"So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.' Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.' So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, 'Is this not Joseph's son?'"
The wording suggests that there was only one synagogue in Nazareth, thus the population must have been small. Although reading and studying the Old Testament Scriptures in synagogues began long after the Law was given, this was one of Israel's traditions that Jesus endorsed and practiced. It was His custom to enter a synagogue on the Sabbath and wisely use the opportunity to teach (cf. Mark 1:39; 3:1,2).
Jesus was given the book of Isaiah from which to read. It is unknown, however, whether He specifically asked for it. The books of the ancients were actually rolls of parchment, papyrus, linen, or other flexible material, which were rolled upon a stick. It was certainly no accident that Jesus found the particular passage He desired to read. He unrolled the volume until He found this Messianic prophecy, and He did such with apparently no great difficulty (even without chapter and verse divisions). Jesus knew the Scriptures well.
The verses He read were taken primarily from Isaiah 61:1,2, though a portion seems to be from 42:7. Let us analyze the prophecy briefly. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor" - Anointing was the method by which prophets, priests, and kings were set apart for their special offices. This part of the prophecy refers to the fact that the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus to consecrate Him for His work, namely to preach the good news of salvation to the poor in spirit (cf. Matt. 3:16,17; 5:3). "He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" - This portion of the prophecy mentions some specifics of Jesus' ministry in both physical and spiritual terms. Physically, Jesus was miraculously able to restore sight to the blind; spiritually, He made liberty possible to those in captivity to sin.
Out of respect for God's word, when one read from the Law or Prophets, all who were present at the synagogue would stand. Then, after the reading, everyone would sit and listen attentively for any supplemental instruction regarding the text. Jesus boldly declared in Luke 4:21 - "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Since the Jews generally understood this passage to be referring to the Messiah, they would undoubtedly conclude that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah. However, although they were astonished at His words, it soon became clear that they did not believe His claim.
As Jesus continued speaking in a very smooth, graceful way, those present began murmuring several things against Him - "Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" (Matt. 13:54-56). The people of Nazareth admitted Jesus' marvelous teaching and miraculous works, but were at a loss to account for them because of their extreme familiarity with His humanity. This made it hard for them to believe in His divinity, which was the only logical explanation for His actions. They bring up everything they know about Him physically to assure themselves in their conviction that He was simply an ordinary human being like themselves. Those today who deny Jesus' divinity are just as much at loss to explain the teachings and miracles of Jesus.
According to Matthew 13:57 - "they were offended at Him." His claim of being the Messiah was too much for them to embrace, yet it was too well accredited for them to just casually ignore. So, they did what many do in such perplexing situations--they got angry! We will continue this study in our next lesson.