A prophet is respected everywhere except in his home town and by his own family.
Jesus goes back to his home town of Nazareth. While many were impressed by his teachings, others rejected him because they knew his family: “Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Isn’t Mary his mother, and aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? Aren’t all his sisters living here? Where did he get all this?” And so they rejected him.” It also says, “Because they did not have faith, he did not perform many miracles there.”
Jesus apparently didn’t play well with the hometown crowd. According to best estimates, the population of Nazareth was between 500 and 1000. It was what we would call a very small town. I grew up in the country, and the nearest town was about 1000 people. I know what it’s like to live in a small town.
Of course I don’t know what it was like to live in that place or time, but the small towns of the 1960s when I was growing up were almost like clans or tribes. Everyone knew everyone else and there weren’t any secrets. Small towns have a certain amount of pride, and they are suspicious of outsiders. They exert pressure on their citizens to conform to expected behavioral norms. In my experience small towns are pretty supportive of their own residents. They are true communities.
Small towns are always looking for ways to distinguish themselves and amplify their self-importance. They generally love their celebrities. My own , Waterman, IL, didn’t have any real celebrities. The only person who achieved any kind of fame was Clayton Kirkpatrick, longtime editor of the Chicago Tribune. They never stopped talking about him and he was a great source of pride. They did, however, have the world’s smallest Carnegie Library, something else they could brag about. Down the road there was a town that didn’t have a celebrity, but they put up a sign that commemorates that they were the site of the first Harlem Globetrotters exhibition. For many years another neighboring town’s only claim to fame was Isaac Elwood, the inventor of barbed wire. Later they hit the jackpot with model Cindy Crawford. The town I live in now is rife with celebrities – Orsen Wells grew up here, Chester Gould (creator of Dick Tracy) lived here, the movie Groundhog Day was filmed here, and Johnny Stompanado was born and buried here. In case his name doesn’t ring a bell, he was a handsome gangster who was murdered by Lana Turner’s daughter. We also have an opera house and a beautiful square.
I was pretty wild growing up, but I got a good job out of college and eventually married a pastor. Throughout my evolution my town was always proud of me and looked the other way when confronted with my indiscretions. They were always proud of my sisters, too. They never diminished our accomplishments in any way like Jesus describes in this scripture, although they were a little upset that I lived in Chicago. That city was, in their mind, the source of all evil and they did not approve of me living there. They would try to talk me out of it. Nevertheless the town always embraced me when I came for a visit. If anything, they amplified my accomplishments. I was always “one of them” no matter what kind of negative rumors (true or false) may have been flying around. They never gave up on me and, when I think about it, I never gave up on any of them. Even after all these years, if someone is from my town and I grew up with them, they are somewhat like extended family to me. Even if someone is a hot mess, that small town connection covers a multitude of sins.
So when Jesus says he isn’t appreciated in this hometown, something doesn’t ring true. Something’s fishy, folks, and I think I know what it is. There is one unforgivable sin – rejecting your family. If you reject or neglect your family, you are toast. So all you need to do is go back to all of Day 124 when he denies his mother and brothers. In fact, it reinforces my theory that his mother and brothers were trying to get him to come home with them, and that is why he refused to see them. You can see it again in today’s scripture where he says that he is not respected by his own family. Again, I think Mary and the rest of the family must not have been very happy about his life’s work. This theory also explains all of his anti-family rhetoric on Days 89, 96 and 97. I think perhaps that his convictions and ministry put him at odds with his family, and that is the one thing that will turn a small town against you.
I’m sorry Nazareth didn’t embrace Jesus when he was alive. He would be glad to know that has changed. Nazareth is one of the most important stops on tours of the Holy Land, a prime destination of Christian pilgrimages. Today you can go on a tour of Nazareth. You might start at the Church of the Annunciation, built on the site where the Roman Catholics say that the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she was carrying baby Jesus. You can then move on the St. Gabriel’s Church, where the Eastern Orthodox say that same event took place. A little confusion, a little competition – no matter. Then, you can visit the Synagogue Church, purported to be the place where Jesus gave his sermons to the Israelites. They also claim that he performed many miracles there (contrary to today’s scripture). Then you can go on to the Church of St. Joseph the Carpenter is built over a grotto wherein the ruins of Joseph’s workshop are supposedly found. Finally, the Church of Mensa Christi commemorates the place where Jesus dined alongside his twelve apostles after his Resurrection. Finally, you can visit Nazareth Village, a reconstructed village advertised as “a living presentation of the life, times, and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth for all the world.”
So Jesus, it turns out you were wrong. Your hometown really did respect you. They probably just wanted you to be a little nicer to your family. A little more polite. No worries, all has been forgiven. You are indeed Nazareth’s favorite son.
What does this scripture say to you?
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