You go to see a magician. Friends and colleagues have told you how good a show it is. At the performance you are amazed or astounded by what you see, or what you don’t see. Impossible things happen before your very eyes and you leave the theatre shaking your head. But in the light of reason and your understanding of reality, you reject the magic and wonder, instead you try to figure out what kind of trick was involved? You refuse to believe that magic was involved. You were amazed, but ultimately you reject.
Jesus returned to his home town after performing a whole series of miraculous healings etc. around the region of Galilee. We can imagine his meeting his mother at the door and receiving a big hug. She probably cooked him his favourite meal and welcomed his disciples who had followed him to town. Neighbors would notice all the extra activity at Mary’s home and would be asking around to find out what was going on. “Mary’s son and his friends are home for a visit. The whole family is excited to be spending time with him.” News about him had been spreading around the region. He was becoming famous, and now here he was returning to his hometown, someone to be proud of!
On the Sabbath Jesus went to the synagogue and taught, just as he had been teaching crowds on hillsides and lake shores throughout the region. But this day was different; this was the “church” in which he had grown up. The people in attendance were well known to him; his neighbours, classmates, childhood friends, and his family. His brothers and sisters, fellow children of Mary were there. These were the people who knew him the best, whom he knew and loved. As he spoke, the congregation were first amazed at his wisdom, his insight and the authority with which he spoke. This was not your everyday teaching and they could feel that. They were astounded, maybe their mouths were agape! They looked around them and saw his proud mother, his brothers and sisters, and remembered him working in the carpentry shop. They looked at him again. He was not clothed in fancy robes, had no special aura around him, he had no special credentials, did not make reference to any revered teachers. Amazement changed to rejection.
The town rejected him and Jesus was amazed at their unbelief! Even though he did know in the back of his mind that, “Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” What had he been expecting? Since his ministry began he had been followed without question by total strangers whom, upon first meeting, he asked to follow him. Gradually his following had been growing to the extent that, a man named Jairus and a sick woman were certain that he could heal a dying daughter and an 18 year illness.
I expect we are all familiar with the feeling of being rejected. You try out for a team or a role and are not chosen. Most of the time in these cases there is no second chance, no appeal process. We make proposals, provide information to support them. At some point we stop and give time for people to process and they make up their minds. It doesn’t matter how much we believe in our idea, if the other people don’t believe then they don’t. We can try giving more evidence to prove our case but in the end, it is their decision and if that is to reject the story is over.
Rejection stings and often leads to resentment and ends with us giving up. “There is no point in making suggestions, these people will just ignore them anyway, they never listen to me!” Jesus knew this sting just as we do but, if tempted at all, he did not speak further to try to convince people. There was no cajoling, no show of power, nothing. Similarly, he did not give up. Undeterred, he simply continued his ministry in other towns.
At home the unbelief of the people meant that no great deeds were done, he healed a few sick people. This doesn’t mean that his power was reduced, nothing could reduce his power, but because they didn’t believe that it was God’s power they were unaffected. Hard as it may be to separate the two, it was not Jesus the person whom the people rejected. In the Old Testament story today, after Saul’s death all of Israel made covenant with David as their king. He had been great at leading the army and was well known, but he was not accepted as king because he was personally great, rather he was accepted because the people recognized that God had chosen him and led him to this office. The Jewish people were familiar with prophets like Isaiah speaking to the people in the words of God. The people of Nazareth were impressed by Jesus’ wisdom, amazed by what they had heard or seen of his miracles, but did not see that God had named him His son. Even the Gentiles recognized that God was the source of Jesus’ power, the unclean spirits had all named him as the Son of God. The Nazarenes were not rejecting the man in Jesus, they were rejecting the God in Jesus.
The people of Nazareth missed a chance that day. Jesus left and, as he instructed his disciples for their ministries, shook the dust of the town off his feet. Jesus left, but at no point did he say anything that indicates that they would not be able to change their minds later. In fact, we know that at least one of his brothers went from trying to drag him home a couple weeks ago, to this week’s rejection, to being one of his followers later on. Jesus was amazed but he did not reject!
I have a friend from my high school days with whom I have renewed contact through FaceBook. Another friend of mine has commented about how much she likes having the two of us as friends because we are both totally committed but completely opposite; me to God and the church and she to her atheistic views. I have frequently considered dropping her as a friend as it is most unpleasant reading the anti-religion and anti-God quotes etc. I haven’t done so though, and 95% of the time we don’t make comments on each other’s posts. Would I like her to come to faith? Most definitely! Do I think that arguing with her and presenting information will change her mind? No!
On its own, no amount of knowledge is enough to bring one to faith…Jesus’ friends and neighbours knew more about him than any of the people he had already helped, more than his disciples, and certainly more than we do. Don’t get discouraged in your ministry or vocation. We will all meet with challenges and rejections but we can follow Jesus’ instructions to his disciples. We go out into our lives with only what we are and what God has given us, we don’t need to pack and prepare, when we are rejected we should shake it off and keep going.
As one of Helen Keller’s doctors told her, “permanent blindness. Deaf. Invalid. There’s a lot of living to be found within those limitations if you don’t wear yourself out fighting them!”
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10