Luk_4:28-30. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way.
NOTHING is more uncertain or transient than popular applause. However just may be the grounds of any praise that is bestowed, the smallest circumstance is sufficient to obliterate all remembrance of a person’s merit, and to render him an object of general indignation. At the close of his life our Lord experienced this in a most astonishing degree: for the very people, who but three days before had followed him with acclamations and hosannas, were instigated by their rulers to cry out with equal fervour, “Crucify him, crucify him.” Scarcely inferior to this was the instance that occurred to him the very first time he preached at Nazareth. When his sermon was but half finished, his auditors were filled with admiration at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth: but before the close of it, they rose up in murderous rage in order to destroy him.
We shall consider,
The occasion of their wrath—
Our blessed Lord had preached to them in a kind but faithful manner—
[He had opened to them a passage from the prophet Isaiah, and informed them, that it was accomplished in him. This on the whole afforded general satisfaction: but yet he saw that there were some objections lurking in their minds, relative to his parentage and education; and that they were displeased because he had not given a preference to his own townsmen, and wrought his miracles there rather than at other places. These objections he anticipated, and proceeded to return an answer to them. He observed, first, that prophets in general were not received in the place where they had been educated, because the people who had known them as equals or inferiors, did not like to submit to them in their prophetic character. Secondly, he shewed them, from different instances in the Scriptures, that God had always dispensed his favours in a sovereign manner, and had sometimes imparted them to the despised Gentiles in preference to his own peculiar people.
This was the immediate purport of what he spake; but doubtless there was much more insinuated, than what was plainly expressed. His answer was intended to bring conviction upon their minds, and to shew them, that they were indulging prejudices against him in spite of all they had heard respecting him; and that, if they yielded to their unbelief, they would constrain him to withhold his blessings from them, and even to send them to the Gentile world in preference to them.]
This was the true ground of all their rage—
[They saw the drift of his discourse: but they hated the light; and therefore sought immediately to extinguish it. They were not disposed to contend with him in a way of argument; for they saw that the truth was against them. They resorted therefore to clamour and persecution, the usual substitutes for truth and reason. But to reject him merely, was not sufficient; nor could they be contented even with expelling him from the city: no; nothing but his blood would satisfy them; and therefore, forgetting the sanctity both of the synagogue and of the sabbath, they rose up with one consent, and thrust him out of the city to an eminence, that they might despatch him in a moment. Probably in executing thus, what they would have called, the judgment of zeal [Note: Num_25:7-13.], they thought they were doing an acceptable service to their God; so blinded were they by their own passions, and “captivated by the devil at his will.”]
The inspired historian has declared to us,
The manner in which our Lord escaped itseffects—
Our blessed Lord on different occasions withdrew himself from those who loved, and from those who hated him [Note: Luk_24:31. Joh_8:59.]. His escape from them at this time may be considered,
As it respected them“
[His withdrawment from them was miraculous, as much as if he had beaten them all down with his word [Note: Joh_18:6.], or smitten them with blindness [Note: Gen_19:11. 2Ki_6:18.], or struck them dead upon the spot [Note: 2Ki_1:10; 2Ki_1:12.]. The precise mode of his withdrawment is not specified; but it seems that he rendered himself invisible, and thus escaped from their hands.
It was also merciful, both as it tended to convince them of his miraculous power, and especially as it prevented them from executing their murderous purposes. What a mercy did David esteem it, when by the interposition of Abigail he was kept from destroying Nabal [Note: 1Sa_25:32-33.]! Much more, if they ever received grace to repent of their wickedness, was it a mercy to those infatuated zealots, that they had not been suffered to imbrue their hands in the blood of God’s only Son.
But it was also judicial: for, by means of his departure, the people of Nazareth were deprived of many temporal benefits, which, if they had received him more worthily, he would have imparted to them: they were deprived also of his spiritual instructions, which, if duly improved, would have converted and saved their souls.]
As it respects us—
[In this escape of his we see, what care he will take of us, and what care we ought to take of ourselves.
Every faithful servant of God must expect persecution. But he is immortal till his work is done. God will screen him from his enemies, how numerous, potent, or inveterate soever they may be [Note: Zec_2:5. Isa_33:21-22. 2Ki_6:16-17.]. Look at Paul when a conspiracy w;as formed against his life; and at Peter when chained in an inner prison in order to be brought forth the next day for execution: how seasonably, and in what an unlooked-for manner, did God interpose for their deliverance [Note: Act_23:12-13; Act_23:16-24. Act_12:5-8.]! Thus will he exert his almighty power on behalf of all who serve him faithfully, unless indeed the hour is come for them to receive their full reward. We never need to fear the face of man: for God has “put a hook in the nose, and a bridle in the jaws,” of every man; “nor can any have even the smallest power against us, except it be given him from above.”
But notwithstanding our assurance of Divine protection, we ought to take all prudent precautions to avoid the fury of our enemies, and to avail ourselves of those methods of escape which God in his providence has opened to us. “If they persecute us in one city, we should flee to another,” and like Paul, when “let down by the wall in a basket,” elude the resentment which we cannot pacify. We must not indeed deny Christ, or decline any duty, even though death should be the inevitable and immediate consequence of our fidelity: but we must never court death, if we have an opportunity of saving our lives by privacy or flight.]
What need have all Christ’s followers to count the cost before they take up a profession of religion!
[Ministers indeed, for the most part, are called to stand foremost in the post of danger, and to bear the brunt of the battle: but every soldier of Christ is called to “endure hardness,” and to “fight a good fight.” If by our life and conversation we condemn the world, though the reproof be tacit, and rather intimated than expressed, the world will be filled with wrath against us; and, if suffered by God, will persecute us unto death. Let us then know what we are to expect, and stand at all times prepared for the worst.]
What a ground of thankfulness should we esteemit, if we are in any measure divested of carnal prejudice!
[All of us, if not restrained by God, should, like the Nazarenes, be ready to vent our indignation even against Christ himself, if he uttered any truths offensive to our ears. What a mercy then is it if we can hear our sins condemned, and have our indignation turned against them, rather than against our faithful monitor! Let us cultivate this disposition, whether it respects the public preaching of the word, or private admonition. Against our sins we cannot manifest too much displeasure. Happy would it be for us, if by one act of zeal we could despatch them utterly. Let us at least set ourselves against them without delay, and prosecute them from henceforth without intermission, and without mercy.]