Prophets, Hometowns and Honor

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Matthew 13:53-58

If you just stumbled upon this passage, you might wonder why Matthew includes it in his narrative; it doesn’t really have the kind of content that the rest of the chapter has. Yet if we recall the context of this section, it may make a little more sense; and we might also notice that it has something interesting for us to learn.

The scene has shifted from the Sea of Galilee to Nazareth, Jesus’ mountainside hometown. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue there, just as He has in so many other places throughout the region, but the people in His hometown react differently; they take offense. At first, this might surprise us; whatever happened to “local boy makes good”?

In my personal experience “local boy makes good” only applies to “local boys” that a person has never met, these people had known Jesus, and here He was teaching with the authority of God and performing miracles; He was the talk of Galilee… Who did He think He was?

Many years ago I was visiting “back home” and got into a lengthy conversation with my sister who was holding forth on a particular item from the news that was being much discussed at that time. It was also an issue that I was working on at my job in Washington; I knew all of the players personally, and had discussed this issue in depth; I was literally one the players myself. I knew the information about the issue that wasn’t being reported on the news, and for several weeks this issue and its resolution had more or less become my life 24/7. From my sister’s point of view, I was nothing more than her stupid little brother… You know where this is going, right?

So, when we came to the part of the conversation where she exclaimed that I had no idea what I was talking about and ought to just shut up, I smiled and moved on to chat with someone else, wondering how it long it would take before that conversation ended the same way, and each conversation would begin with me saying that I’d rather not “talk shop” on vacation…

They sometimes say that once you leave, you can never really go home again. I don’t know if that is really true or not, but it is never quite the way it was before; of that I am certain.

Jesus’ experience in Nazareth stems from this kind of thing in human nature, but of course this story tells us more than that. The opposition to Jesus, and thus to His Father was growing, for even though Jesus was playing the central role in God’s redemptive plan, there was always opposition to His message, and as time went on, the opposition would grow, just as in our world today. At this point, even His own earthly family was in opposition, yet the day would come when many things would change.

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