Jesus came to his home town 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.
In earlier days, when I lived and worked in a very different world, I often found myself auditioning actors, singers and dancers for roles in professional theatrical productions. Those aspiring actors, singers and dancers all brought training, experience and hope into the audition room. The majority walked away from the audition experience with exactly the same amount of training, a little more experience, and completely dashed hopes.
You don’t have to be in the role I occupied to dash the hopes of others. It is so easy, in our ‘straight talking’ and ‘honest’ way to destroy the hopes of others. It is true that those actors, singers and dancers were putting themselves through the psychological wringer, and it is true that rejection is an inevitable part of the process, but that is not the case for all those people we reject, day in and day out, through our unkind and thoughtless words.
We may feel that by ‘saying it as we see it’ we are, in fact, being kind. But are we? Very often our harshest words are reserved for those we claim to hold nearest and dearest to our hearts: our children, our spouse, our siblings, our parents. If we cannot be bothered to temper the way we address the ‘truth’ with them, how must we come across to the stranger?
This is exactly where we find Jesus in today’s reading. Those who had seen him grow up could not bring themselves to accept that he had anything to teach them. Rather, they took offence at him. How dare the ‘carpenters’ son’ try to teach them!?
For Jesus, the rejection of those who had known him the longest was a matter of course. He had tried, and he had been rejected. Sadly, though, they were the losers. Not only had they rejected his exciting, life-affirming and life-changing teaching, but they had also rejected his ‘deeds of power’. Not for that community the joy of divine healing and forgiveness.
This passage is situated almost halfway through Matthew’s gospel. No one in Jesus’ home town could have credibly claimed ignorance of all that Jesus had done up to this point in his ministry. But still they rejected him.
Where are we in this narrative?
We know much more of the story, but still Jesus is rejected by so many.
Are we ready to stand firm, listen and then follow Jesus, or are we going to join the sceptical throng which will one day turn scorn into shouts of: Crucify him!?