He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’” Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” Luke 4:23-27
The people of the Kingdom of Israel, and the successor kingdoms such as Judah, the Hasmonean dynasty, and Herodian Kingdom and Tetrarchy, prided themselves on the fact that they were God’s People. They, and only they, a tiny spit of land in comparison to the vast domains of empires such as the Chinese, Indians, or, later, the Macedonians and Romans, had access to God, were given laws by God through which they could honor him. But, as Jesus makes clear in the passage above, many, if not most, Jews did not truly follow God. Jesus explains that he will be asked by his fellow inhabitants of Nazareth to perform miracles for them – not out of a desire to seek after God, but as a challenge to his authority. They did not accept his claims as a prophet and Messiah. So what does Jesus do? He tells them that he will go to places where he will be accepted, that being Jewish did not entitle them exclusive rights to his ministry. He shows that even in the Old Testament, God often rejected Israel and sent his prophets elsewhere.
What does this mean for us? I am a Gentile – I come from almost entirely a European background, perhaps some Native American mixed in, but no Jewish ancestry as far as I know. Under the Old Testament law, I would have to become a Jew in order to live in God’s Kingdom. But not so anymore. Jesus came for the whole world, his ministry was not confined to the Jews, and his death atoned for all who believe. His love is lavishly inclusive. He is Christ for the whole world.