Getting the Cold Shoulder at Home Hunch 36
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, "Only in his home-town, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour." He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.
In His dealing with the family of Jairus, Jesus showed His disciples the kindness and care that comes home in the Kingdom of God. He had emphasized that such care was not something to be broadcast far and wide because He wanted to respect this family's health. Then Mark tells us, He went to His home town where everyone thought they knew Him well enough.
Think about how Jesus must have looked? People might have said "He's so like his mother." "You can see he's just like his brothers and sisters!" Some might have said "Doesn't he look like Joseph!" How would Mary have explained that? What would you have said if you were her?
Joseph, Mary's husband, had been a great help to Mary in those early years after the family came back from Egypt. But by the time Jesus began teaching in Galilee we don't hear anything at all about him, at least not that we can recognize. What we do hear is how Jesus had a hard time from the people in His family's village; these were His neighbours. Maybe this indicates that Joseph had died. He wasn't around to stop the gossip in its tracks.
At this stage Jesus' own family, His own brothers and sisters, didn't believe in Him. Think about that! What if your older brother was Jesus? Would that be easy? I doubt it. For one thing you had the same mother. Before you were born you had developed in the same tummy where Jesus was. Wouldn't it be natural for you to say: "What's so special about him?"? And what if the next door neighbour's son was the famous Rabbi called Jesus? How would you think then?
When people compare themselves and their family with others they tend to take sides - "We are not like them!" It was the same in Jesus' time. But the way people responded to Jesus was also a little different from that. It seems that the people who had been close to Him in His early life had become embarrassed to be associated with Him. Some of Jesus' family, His next-door neighbours and the people up the street, thought they could ignore Him. They knew who He was. What did it matter what He was doing or what He was saying? They knew all they needed to know about Him. So they thought. "Oh him. He's the son of the carpenter." Some would have assumed that because Mary's husband Joseph was a carpenter that Jesus also would be a carpenter, too. That's why they called Him the carpenter. In those days a man very often did what his father did; a father's public profile stayed with the son throughout his life. Jesus was called the Nazarene not just because He lived in the vicinity, but because that was Joseph's home. It was Mary's home, too, until she moved to Capernaum to be nearer to her sister and her family.
But in Nazareth, it seems, they had become outsiders. That may have had something to do with the events of Jesus' birth. And then, from Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph had fled for their lives. To have then returned to Nazareth would have put the boys there at risk of Herod's manic blood lust, just as the parent's of Bethlehem's boys discovered in the aftermath of Jesus' birth being advertised by the three astrologer-kings. The people in Jesus' home town thought they knew Him because they knew His background.
But there was more. Matthew tells us that the resentful crowd referred to Jesus not just as the carpenter, like Mark does, but as the carpenter's son. There was resentment toward Him even though, by this time, Jesus had become known as a teacher who helped people understand God's law. These know-it-alls from His home town didn't have to pay attention to what He taught because they knew all they needed to know about Him. No doubt it had to do with what they thought they knew about Joseph, Mary and the child. People often prefer cruel gossip to the truth. And when gossip is fuelled by resentment it is easy to keep it alive for decades and so it can prove very useful when you want to pressurise someone.
Because they thought they knew who Jesus' father was, that was enough for them to decide they weren't interested in what He was teaching. They knew what He was like and that was that. It is sad, really. Mark tells us: "They took offence at Him." They closed their minds They thought they knew Him. But they were wrong. A malicious spirit may have closed their hearts to Him, but Jesus the Rabbi helped His disciples reflect upon this common attitude: God's messenger always finds it difficult to get home-town respect.
Jesus experienced the hurtful solidarity which a community can form when it wants to isolate itself from someone. Those Nazarenes missed the One they thought they knew so well. By ignoring Him they actually pushed Him away. And Jesus was amazed, dumbstruck. In the Bible the word "marvel" usually describes how people react when they see a miracle. When Jesus healed someone, the people marvelled. On this occasion, when the people rejected Him, Jesus marvelled. Mark says that for Jesus the response of the people from His own home town was a kind of "miracle."