Jesus came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? 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? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?" And they took offence at him. But Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house." And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.
Like Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah, Jesus knew rejection by his own people. The family and the village are realities that cling close to you, but their loving embrace becomes a stranglehold when you disappoint them. Nazareth was a village of perhaps 500 people: just about the best size for malice. The people were happy with Jesus while he was bringing credit on them, but when he compared foreigners favourably with Israelites they wanted to throw him over a cliff (Luke 4:29).
Matthew says Jesus “did not” (would not) act because of the people’s unbelief. But Mark says he "could not" do a miracle in Nazareth (Mk 6:5). A village is able to choke up the sources of life itself.
The theme of rejection runs right through the gospels. "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first" (Jn 15:18). See also Mk 6:4; Lk 4:24; Jn 4:44. It was the expected thing that prophets were rejected. “Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted?” asked Stephen, just before they killed him (Acts 7:52).
We don’t get the impression that Jesus was bitterly disappointed or angry about his treatment in his home town. Perhaps he expected it. In Luke’s account he even seemed to provoke it. We start out in life with our ego-dream: we expect everyone to love us as much as our mothers did. When we discover that the world isn’t like that we become bitter and disillusioned; and so begins the rollercoaster of emotions. If we had no expectations, but also no bitterness, we would be free of two major traps on the path of discipleship.
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