John 4:23-26 & Isaiah 42:5-16 — “I am he” — LeGrand Baker

During the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well,

25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he (John 4:23-26).

The Prophet’s Inspired version says it even more clearly.

28 Jesus said unto her, I who speak unto thee am the Messias (John 4:26 is verse 28 in JST).

The King James Version continues:

28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
……
40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.
41 And many more believed because of his own word;
42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

Then follows something that seems strange in this place, but is found and explained in the other gospels.

43 Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee.
44 For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country (John 4:2 8-44).

One would expect people who knew a prophet would accept him as such, but history affirms—and reaffirms—that Jesus’s lament is true.

In Jerusalem the chief priests and Pharisees feared that if Jesus became too popular “the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation….[therefore] from that day they took counsel together for to put him to death (John 11:48,53). The Roman danger was perceived as real because Jesus was the legitimate heir to the throne of David just as John the Baptist had been the legitimate High Priest. Consequently the Pharisees and high priests feared that Jesus might have the power to topple their political control of the Temple and their very real control of its treasure.

But in Galilee, where Jesus grew up and where his family still lived, Jesus was feared for different reasons. The people in the local synagogues objected to his teachings and to the fact that those teachings seemed to be validated by the mighty works he did. Matthew and Mark tell the same story. The one with more detail is in Mark.

1 And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.
2 And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
4 But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
5 And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
6 And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching (Mark 6:1-6, a shorter version is in Matthew 13:54-58).

Luke actually tells us what Jesus taught. If, as it is likely, Jesus taught the same things in the Samaritan village as he did in Nazareth, then we can understand why the Samaritans (who looked for a spiritual Messiah) where so willing to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, and why the Jews (who anticipated a military Messiah) were so resentful and feared that Jesus might be he.

To understand this story, we must also understand how the people in Jesus’s time referenced the scriptures. They did not have printed copies of bound in books with chapters and verses as we have. They read from scrolls that had the text written in what was essentially one long sentence. There was no way to reference the specific parts of that scroll except to quote some of its words. So that is what they did. For example, the Beatitudes are very short snippets of quotes from Isaiah and the Psalms. When Jesus spoke to his audience it was sufficient for him to only quote those few words and leave it to the audience to know the full context.

The first chapter of Hebrews is written the same way. It makes little sense unless one recognizes that it is a series of quotes from the Old Testament that are all about priesthood and kingship. The author of Hebrews is using those quotes to assert that Jesus was the legitimate heir to the ancient priesthood and kingship. When one knows the contexts of those quotes, then that first chapter carries a powerful message. Jesus does somewhat the same thing on the cross when he calls attention to Psalm 22 by quoting, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me.”

Similarly, when Luke tells us what Jesus taught that enraged the people in Nazareth, he quotes only a few words— just enough that we can tell what parts of Isaiah Jesus read to them.

14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.
15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.
16 And 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 for to read.
17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias [Isaiah]. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
22 And all bare him witness, 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 unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.
24 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.
25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
26 But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.
27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.
28 And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,
29 And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way,
31 And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.
32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power (Luke 4:14-32).

The Savior quoted two chapters of Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives,” is from Isaiah 61. “And recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,” is from Isaiah 42. The phrase, “To preach the acceptable year of the Lord,” is in Isaiah 61, but it is also a declaration of authority that rings through chapter 42.

Isaiah 61 is a deeply encoded description of the vicarious temple rites for the dead. An affirmation of that interpretation is that it is quoted twice in D&C 138 where President Joseph F. Smith tells that Jesus visited the dead and authorize missionary work to begin there.

30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.
…..
42 And Isaiah, who declared by prophecy that the Redeemer was anointed to bind up the broken–hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound… (D&C 138: 30-31, 42).

When Jesus said to the people in Nazareth, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears,” he was saying that it was he who would release those in spirit prison by authorizing the gospel to be taught to them. Jesus taught that same doctrine when he quoted Isaiah 61 in the Beatitudes, “And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted (3 Nephi 12:4 and Matthew 5:4).”

I will not quote more of Isaiah 61 here because I have already done a pretty thorough analysis of that chapter. To find it, use the search engine to locate, 3 Nephi 12:4/Isaiah 61 — Salvation for the Dead.

To his audiences, Jesus’s quoting Isaiah 61 may have been even less provocative than his next reading which was probably all of Isaiah 42:5-16. There, when he said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears,” he was declaring that he is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. The entire section of scripture is remarkable, but he apparently emphasized these words:

6 I the LORD [Jehovah] have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
8 I am the LORD [Jehovah]: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.

The whole quote is just as explicit.

5 Thus saith God the LORD [Jehovah], he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:
6 I the LORD [Jehovah] have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
8 I am the LORD [Jehovah]: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.
10 Sing unto the LORD [Jehovah] a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.
11 Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.
12 Let them give glory unto the LORD [Jehovah], and declare his praise in the islands.
13 The LORD [Jehovah] shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies.
14 I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.
15 I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools.
16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them (Isaiah 42:5-16).

There can be no doubt that the people actually understood what Jesus was teaching. One can always know that because when they did understand they tried to kill him, just as they did in this story.

28 And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,
29 And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way (Luke 4:28-30).

These scriptures might give us pause. I wonder how we would have responded if we had been in that synagogue that day.

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