Luke 4: Jesus the Prophet and Hometown Boy

Overview

This story has always been so fascinating to me. Following his baptism, Jesus spends 40 days in the wilderness, and then afterwards arrives at the synagogue in his hometown (attending was his custom). I’ll let you discover the details of the story in your own reading, but I wanted to highlight the strange way the passage ends: “and Jesus passed through the midst of them.” I don’t know why I find this detail so interesting. How strange that one moment Jesus being chased by an angry mob, and the next moment he “passes through the midst of them.”

In Luke, Jesus sometimes seems to inhabit a sort of liminal space. I don’t mean to suggest that Jesus didn’t have a body. He certainly did! and Luke certainly emphasizes that reality. This detail catches my attention because it’s a kind of motif in the Gospel of Luke.

  • In 24:36-43, Jesus appears in the midst of the disciples as they are discussing their encounter with him on the road to Emmaus: “While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them [. . .]” (v. 36).
  • Right before his appearance in Jerusalem, Jesus vanishes from the sight of the two who walked with him to Emmaus (v. 31).
  • What is the link between Jesus’ post-resurrection body and his first appearance as a prophet in his hometown? Are the stories related? Is there a common tradition or source from which this theme is derived?

Both other times something similar happens, it is post-resurrection. I wonder if these stories are linked to one another. Does this story have something to say about Jesus identity? About the right time for his life and death?  What do you make of this?

Objectives

(1.) Students will be able to explain one of the ways that people began to receive Jesus as his identity emerged and became increasingly public.

(2.) Older children may begin to see that Jesus was not loved by many. For much of his life he was abandoned by those who knew him best. His identity put him at odds with the world, the Roman Empire, and even his family. They may be able to see that Jesus was increasingly rejected and this rejection ultimately led to the cross.

 

Hear the Word

Jesus the Prophet and Hometown boy, a starting place: See if you can learn a few things about Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth. Jesus is rejected here, not unlike the rejection of prophets before him (Jesus mentions Elijah in this passage. Our children may remember this from our lesson about him earlier in the year). Here are a few places you might learn things about Nazareth:

Tell the story from Luke 4: 16-30  to the children in your class. You may want to begin with a dramatic retelling from your own knowledge of the story. After telling the story this way, you can check the cabinet for a children’s storybook Bible retelling or an arch book on the story (I am not at the church to check our collection).

Respond to the Word

 

  1. Interactive story: The people respond in multiple ways to Jesus through the whole story. At first they are amazed at the wonderful things he says. Later they are upset and then so mad they want to throw him off a cliff. As you tell the story a second time, invite your class to respond to the story as though they are the listening congregation. When the crowd responds positively, they might want to clap and cheer. When they are upset, your class can boo. You might even make two signs to help prompt their responses–“Yay!” and “Boo!” Wonder together what accounts for the different responses in the story.
  2. The Scroll of Isaiah: Share with your students the difference between a codex (book) and scroll. When we read in church, we read most Scripture from the Bible located at the Lectern. We read our Gospel stories from the Gospel book right in the middle of the congregation. Show photos of scrolls and talk about how it might be different to read from a scroll. Your class might like to create scrolls. Here is a possibility for older children who may like to draw their own scroll and write in the words from Isaiah. Here is an idea for younger children. For the youngest children, you might want to print out a copy of Isaiah’s words, clue them in and illustrate around the words before creating the scroll. Children might also enjoy practicing reading from the scroll as though they are lectors.
  3. Wonder: Wonder together what it would be like to see friends and family after being away for a while, and what the response of his community was to his reading, then to his subsequent proclamation? Wonder with your class about the circumstances around the uprising against Jesus in Nazareth. I wonder why the people were so upset. I wonder what Jesus said that changed their mind after they were so happy to hear him read. I wonder how Jesus got away.
  4. Spring up, O Well: In our story we learn that Jesus has come to fulfill the prophesies of Isaiah. The blind can see. Good news is proclaimed to the poor. Talk about how this is another opportunity for us to praise Jesus for who he is. The popular children’s song, “I’ve Got a River of Life” will be fun for our kids to learn (if they don’t know it already). By changing only a couple of words, this song can help remind us  of who Jesus is: “I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me. Jesus makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. He opens prison doors and sets the captives free. So, I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me!”
  5. Good News in Art: What is the good news that Jesus is proclaiming in the synagogue and who is it good for? How is Jesus message good for all people? Talk about what the good news of Jesus is for us. How does Jesus challenge us to be a different kind of people (remember his reading from Isaiah is about the poor, blind, and captive)? Who should we be in light of Jesus identity? Once you have talked about who Jesus is and how that is good news, invite your students to make artistic depictions of what they think is Jesus’ good news.

Close with Prayer and a Snack

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