Luke 4:16-30 – How was Jesus rejected?

Problem: There are differences in Jesus’ rejection between the Synoptic gospels. Matthew and Mark place this event in the middle of Jesus’ ministry, but Luke places it at the beginning. Moreover, Matthew and Mark state that Jesus left quietly (Mt. 13:58; Mk. 6:5), while Luke explains he was chased by a mob (Lk. 4:30). What should we make of these? Are they contradictions?

Solution: Matthew and Mark’s account of Jesus’ rejection are similar, but Luke’s is the most different. This can be resolved in one of two ways:

Two rejections?
Matthew and Mark place this rejection somewhere in the middle of Jesus’ ministry (near the death of John the Baptist), but Luke places it at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Poythress writes, “Suppose that the episode in Luke took place early in Jesus’s public ministry. When the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, he may have decided never to return. But then again he may have decided out of compassion to give them one more chance. If and when he went back, their reaction was still the same. It is quite possible that, because they remained in opposition, they produced the same basic reasons for opposition that they had used before. They asked, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ and so on. Jesus in response might fittingly have reminded them a second time of the rejection of Old Testament prophets.”[1]

One event?
Since Luke mentions Jesus’ other miracles (Lk. 4:23), it’s possible that this is out of chronological order. But as we have already noted, chronological order was not important to ancient authors—particularly in the gospels.

What about the mob chasing him?
Luke records that a mob chased him, intending to throw him off of a cliff (Lk. 4:30), but Matthew 13:58 and Mark 6:5 do not mention this violent intent. However, it’s possible that Jesus had been in Nazareth for several days before he decided to take up the scroll in the Synagogue.

[1] Poythress, Vern S. Inerrancy and the Gospels: A God-centered Approach to the Challenges of Harmonization. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. 140-141.

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