Summary: PENTECOST 7, YEAR B - Jesus in his hometown
I’ve heard a lot this week about the annual Diehl family reunion. in my home town we simply call them homecomings. They are generally supposed to be happy events. reunions are a time to get together again with friends and families. It’s a chance to walk around the old neighborhood and remember the good old days. Homecomings give us a chance to call to mind all the people and places that have shaped us. And they give the hometown folks a chance to catch up with us, to see "how we came out," and "what’s been going on with us." And when hometown heroes come home, there are usually a party and maybe a speech from the guest of honor. "We knew she was going to grow up to be someone special," they will say. Everyone tries to take credit. "I taught him to shoot free throws when he was just this high."
IT’S JUST JESUS
But that’s not always the way it is. The people of Jesus’ hometown were almost painfully Dutch in their response to him. He was just a boy from Nazareth, when all was said and done. What could you expect? It wasn’t the greatest place to be from. The people there knew that. They knew what people from more important places said. "Can anything good come out of Galilee?" And Nazareth wasn’t even the best place in Galilee to come from. It was just an obscure little town, one of about 200 such little towns in that area, inhabited by perhaps 500 peasant villagers. They knew who he was, all right. He’d grown up there. They’d never heard of the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," but if they had, hey would have nodded their heads in agreement. His mother, Mary, still lived there among them, as did many of his relatives; and there were plenty of older women there who’d also had a hand in "mothering" him. He could probably still tell you who the best cooks were in that little town. And their husbands remembered how he had started in early to learn his father’s trade. Joseph was dead now, but there was hardly a home in Nazareth that didn’t have baskets, chests, or some kind of furniture that Joseph or Jesus had made, or maybe ceiling beams that they had installed. And the younger men, fathers now themselves, had grown up with him. They had played together, studied the Torah together, grown into manhood together. The girls, young matrons now, wouldn’t have been allowed to play with the boys, but they’d noticed him, all right. They noticed all the boys, and wondered whether among them was the one who might be chosen as their future husband. That was up to their parents, of course. But still, they noticed, and they wondered. His contemporaries, those young men and women, had settled down now and were raising families of their own.
But Jesus had followed another path. The older women were a little sorry for Mary; it didn’t look like he would ever provide her with grandchildren. And they’d heard some strange rumors about him. He traveled around with a band of followers, preaching and teaching. they said that he had healed some sick people. There were even those who thought he might be the long awaited Messiah. But these hometown people knew better than that. After all, he was just a boy from Nazareth.
ASTONISHED BY THIS MAN
So when he got up to speak at the synagogue that Sabbath day, they weren’t too surprised.
He was home again. He was in town visiting his mother, as well he should, and it was only natural for him to get up and speak about the scriptures. Any man from the age of 13 was expected to take part in the discussion. The women and children listened and learned. But when they heard the way he spoke, they were kind of surprised. They didn’t expect to hear him speak with such authority. Actually, they were astounded. Where was this coming from? This kind of wisdom couldn’t come from a man they were acquainted with, a boy who had grown up right here and whose family they all knew. It just wasn’t possible! Not for a boy from Nazareth.
Or was it? That day in the synagogue, the people of Nazareth had quite an opportunity. They could open their minds and hearts. They could believe that, as the angel had said to Mary years ago in that very town, nothing shall be impossible with God. They could accept that God was at work, right there in Nazareth, in the person of this man, Jesus, whom they knew so well, even though he was just a boy from Nazareth. Or they could close their minds and hearts. They could buy into the prevailing wisdom that nothing good could really come out of Galilee, especially an insignificant little town like theirs.They could perpetuate the negativity that men and women fall into so easily when they let their fears keep them from believing. And that’s what most of them did. Mark writes that "they took offense at him." Who did he think he was, after all, this boy from Nazareth? They closed their minds. They closed their hearts. They rejected him. And it is recorded that “he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid hands on a few sick people and cured them.” Apparently not everyone in Nazareth had closed their minds and their hearts. Maybe those sick folks were just desperate enough to believe.