Luke 4:20–32 20He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21He began to tell them, “Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
22They all spoke well of him and were impressed by the words of grace that came from his mouth. And they kept saying, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
23He told them, “Certainly you will quote this proverb to me, ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ Do here in your hometown everything we heard you did in Capernaum.” 24And he said, “Amen I tell you: No prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25But truly I tell you: There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut for three years and six months, while a great famine came over all the land. 26Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in Sidon. 27And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian.”
28All those who were in the synagogue were filled with rage when they heard these things. 29They got up and drove him out of the town. They led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the middle of them and went on his way. 31He went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbath. 32They were amazed by his teaching, because his message had authority.
Several years ago, I went to the doctor because it hurt to lift my right arm above my head. It was really hindering my shot-blocking ability in basketball. The doctor sent me to the physical therapist. While she was writing in her notebook, with her head down focusing on her notes, she asked me, “How long has your arm been hurting?”
I answered, “About a year.”
She looked up at me and asked, “If it’s been hurting for a year, why did it take you so long to see the doctor?”
I replied, “Because I'm a guy.”
She laughed. Then she said, “I understand, but I can't write that down.”
The majority of men don’t go to the doctor. They say, “It’s just a flesh wound.” They consider going to the doctor as less than manly. They don’t want to admit that they have a weakness.
Women don’t go to the doctor, either, but for different reasons. Their lives are too hectic to find time to go to an appointment. They have difficulty finding childcare. If they’re sick, then who is left to take care of the family?
Even though one marriage partner may think there is something wrong with them, they don’t get it checked out because their spouse is already dealing with serious medical issues. They don’t want to add to the stress of the ailing spouse.
So often we know there is something wrong with us, but we refuse to go to the doctor. God has provided healing and health through physicians and we reject this health and healing.
That’s what happened to Jesus in the Nazareth synagogue.
Jesus had come home to Nazareth. The Nazarenes had heard about all the great miracles Jesus had been doing in the surrounding country and how He was preaching with authority. They filled up the synagogue on the Sabbath. During the Divine Service, the hometown boy read from Isaiah 61. A big time Messianic prophecy! It’s where God promises to send a Savior. He would be the anointed Messianic preacher of the gospel for the spiritually oppressed, freedom for those under spiritual captivity and spiritual sight for the spiritually blind.
At first the people were impressed. They liked what Jesus had to say. But then Jesus preached some specific, brutal, attention-getting Law. He talked about how they and their ancestors had always been stubborn in their unbelief, deafness and blindness.
Jesus knew they would quote this proverb back to him: “Physician, heal yourself!” Prove it. Jesus should prove he is the great Physician of body and soul by healing people at home. In Nazareth – the town that Jesus grew up in with his parents and brothers and sisters.
Jesus doesn’t perform a miracle on command at home. Instead, he says, “Amen I tell you: No prophet is accepted in his hometown. But truly I tell you: There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut for three years and six months, while a great famine came over all the land. Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:24-27).
Jesus reminds them that there had were many hungry widows in Israel at the time of Elijah, but only the widow at Zarephath had her oil and grain multiplied. There were many lepers in Israel at the time of Elisha, but only Naaman the commander of the enemy Syrian army was cleansed in the Jordan River. You would think that Israel would have the inside track on miracles, but you would be wrong. These were outsiders, enemies of Israel even. All those hungry widows, and only an outsider gets a miracle. All those lepers and diseased Israelites, and only the enemy gets healed.
Everything went downhill fast after Jesus said this in the synagogue. In fact, that’s what the crowd wanted to do – throw Jesus down a hill … fast. Instead of allowing God’s Word to work, they wanted to kill their Physician.
I’ve ministered to some tough people who endured a lot of setbacks in their lives, but they could always say, “At least I have my health.” But what if you don’t have your health? What if you now need a cane or walker to be mobile? What if you must drag an oxygen tank around with you all day? What if your schedule is manipulated by chemotherapy or dialysis?
What is your reaction when the doctor gives you the diagnosis that you have cancer? Or your child has a terminal disease? Or you need major surgery?
Do you want to kill the physician?
I hope not!
But what is your reaction to Jesus when you receive the diagnosis of cancer? Do you blame him? Do you cry out in anger at God when your child has a terminal disease? Do you give up on God because you now need major surgery? Do you get mad at God because others are healthy or healing and you, a faithful Christian, is sick and injured? You’re an insider! God should be doing these miracles in your home!
Do you want to kill the Great Physician?
I hope not!
When cancers, diseases, injuries and surgeries break into our lives, we may cry out, “Where in the world is God? And why doesn’t he do something?!”
There is the mistake of unbelief, my friends. Jesus has done something. Something far more significant and far-reaching than a healing miracle. God has entered our world in the person of Jesus Christ.
I have been asked before if Jesus is more concerned for the body or the soul. Those who ask the believe that Jesus cares more about the soul than the body. They’re wrong.
Jesus is both God and Man. The Son of God took on human flesh in the womb of Mary at his incarnation. From that point on and for all eternity, Jesus is both 100% God and 100% human. He did not perform miracles as only part of his divinity. He did not suffer on the cross as only part of his humanity. Jesus’ divinity and his humanity cannot be divided. He is both God and Man, divine and human.
That’s important to understand in answering if Jesus is more concerned about the body or the soul. He is just as concerned with your physical body as he is your eternal soul. They cannot be divided. When your body is hurting, that affects your faith and soul. When your faith is weak and your soul is hurting, that affects your mind and body.
That’s why Jesus is the Great Physician of body and soul.
I mentioned this in the devotions I had with families at All Saints and Aurora hospitals after worship last Sunday. First, I saw Jack at All Saints. Jack was diagnosed with cancer. He needs to see the doctor for surgery to – Lord willing – cut all the cancer out. He also needs to see his pastor to work on cutting out the cancer of doubt or fear of the upcoming surgery.
Then I visited the family of Cordale Jr., who was born at 25 weeks. He’s three months early and weighs one pound. Cordale Jr. needs the medical staff at Aurora to save his life. Without them, he cannot live. I was there as his pastor to give him the gift of baptism. Through water and the Word, God has saved his soul.
I can’t do what the surgeon does with the scalpel and the surgeon can’t do what I do with the scalpel of Law and Gospel.
But Jesus can do both. He is the Great Physician of body and soul.
When your body is telling you there is something wrong with it, you need to pray. But don’t just pray, go to the doctor.
When your body is ailing and you are in the hospital, you need surgery. But don’t just have the surgery, call your pastor to come to the hospital to have a devotion and communion with you, to pray with you and for you.
When you are battling addiction or your marriage is falling apart or you are struggling with depression, reach out for help. You can’t do this on your own. Seek secular counseling for your addictive behavior, your marriage problems and your depression. There are counselors who are trained to get to the root of your problems. But also seek spiritual counseling from your pastor. He will be able to get at the root of your problem – sin – with God’s Word. Counselors are better trained than your pastor is on the intricacies of counseling. But the pastor can give you what a secular counselor cannot – God’s timeless truths applied to any situation in your life.
I remember visiting a couple who had not been in worship in months. I knew they were having marriage problems. The wife told me, “We’ll be back in church once we get our marriage figured out.” No. No. No. I told her, “Come to Jesus so he can heal your marriage and then everything else be figured out.”
Too often I have couples who come see me for marriage counseling only as a last resort. Nothing else worked, so might as well try the pastor. A better way is when one of my former members in Kentucky called to ask if she and her husband could see me for marriage counseling. I told her, “I didn’t know you were having troubles.” She replied, “We’re not. We just want to have a spiritual check-up.”
That’s awesome! You take your car in for a regular oil change and tune up. You go to the dentist regularly to have your teeth cleaned and cavities filled. You are supposed to go to the doctor annually for a physical You should be doing the same with your soul. Let Jesus conduct a thorough examination of your faith. In worship with confession and absolution. At home with your family devotions. On your own with your daily Bible readings and devotions.
Jesus said that in their anger, the Nazarenes would claim the old proverb, “Physician, heal yourself.” What they didn’t realize is that Jesus is actually the Great Physician. Jesus gets to the heart of the problem by getting at your heart … which is the problem.
Through his baptismal waters he makes your dead heart alive again.
With the scalpel of the Law, he cuts away at the anger, the gossip, the venom that you pour out on others.
With the salve of his Gospel, he replaces those sins with peace, forgiveness and healing that you can then share with others.
Through his Word, he breathes life into your dead soul. He opens your eyes to see the forgiveness he secured. He breaks through the blackness of your heart with the penetrating light of his love.
He reconciles you to God and unites you as members of one faith in his Holy Supper.
This is also the truth that we need to not only hear, but listen to, believe and apply to our lives.
Don’t be like the Nazarenes who were looking for a different medicine, a different doctor. Go see your doctor so he can prescribe the right medicine for your ailments. Come see your pastor so he can prescribe the right medicine for your sins. Schedule time daily and weekly to see Jesus. He is the Great Physician of both the body and the soul.
For those who want it and accept the Great Physician's aid, Jesus has come to heal us - physically and spiritually. Amen.