News of what Jesus had done travelled fast. He had healed a woman who had been ill for years…and then gone on to raise a young girl from death: you just can’t keep that sort of thing quiet. So when he arrived home we might imagine there was a crowd ready to see him, ready to hear what he had to say. On the sabbath he began to teach them and we are told they were astounded at his teaching, ‘wowed’ by his wisdom. Who could not be amazed at his deeds of power? In Nazareth he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them – this was par for the course with him. Jesus was known for his teaching and his healing.
And yet…and yet…they took offence at him. This is staggering. They had Jesus himself in front of them, yet still they rejected him….but, of course they would not be the only ones.
We imagine that ‘if we were there’ or ‘if He were here’ we would act differently. We would know…we would understand… we would recognise God’s working through him. But who are we kidding? Were these people, Jesus’ neighbours and friends, any different from us? The sadness is that we are told what Jesus could not do in that place, we learn just how restricted his ministry became because of the rejection of his peers…how much more might have happened if they had been able to embrace Him?
What would you say was the problem for the people of Nazareth? I’m not sure, but perhaps it was a fear of ‘change’ more than a reaction against Jesus.
Jesus identified himself with the role of a prophet: so far in Mark’s gospel he has been reluctant to assume the titles offered him but he’s content to use this one of himself. Prophets read the signs of the times and declare what God is up to in real situations. Prophets believe in a living and active God who is at work in His world. Prophets speak of change and upheaval, they offer a vision of a different future and invite people to move into it.
Jesus was doing all of these things. ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent’ he said. ‘There’s a new reality that is coming near: a new way of living to be entered into. But it needs change within each one of us: a change of heart and mind, a change in the way we live and the choices we make for us to enter into it.’
And so there’s the rub for Nazareth, I think. The people heard his words and saw his deeds but when push came to shove they knew that he was asking them to step out of one sort of world and enter into another. He asked too much of them and you have to choose.
Don’t be too hard on the Nazarenes. Jesus asks us the same hard questions and how do we fare in answering them? Can we love…care…welcome…forgive…serve… as he did? For it seems that it is only when we do that he can do deeds of power among us.
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