A Prophet Without Honor
1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 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! 3 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.
4 Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
A couple of important notes before we delve into the description. Again, looking at the revelation of Jesus’ identity, we see Jesus here as a prophet in the Old Testament sense. In the OT, prophets were often persecuted and reviled, especially in their hometowns, and it is no different with Jesus. Also, the end of the passage can be a little misleading if not read carefully. The passage is not saying that Jesus could not do miracles because of their lack of faith, as if it was impossible for him – after all, he does do a few miracles there. The focus instead is on the people, that because of their contemptuous attitude towards Jesus, they would not come to him for miracles! After all, Jesus can’t perform miracles on people who don’t come.
But let’s focus on the attitudes of the people in this passage. Their thoughts are verbalized for us, and they start off well: “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!” We hear this kind of mentality often in the gospels from people who have witnessed Jesus’ power and authority. But then, the attitude takes a dramatic and negative shift: “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. Why does their attitude take this more contemptuous path?
Three possible reasons: first, they were only focused on status, and the superficial. When they saw Jesus, all they saw was a carpenter and a carpenter’s son, just one boy in this middle class family, nothing more, definitely not the Son of God. And when you focus on the status or externals of a person, it becomes nearly impossible to see God because God loves to work through the lowly, and the despised.
Second, they were jealous of him. You may have already discovered that when you leave home for school or work, and later return, we get into the habit of comparison. This is especially obvious during class reunions, where people are trying to prove to one another how much they’ve changed, and how much more successful they are than their enemies. The people in this passage grew up with Jesus, and he returns a prophet of wisdom and miracles?…you can see their jealousy gets the better of them. Jealousy destroys our ability to see God’s presence because it fixates us on other people, rather than on God.
Third, familiarity breeds contempt. When something (or someone) gets too familiar, we have a hard time seeing anything awe-inspiring or wonderful about it – after all, it’s just commonplace for us. We have to hang on to the significance of the things that we do and the people that we know as Christians – we may praise all the time, we may pray all the time, we may have had Christian friends all our lives, but this should not make worship or prayer or fellowship any less incredible than they are.
Superficiality, jealousy, and familiarity can all prevent us from seeing God’s presence right in front of us.
1. Have you ever focused on the superficials of a person, and been embarrassed to discover they were so much more underneath?
2. Do you ever feel jealousy in your Christian life – perhaps of other people’s relationship with God, or their relationship with others? What have the effects of that jealous been on your spiritual welfare?
3. What part of your Christian life has become too familiar, and has lost its significance? What can you do to re-remember how significant that part of your life is?