Matthew 13:53-58 (NIV) 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, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
Jesus was not only accepted by the majority of the people who heard and saw Him, He was actually acclaimed by them. But the people of His hometown had an entirely different response to Him. They were offended by what He taught, and by His ability to do miracles.
The source of their offense was two-fold. First, some of them had known Jesus since He was a little kid. They had watched Him grow up, had seen Him fall down and skin His knees, and had heard Him falter over words when He first tried to read the Torah. They knew Him as simply one of the neighborhood kids – nothing special. And the idea that this “kid” could possibly have grown up to be a miracle worker, a prophet, or even, a some were saying, the Messiah Himself, was offensive to them.
The second reason for their offense was what Jesus was teaching. He clearly stated at the Nazareth synagogue that the Messianic scriptures were being fulfilled in Him (Luke 4:16-21), resulting in the people trying to throw Him off a cliff outside of town, convinced that He was guilty of blasphemy. Jesus wasn’t shy about who He was and what He had come to do, and that would have been VERY off-putting to the people who had known Him for nearly 30 years without seeing a single miracle happen around Him during that time.
Matthew states that Jesus didn’t do many miracles in Nazareth during that visit due to their lack of faith. Mark puts it differently: 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. (Mark 6:5-6a NIV) These two passages are supplementary, not contradictory. Jesus did heal some who were sick (causing additional offense – verse 54b), but He did not do any great miracles. The people’s lack of faith did not take away His power or His ability to do miracles, but He was unwilling to reward their lack of faith with the kinds of demonstrations of mighty kingdom power that He wanted to do. He would not do something “splashy” to prove to these people that He really was who He claimed to be. If they healings that He had done and the teachings that He was giving them were not received as proof enough, then He would just move on and try again later.
Jesus never pushed Himself on people. He clearly taught the truth about God’s kingdom, He demonstrated its reality with the signs and miracles that He did, then He left it to the people to decide.
Father, we need to take a lesson from Jesus in this area, from both sides of the equation. We need to be so closely connected to You that we can clearly speak Your words and teach clearly and unapologetically about Your kingdom, just like Jesus. We need to allow You to work through us all that You want to do to demonstrate the reality of Your kingdom, just like Jesus. And then we need to let the people decide, without trying to argue them in (which never really works anyway!). Instead, if they ignore the words and the signs, and reject the message of Your kingdom, we can (and should) simply back off and try another time to reach them with the gospel. Thank You for this lesson. Amen.