Thursday, July 21, 2011

Matthew 13:53–58

Matthew 13:53–58 (ESV): Jesus Rejected at Nazareth


It’s taken me a while to get through Chapter 13 (ESV) because Jesus has told so many parables, and I find I start writing a lot when I get to the parables. But in this passage Jesus finishes speaking, returns to his home town, and starts teaching in the synagogue.

However, the people from his home town can’t get past the fact that this is Jesus, who grew up in their midst—the son of Joseph the carpenter and Mary—and they take offense at him. Jesus’ response?

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (verses 57b–58 (ESV))


In some ways this passage doesn’t present a deep spiritual lesson so much as it simply presents a lesson on what people are like. Most of us can probably put ourselves in the shoes of the people from Jesus’ home town: “We’ve known this guy since he was a baby, we watched him grow up, he’s a man just like us, so why is he ‘getting airs’ and thinking he’s so high and mighty?”

I can think of a couple of reasons why they should have been able to get over this initial reaction, however:
  • The passage doesn’t say what Jesus taught in the synagogue that day, but we are told in verse 54 (ESV) that the people were astonished, and that they recognized that Jesus had wisdom. Regardless of anything else, they recognized that he was wise, and teaching something new, but rather than pay attention to it they decided to dismiss it out of familiarity with Jesus.
  • Although it’s true that they’d watched Jesus grow up from a baby, and he had proven himself over the previous 30-something years to be just as human as they were, it should have been evident to them that he was not like everyone else. Jesus didn’t sin. Not once, in all his life, as he was growing up, did anyone ever see Jesus do anything that was sinful. Although I don’t expect them to have been able to put all of the pieces together, they didn’t have all of the information at their fingertips that I have, at the very least they should have known that there was something special about Jesus.
Some modern-day Christians may still experience something akin to this reaction as they try to give the Gospel to their family or friends. Especially for those of us who were saved out of a non-religious background, it wouldn’t be surprising for people to react by saying, “we’ve known this guy all his life, and he’s as much of a sinner as we are if not more—who is he to come and try and tell us how to live?” But that type of reaction can be an open door into a presentation of the Gospel, because they’re right—we were just as sinful as them, before we got saved! Many people are still labouring under the misapprehension that Christianity is about following a bunch of rules, whereas we have the opportunity to tell them that we were saved despite who we were, even though we didn’t deserve it. And they can be too.

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