At the close of Luke 4, the Lord Jesus says, “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent,” expressing His necessity to proclaim the words that His Father sent Him forth to speak. He also said “the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49). For the Lord Jesus, there was divine compulsion to herald forth the message of God.
Proclaiming the Words of the Father
One fundamental responsibility of God’s servant is to faithfully proclaim the message of the One he represents, regardless of how the message is received. Certain servants of God have been reluctant to move out in service because they know they will not be received by the people. When the command of God came to Moses out of the burning bush, to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, Moses protested. “But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice” (Exo 4:1). The Lord Jesus knew when He came forth in service that the nation of Israel would not receive Him, and that the people generally would reject His words, but as the perfect Servant He uttered no protestations.
In Luke 4, the Lord Jesus moves forth in public service, returning from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit of God to Galilee. Initially, His teaching is received. “He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all” (v 15). This is also the initial reaction to His teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth. His reading from Isaiah’s prophecy declares the Spirit-directed ministry He would pursue, and His listeners “wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” (v 22). But as He continues, detailing past failings of the nation in rejecting the prophets sent by God, their wonder turns to wrath, and they lead the Lord Jesus to the brow of the hill upon which Nazareth was built, with intent to cast Him down.
It is remarkable that the place where the Lord had lived a perfect life for 30 years should become the first place to so overtly reject Him. This epitomizes the reality that He was “despised and rejected of men” (Isa 53:3). Had the Lord not carefully stopped His reading from Isaiah 61, deliberately closing the book in the middle of a sentence, then Nazareth could have been the immediate object of divine vengeance. That “day of vengeance of our God” (Isa 61:2) will yet come to pass, but in accord with divine purpose, this was the time “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (v 19). The Lord in grace passes through their midst, and continues on His way to Capernaum to preach the same message there.
His ministry in Capernaum is evidently seen to be in the power of the Spirit, as demons are rebuked and the sick are healed of divers diseases. This is truly the ministry of One anointed by the Spirit and this blessing could have been known in Nazareth had they not rejected Him. Early the next day, the Lord resorts to a desert place, to enjoy prayerful communion with His Father (see Mark 1:35). Here we see the Lord Jesus fulfilling Isaiah 50:4: “He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learned” (i.e., as the instructed One). The Lord Jesus took the place of the dependent Servant of God, and in those early morning times of solitude His Father poured into His opened ear the words that He should speak each day.
Thus, when the people of Capernaum desire Him to stay in their city, His immediate reply to them is “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent” (Luke 4:43). This was His priority, as the One sent of the Father; He must further proclaim the Father’s words in other places. His motivation was never to be popular among men, but only to faithfully herald forth the words His Father desired Him to speak, and He would do this regardless of whether the response of men was favorable, as in Capernaum, or would incite the wrath of men, as in Nazareth.
Our Compulsion to Preach the Gospel of God
As we observe this priority of our Savior in proclaiming the Words of His Father, there is a clear example set before us. We should similarly feel compelled to proclaim the gospel of God’s grace, the only message that God has for sinful men today.
The book of Acts shows how the apostles felt such an obligation. In Acts 4, Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, having been commanded not to speak of Christ, but they say “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). The apostle Paul also declares His personal feelings for the gospel. He is compelled to preach; it is a debt he must discharge. “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise” (Rom 1:14). Proclaiming the gospel of God to all men equally was, for Paul, a binding obligation as he expresses further: “for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1Cor 9:16).
We ought, therefore, to feel as debtors to all humanity in the matter of acquainting them with the truth of the gospel. The necessity to “preach the Word” (2Tim 4:2) is ours, regardless of the indifferent response of unbelievers. It is a compulsion of divine grace. We must discharge this debt and leave the response of men and the outcome of our preaching with God.