what’s happening here. Jesus has returned to his hometown of Nazareth. Prior to this, he has been traveling around Galilee, preaching in synagogues. He had withstood the temptation of Satan, and he has begun his public ministry.
Jesus preaches to the Nazarenes who have gathered in the synagogue (think church-meets-community-center).
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Jesus begins his sermon by reading from an ancient prophecy from Isaiah, about the “Lord’s Servant.” Basically, Jesus says that he is the Lord’s Servant, and he has come to bring God’s favor to the poor in spirit, the blind, and the captives.
At first, the people marvel. They compliment him and speak well of him. But they maintain a sense of indifference and skepticism: “Is this not Joseph’s son?” They were willing to call him a good teacher, but they knew him. They grew up with him. He was like them–nothing too special.
When Jesus reads the situation, he says, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself.'” Jesus then tells them that no prophet is ever accepted by the people from his hometown. He predicts that they will demand that he do miracles. In other words, he know’s they are going to say, “You think you’re special? Prove it to us, Big Shot!”
Jesus then changes the tone of his sermon. Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon about this passage, points out that Jesus does not just want to wow them. He wants to move them. Jesus has come to save, and right now these people do not believe he is the savior.
They think that, because Jesus grew up in their midst, he owes them some proof that he really is the Messiah. What Jesus says next is amazing…