Luke 4:16

16 He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read,

Luke 4:16 Meaning and Commentary

Luke 4:16

And he came to Nazareth
After some length of time, when he had gone through all Galilee, and had acquired great credit and reputation by his ministry and miracles; he came to the place,

where he had been brought up:
where he was conceived, though not born; and where he had his education, and wrought at a trade, and was well known to the inhabitants; and therefore it was proper that he should first exercise his ministry, and obtain a character in other places, which would prepare him a reception among his townsmen, who otherwise, in all likelihood, would have treated him at once with neglect and contempt:

and as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
This was either his custom from his youth, when he dwelt at Nazareth, while a private person, and before he was engaged in public service, whither he had used to repair as an inhabitant of the city, and a member of the congregation, to attend synagogue worship, as he now did; or it refers to his custom, since he became a public preacher, who at Capernaum, or any other city of Galilee, where there was a synagogue, used to frequent it, whether on sabbath days, or any other, and so he did here:

and stood up for to read:
by rising and standing up, and perhaps by some other gesture he signified his inclination to read a portion of Scripture, if liberty was given, and a book delivered him, for, as yet, he had no book to read in; nor might any read in public, unless he had an order from the congregation, or the chief of it; for so runs the Jewish canon F11:

``a reader may not read until the chief of the congregation bids him read; yea, even a minister of the congregation, or a ruler of the synagogue, may not read of himself, until the congregation, or the chief among them, bids him read.''

This custom of reading the Scriptures publicly, was an appointment of Moses, according to the account of the Jews; who say F12

``Moses our master, ordered the Israelites to read in the law publicly, on the sabbath, and on the second and fifth days of the week, in the morning; so that they might not be three days without hearing the law and Ezra ordered, that they should read so at the evening sacrifice, every sabbath, on account of those that sit in the corners of streets; and also he ordered, that three men should read on the second and fifth days of the week, and that they should not read less than twenty verses.''

It was also the custom to stand at reading the law and the prophets: with regard to the book of Esther, the rule is F13 this;

``he that reads the "Megilia", or book of "Esther", stands or sits.''

That is, as their commentators F14 explain it, if he will he may stand, and if he will he may sit, he may do as he pleases; but so he might not in reading the law: hence it is asked F15,

``why is it not so in the law? R. Abhu replies, because the Scripture says, ( Deuteronomy 5:3 ) "Stand thou here by me."''

Wherefore they say F16, the law must be read standing, and it is even forbidden to lean on any thing. Christ conformed to these rules; he went into the synagogue to read on the sabbath day, and stood up when he read, and waited for order, and a book to be given him to read: it may be asked, how he came to be admitted to read publicly in the synagogue, when he was not of the tribe of Levi, nor was he brought up in the schools and academies of the Jews, and was known to be a mechanic? It may be observed, that common Israelites, as well as priests and Levites, were allowed to read the Scriptures publicly; every sabbath day, seven persons read, a priest, a Levite, and five Israelites: the order was this; the priest read first, and after him the Levite, and after him an Israelite: and it is said to be a known custom to this day, that even an unlearned priest read before the greatest wise man in Israel; and he that was greater than his companion in wisdom, read first F17. Now Christ, on account of the great fame he was in for his wisdom and mighty works, was admitted to this public service, though he was no Levite, and known by the inhabitants of this place, to have been brought up to a trade.


F11 Maimon. Hilchot Tephilla, c. 12. sect. 7.
F12 Maimon. Hilchot Tephilla, c. 12. sect. 1.
F13 Misn. Megilia, c. 4. 1.
F14 Jarchi & Bartenora in ib.
F15 T. Bab. Megilia, fol. 21. 1.
F16 Robbenu Asher in T. Megill. c. 3. sect. 1. & Piske Harosh in ib.
F17 Maimon. Hilch. Tephillah, c. 12. sect. 16, 18.

Luke 4:16 In-Context

14 Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit. News that he was back spread through the countryside.
15 He taught in their meeting places to everyone's acclaim and pleasure.
16 He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read,
17 he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,
18 God's Spirit is on me; he's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free,
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.