Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
23. And he saith to them, Ye will altogether 323 say to me this comparison, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever things we have heard done in Capernaum, do thou also here in thy country. 24. And he saith, Verily, I say to you, No prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25. But in truth I say to you, There were many widows, in the days of Elijah, in Israel, when heaven was shut up three years and six months, so that there was great famine through all the land; 26. And to none of them was Elijah sent, but to a woman, a widow, in Zarephath of Zidon. 27. And there were many lepers in Israel, in the time of Elisha the prophet, and not one of them was cleansed, but Naaman, a Syrian. 28. And all were filled with wrath in the synagogue, hearing these things, 29. And rose up, and drove him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down. 324 30. And he, passing through the midst of them, went away. 325
23. Physician, heal thyself From the words of Christ it may be easily inferred, that he was treated with contempt by the inhabitants of Nazareth: for he states publicly those thoughts, which he knew to exist in their minds. He afterwards imputes to them the blame of his declining to work miracles among them, and charges them with malice, in bestowing no honor on a prophet of God. The objection, which he anticipates, is this: “There is no reason to wonder, if his countrymen hold him in little estimation, since he does not dignify his own country, as he does other places, by working miracles; and, consequently, it is but a just revenge, if his own countrymen, whom he treats with less respect than all others, are found to reject him.” Such is the meaning of the common proverb, that a physician ought to begin with himself, and those immediately connected with him, before he exhibits his skill in healing others. The amount of the objection is, that Christ acts improperly, in paying no respect to his own country, while he renders other cities of Galilee illustrious by his miracles. And this was regarded by the inhabitants of Nazareth as a fair excuse for rejecting him in their turn.
24. Verily, I say to you He reproaches them with the blame of preventing him from exerting his power among them as he did in other places, by working miracles: for the unbelief of men presents an obstruction to God, and hinders him from working, as might be desired, for their salvation, (Mt 13:58; Mr 6:5.) Christ could not perform any miracle among them, because “they did not believe on him,” (Joh 12:37.) Not that it is in the power of men to bind the hands of God, but that he withholds the advantage of his works from those who are rendered unworthy of them by their infidelity. The answer given by Christ amounts to this: “If you wish to have a share in miracles, why do you not give place to God? or rather, why do you proudly reject the minister of his power? You receive, therefore, a just reward for your contempt, when I pass by you, and give a preference to other places, for proving by miracles, that I am the Messiah of God, who have been appointed to restore the church.”
And, certainly, it was intolerable ingratitude that, when God was pleased to have his Son brought up in their city, such a person, who had been among them from his infancy, was despised. Justly, therefore, did he withdraw his hand, that it might not be exposed to the derision of those wicked despisers. 326 Hence we learn what value the Lord puts on his word, when, in order to punish for the contempt of it, he takes from the midst of us those favors, which are the testimonies of his presence. With respect to that saying, no prophet is acceptable in his own country, the reader may consult what I have said on a saying of the same import, recorded by the Evangelist John: “A prophet hath no honor in his own country,” (Joh 4:44.)
25. There were many widows After throwing back upon themselves the blame of their being deprived of miracles, he produces two examples to prove, that they ought not to think it strange, if God prefers strangers to the inhabitants of the country, and that they ought not to find fault with him for obeying the call of God, as was formerly done by Elijah and Elisha. He throws out an indirect hint as to their vanity and presumption, in entertaining a dislike of him, because he had been brought up among them. When there was a great famine for three years and a half, there were many widows in Israel, whose want of food Elijah was not commanded to relieve, but he was sent to a woman, who belonged to a foreign nation, Zidon, (1Ki 17:9.) In like manner, Elisha healed no lepers among his countrymen, but he healed Naaman, a Syrian, (2Ki 5:10.)
Though his reproofs strike the inhabitants of Nazareth with peculiar severity, yet he charges the whole nation with ingratitude, because, for a long period, almost all of them had proceeded to more shameful contempt of the Lord, in proportion as he had approached nearer to them. For how did it come about, that a woman, who was a foreigner, was preferred by God to all the Israelites, but because the prophet had been rejected by them, and compelled to seek refuge in a heathen land? And why did God choose that Naaman, a Syrian, should be healed by Elisha, but to put a disgrace on the nation of Israel? The meaning, therefore, is, that the same thing happens now as in former times, when God sends his power to a great distance among foreigners, because he is rejected by the inhabitants of the country.
Meanwhile, Christ intimates that, though he is despised by his countrymen, his glory is in no degree diminished: because God will still be able, to their shame and confusion, to dignify and exalt his Son, as he formerly gave honor to his prophets in the midst of the Gentiles. In this way the foolish glorying in the flesh is repressed, when we see the Lord rain, not only where and when he pleases, but in distant corners, to the neglect of that country which he had chosen for his residence. Hence, also, may be collected the general doctrine that we have no right to prescribe any rule to God in disposing his benefits, so as to prevent him from rejecting those who hold the highest rank, and conferring honor on the lowest and most contemptible; and that we are not at liberty to oppose him, when he entirely subverts that order, which would have approved itself to our judgment. Our attention is, no doubt, drawn to a contrast between Israel and the heathen nations: but still we ought to hold, that none are chosen, in preference to others, for their own excellence, but that it proceeds rather from the wonderful purpose of God, the height and depth of which, though the reason may be hidden from us, we are bound to acknowledge and adore.
28. Were filled with wrath They perceived that the object of those two examples, which Christ had produced, was to show, that the grace of God would be removed from them to others: 327 and therefore they considered that he had spoken to their dishonor. But, instead of having their consciences stung to the quick, and seeking a remedy for their vices by correcting them, they are only driven to madness. Thus ungodly men not only resist, with obstinacy, the judgments of God, but rise into cruelty against his servants. Hence it is evident, how forcible are the reproofs which proceed from the Spirit of God: for the minds of those who would willingly evade them, 328 are inflamed with rage. Again, when we see that the minds of men are so envenomed, that they become mad against God, whenever they are treated with some degree of roughness, we ought to implore the Spirit of meekness, (Ga 5:23,) that we may not be driven, by the same fury, into such a destructive war. 329
30. But he, passing through the midst of them When Luke says, that Jesus passed through the middle of the crowd, and so escaped out of their hands, he means that God rescued him, by an extraordinary miracle, from immediate death. This example teaches us that, though our adversaries may prevail so far, that our life may seem to be placed at their disposal, yet that the power of God will always be victorious to preserve us, so long as he shall be pleased to keep us in the world, either by tying their hands, or by blinding their eyes, or by stupifying their minds and hearts.
“Omnino.” — “Tout a plein.”
“Pour le jetter du haut en bas;” — “to throw him from top to bottom.”
“Mais il passa par le milieu d'eux, et s'en alla.” — “But he passed through the midst of them, and went away.”
“Afin de n.e servir de passe temps a de si meschans contempteurs des graces de Dieu.” — “That it might not serve for amusement to such wicked despisers of God's favors.”
“Que la grace de Dieu leur seroit ostee, et envoyee a autres;” — “that the grace of God would be taken from them, and sent to others.”
“Qui les laisseroyent volontiers escouler sans y penser;” — “who would willingly allow them to steal away, without thinking of them.”
“Afin que ne soyons transportez a entreprendre une guerre si folle, a nostre grande confusion;” — “in order that we may not be hurried away, to undertake a war so foolish, to our great confusion.”