To put some context to this, Jesus and Nazareth are inseparable. Jesus spent most of his life in Nazareth. The prophets had said, “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23). History would remember him as Jesus of Nazareth. Even the demons called him that (Luke 4:34).
That’s why this verse is one of the saddest in the Bible: “And he did not do many mighty works [in Nazareth], because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:58) It’s a great irony that the Pride and Joy of Nazareth was rejected by the Nazarenes because of pride.
He came to the town of Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and “taught in their synagogue.” His teaching was the same as it always was. “Never a man spoke like this man.” But it simply had no effect on the people of Nazareth. They were “astonished,” but their hearts were left unmoved. They said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary?” They despised Him, because they were so familiar with Him. “They were offended in him.”
They were deeply offended (Matthew 13:57). Why? Because he was one of them. So if he thought he was superior to them, he had better think again. Jesus knew familiarity breeds the pride of contempt: “a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household” (Matthew 13:57).
Pride has incredible power to blind our eyes and deaden our hearts. And there are things God won’t do for us if we are proud. It is possible to miss out on something because of pride.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). We need to fear pride more than we fear cancer. Cancer does not disqualify us from receiving the grace of God, but pride does.
On our behalf – that great work of grace.
Jesus assertion is recorded in three gospel narratives. The gospel writers are keen to draw this to their readers’ attention. The focus of their words are not to suggest that we should ensure that we give honour to those who minister, instead they draw attention to something far greater. Jesus intentionally lives out his entire life and ministry with the Cross in sight, and the dishonour of the cross is ever before him (Gal 3:13).
The prophet of all prophets endures extreme dishonour on our behalf so that we can enjoy the honour that comes from being in Christ, being known and loved by God. It is the great exchange. His honour for our dishonour. We are reconciled, we have recognition, profile,acceptance and fully loved by God because of what Jesus did on our behalf. And it was all the Father’s willing.
Words specifically mean something. Looking at the gospel narratives in isolation the direct issue here is that the people with whom Jesus is interacting are demonstrating a real sense of familiarity and contempt for his ministry – and a result is that they are not coming with much faith to him. It is interesting that Jesus very clearly in His ministry, responds to faith. God responds to the faith and trust that we put in him.
On a wider panorama, Jesus is a work, even when the scriptures say He could do little. He is demonstrating to us the horrible brutality of the human heart to sabotage the blessing that God would bring to us. We emphatically choose to believe and have faith in God. The Greek word for both ‘faith’ and ‘believe’ are the same.
In the next post we will look at how we can put some of these things right, and how we can welcome a visitation of God’s grace and kindness into our own life and circumstance.