23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
If Jesus wanted to get his hometown folks furious with him he could not have chosen a better way to do so. Upon receiving some pushback and doubt from them about the appropriateness of him identifying himself as the Messiah, he doubles down by calling their faith into question.
First he does it by connecting them to people in the past who rejected messengers sent by God. He especially connects them to people who cannot accept a prophet simply because he grew up among them. In doing this he is targeting their pride. “What makes this guy think he is so much better than us?” “We saw him grow up like the rest of us”. “He is not so special”.
Then he goes a step further and points out situations when people who were not ethnic Jews had greater faith than they did. Again he calls their pride into question. It is a spiritual pride. They think they are better than other people. They are certainly no worse than Jesus.
Spiritual pride is deadly. It eventually crushes the one who has it and the one who is made to feel unworthy. It is critical for followers of Jesus to understand that we are broken sinners who are far worse than we think we are. We have no room to look down on anyone else. We especially don’t have room to do that because we are following Jesus. That is all by the grace of God and is a gift. We cannot take any credit for our spiritual position before Christ and so we cannot look down on anyone whose position is different.
Sadly, the longer one is engaged in the life of the church and following Jesus, the greater the risk of becoming spiritually proud. One tends to forget the depths of their sin and the desperate need for Jesus. Reminding ourselves of our need for the Gospel is a daily exercise. It is needed to keep spiritually humble and to have a compassionate heart for those who do not know Him yet.
A second lesson in this passage is to remember that when you come to faith in Christ, it can be difficult for the people who know you best to accept the change. Being patient and allowing your changed life to speak for itself, and also staying humble, are necessary if you are going to reach the people closest to you. It took twenty years of me following Jesus before my father finally did. There is always hope.