Jesus’ Other Limitation in Nazareth

Jesus’ next words to the Nazareth crowd reveal that He was also limited by the will of the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself through “gifts of healings”:

But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:25-27).

Jesus’ point was that Elijah couldn’t multiply oil and flour to sustain any widow he desired during Israel’s three-year famine (see 1 Kin. 17:9-16). Although there were numerous suffering widows in Israel at that time, the Spirit anointed Elijah to help a single widow who wasn’t even an Israelite. Likewise, Elisha couldn’t cleanse any leper he wanted to. This is proved by that fact that there were many lepers in Israel when Naaman was cleansed. If it had purely been his own choice, Elisha would naturally have cleansed fellow Israelites who were lepers before he cleansed Naaman, an idol worshipper. (see 2 Kin. 5:1-14).

Both Elijah and Elisha were prophets—men anointed by the Holy Spirit who were used in various gifts of the Spirit as the Spirit willed. Why didn’t God send Elijah to some other widows? I don’t know. Why didn’t God use Elisha to heal some other lepers? I don’t know. Nobody knows, except God.

Those two familiar Old Testament stories do not prove, however, that it wasn’t God’s will to provide every widow’s needs or heal every leper. The people of Israel could have brought an end to their famine during the time of Elijah if they and their wicked king (Ahab) would have repented of their sins. The famine was a form of God’s judgment. And all the lepers in Israel could have been healed by obeying and believing the words of their God-given covenant, which, as we have already seen, included physical healing.

Jesus revealed to His audience in Nazareth that He was under the same limitations as were Elijah and Elisha. For some reason, the Holy Spirit didn’t give Jesus any “gifts of healings” in Nazareth. That fact, coupled with the unbelief of the people of Nazareth, resulted in no major miracles being performed through Jesus in His hometown.