It didn’t go well.
Mark 6.1-6 • Matthew 13.53-58 • Luke 4.16-30
Luke puts this story right at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, right after
Mark has it after
Luke gives us more of a glimpse of synagogue custom: The men stood round the podium up front. (The women stood in back, sometimes behind a partition, sometimes not,
Well, Jesus just gave ’em something challenging. He claimed Isaiah’s statement about what God had sent him to do, also applied to himself.
Yeah, let’s look at Isaiah. The guys who wrote the New Testament tended to quote only part of a verse, partly ’cause they wanted to save papyrus, partly ’cause they expected their readers to know the rest of it—or to unscroll a bible and read the rest of it. They didn’t quote it
Isaiah 61.1-4 KWL
- 1 My master L
ORD’s Spirit is upon me because the L ORDanointed me to bring news to the needy.
- He sent me to bandage the brokenhearted,
- call captives to freedom, release to those in chains,
- 2 to call a year of favor from the L
ORD—and a day of revenge from our God.
- To comfort all who mourn, 3 and to set an end to mourning in Zion:
- to give them a fine headcovering instead of ash,
- oil of joy instead of mourning, clothing of praise instead of a dim spirit.
- God wants to call them righteous oaks, God’s planting, his glory.
- 4 They built ancient ruins, abandoned by the first people.
- Now they’re building cities anew—the generations-old abandoned ruins.
And so on. Israel gets restored, the gentiles come to know Israel and their God, blessings and peace and so on forevermore. And it all starts with Jesus. So, y’know, good news!
Except the locals had their doubts: It all starts with this guy?
“We know this guy.”
It’s been said you can’t go home again. The idea is that things just aren’t gonna stay as you remember them. Sometimes it’s because home changed. Sometimes you’ve changed.
Jesus had certainly changed. When he was last in Nazareth, he wasn’t Jesus the Prophet, Jesus the Healer, Jesus the Possible Messiah, or even Jesus the Rabbi. He was Jesus the
In Matthew Jesus is called “the handyman’s son,” meaning
But it was too late for the people of Nazareth: They already had him pigeonholed. He wasn’t Jesus the Rabbi; he was Jesus the Handyman. They knew him, or thought they did. They knew his family. They were his background. And like every insecure boor who shouts at anyone who’s tried to improve their life, “You think you’re better than me? You’re not better than me,” Jesus’s backwoods neighbors decided to take him down a few notches.
John had referred to this statement of Jesus’s as well:
John 4.43-44 KWL
- 43 After the two days, Jesus left Samaria for the Galilee,
- 44 for Jesus himself testified that in their own homeland, prophets have no value.
Note in Mark they referred to Jesus as “Mary’s son.” Not, like Luke has it, “Joseph’s son.” That’s how the ancient Jews usually referred to people; by their father. Jesus would be called “bar Joseph,” not “bar Mary”… unless there was some question about who Jesus’s father actually was. And y’might recall in Jesus’s case there absolutely was some question about this.
Yes, Joseph adopted and raised Jesus, and was a saint about it. But the rest of Nazareth may not have been willing to accept Jesus in the same way his dad did. To them, Jesus wasn’t just Jesus the Handyman, but Jesus the Bastard, and previous generations had this ridiculous practice of blaming you for the fact your parentage was in question. Seems they were still giving Jesus crap because “Joseph’s not your real dad.” Even though adoptive dads are real dads. The guy who raised you is always more your dad than the guy who made you.
Jesus pointed out how prophets get no respect from their family. Ain’t that the truth. No matter how important or knowledgeable people become, there are always people who wanna make light of them because they “know” them. They’re insecure, jealous, envious; they’re convicted of their own sins and failings, and wanna defend themselves by attacking the messenger. There are all sorts of selfish and stupid reasons behind it. But it’s not a unique experience. Even our Lord had to put up with it.
Jesus couldn’t heal.
This part of the story astounds certain Christians, who imagine
It’s not that the Nazarenes didn’t have the same ailments as everyone else: Crippling injuries, chronic pain, blindness, deafness, cancer, tuberculosis, smallpox, syphillis, cholera, bacterial infections of all sorts, migranes, toothaches, appendicitis, mental illnesses, and of course evil spirits. All things that are nothing to Jesus; he could cure ’em with a word.
And it’s not that Jesus lacked the power to heal. The Holy Spirit is still infinite, and he can heal us whether we believe in Jesus or not. It’s an accessibility thing. People didn’t believe in Jesus, or they were shamed into not believing—“Hey, you want people to find out you got healed by the guy who built your outhouse?” So they didn’t come to him to be cured; so they weren’t cured.
Sovereignty means the Holy Spirit can do whatever he wants… and he doesn’t care to cure, rescue, or save people
This attitude kinda surprised Jesus. Compared with the people who lived round the lake, who swarmed him so much he had to preach from boats, the people of his tribe were so convinced Jesus was a nobody, they disbelieved themselves right out of
Jesus hadn’t encountered this degree of agnosticism before. Not even among pagans. These folks were completely closed-minded. Nothing Jesus said or did would make a dent in their firmly held beliefs. I’ve met Christians who are like this: They know what they know. Tell them otherwise, and prove it with all the scriptures you like, and they simply won’t believe you, and think you’re a nut for even trying to change their minds. They’re not interested in learning anything new. They don’t believe there is anything new to learn. Not even God can crack their stubbornness; they’ll reject their own sanity before they bend. As the bible and history have aptly demonstrated, there are many people like this. Apparently Jesus’s homeland was full of them.
This had to be particularly upsetting to Jesus. He loves everybody, but these people were neighbors and family: Of all the people he wanted in his kingdom, I expect he really wanted them. And with very few exceptions, they rejected him. As John put it, “He came to his own people, and his own people don’t accept him.”
Enraging the locals.
This story in Mark and Matthew ended badly, but in Luke it’s much much worse. Jesus didn’t just receive their dismissal; they straight-up tried to kill him. (No wonder he avoided them from then on.)
Luke gives a really shortened version of Jesus’s lesson. So we’re missing a few minutes of it, where somehow the subject came up of whether God’s blessings were for Israel alone, or for the whole world. There were a lot of people in Jesus’s culture who were part of a “Make Israel Great Again” movement; Americans know what I’m talking about. They didn’t want gentiles to receive God’s blessings. Especially the Romans, who’d been so awful to them.
Jesus’s response was to point out God doesn’t care about national borders. He’ll bless Israel, but he’ll also bless anyone who responds to him in faith. Two examples from the book of Kings:
Luke 4.25-27 KWL
- 25 “Truly I tell you: Many widows existed in Israel in Elijah’s day,
- when the skies were closed for three years six months, while a great depression came to all the land.
- 26 Elijah was sent to none of them, but to a widowed woman of Zarefat, Sidon.
- 27 Many lepers existed in the Israel of the prophet Elisha,
- and none of them were cleansed but Nahaman the Syrian.”
Their response? Homicidal rage.
Luke 4.28-30 KWL
- 28 Everyone in synagogue who heard this was filled with anger.
- 29 Rising up, they threw Jesus out of town.
- They brought him to the edge of the hill on which their town was built, so they could throw him off.
- 30 Pushing through their middle, Jesus left.
Seriously, they were gonna take their fellow Nazarene, in some cases their relative, and push him off the cliff. That’s how angry they got at him: How dare God bless foreigners.
As one of those gentiles who got blessed, I am of course on Jesus’s side here. But I gotta point out this passage demonstrates how nationalism has no place in God’s kingdom. Every nation is getting absorbed into God’s kingdom. When Jesus returns to take over the United States, you think he’s gonna be happy with the border walls we’ve constructed?
But to the Nazarenes, the good news was too gracious. They hated its implications. A lot of
Some interpreters try to turn Jesus’s getaway into a miracle: “Passing through the midst of them,” as the
And so much for his hometown. Nazareth still gets remembered as where Jesus was raised, and it’s a largely Christian town today, but this is the last we’ll visit it in the gospels. Jesus was kinda done with it.