In contrast to Matthew’s account of Jesus’s rejection at Nazareth, Luke’s divergences from Mark’s account are substantial.
One is a quite different narrative placement for the incident. Mark locates it in the middle of Jesus’s ministry, whereas Luke uses it to set the scene for the ministry as a whole, with Jesus using words drawn from Isaiah (Luke 4:18–19) to inaugurate his new role. Also, compared with Matthew and Mark, Luke’s account keeps family references to a mere ‘Is not this Joseph’s son? (Luke 4:22; contrast Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55–56). In their place comes a lengthy comparison with earlier treatments of the prophet Elijah (Luke 4:24–7). Finally, a dramatic conclusion is added (vv.29–30), in which the people attempt to kill Jesus by throwing him over a nearby hill.
James Tissot (1836–1902)—a French society painter who lived in London between 1871 and 1882—seems to refer to this last incident in this painting. Tissot experienced a dramatic visionary conversion in the Paris church of Saint-Sulplice in 1885 and painted over 350 small watercolours of the life of Christ over the course of the following decade. He exhibited these to great acclaim in Paris, London, and New York, and they were acquired just before the turn of the century by the newly opened Brooklyn Museum in New York. Two of these watercolours were devoted to Luke’s version of Jesus’s visit to the Nazareth synagogue. One shows Jesus’s unrolling of the scroll from which he will then read. This other one shows what ensues: his near lynching.
In The Brow of the Hill Tissot engages with Luke’s decision to conclude the story in this way. We may mistake the calmly meditative figure in the centre of the scene for Jesus, whom Tissot always dressed in white—but he is not. Rather, he is used as a foil to the crowd, who gesticulate madly at the mysterious escape of Jesus from their midst: in itself, its own kind of miracle.
Dolkart, Judith F. (ed.). 2009. James Tissot: The Life of Christ (New York: Merrell)
6 And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.
And he went about among the villages teaching.
53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his own country he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; 17and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Caperʹna-um, do here also in your own country.’ ” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Eliʹjah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and Eliʹjah was sent to none of them but only to Zarʹephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Eliʹsha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naʹaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and put 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 headlong. 30 But passing through the midst of them he went away.