He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
You know the saying as well as I do: “familiarity breeds contempt.” Or, to put it another way, we tend to value things that are unknown, mysterious, or rare. Take, for example, all the attention we typically give to a solar eclipse. Almost any sunset is far more beautiful than an eclipse, but sunsets are available to us everyday, while eclipses occur infrequently. And so we value them for their rarity.
I think there is something similar going on in the reception Jesus receives in his hometown. They seem amazed by what he says and what he does, but they also take offense at it. They know him too well, are too familiar with him and his family, to imagine that he is anything special. Moreover, they seem to suspect that one from their midst should not be able to do such things and are offended that he is. Perhaps they feel he is “putting on airs.” Perhaps his extraordinariness makes them feel ordinary, even insufficient by comparison. Or perhaps their reaction is tinged by jealousy that one of their own has been accorded such honor.
We don’t know. We do know, however, that their refusal to receive him limits what they can receive from him. Mark’s terse pronouncement – “he could do no deed of power there” – raises some interesting questions about the nature of the divine-human relationship and the degree to which God is willing to be limited by our responsiveness. God, it would seem, does not force God’s own self on us but seeks to be in relationship with us. At least when it comes to working powerfully in our lives.
Yet these must remain only questions, for it is a short scene and hardly provides a conclusive answer about the nature and import of our response to God’s overtures.
Still…it makes me wonder. Where am I limiting God’s activity in my life? Where might I be more open to receiving the gifts and presence of God, especially when those gifts are given through the ordinary, everyday, even mundane people in my life? Am I missing out on a more vibrant experience of God’s grace because it comes not in the unusual or exotic but merely through the forgiveness of a spouse, the patience of a child, the support of a colleague or friend?
Here, also, God is at work in powerful ways. Let us be open not only to being Christ to our neighbor but receiving Christ and Christ’s grace from our neighbor as well.
Prayer: Dear God, you come to us in so many ways – through the majesty of a sunset and the tender embrace of a friend. Let us receive you always with gratitude. In Jesus’ name, Amen.