“So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own house and in his own country.’” (Matthew 13:57)
We will all probably go through a great deal of maturing beyond what those of our “hometown” are really able to see, and it can be hard for people to accept a “hometown” boy or girl when they have to stand up and challenge some problem in their community. This tendency may very well be part of what Jesus is describing.
Still, we have also heard about “hometown” heroes who are defended even after they have been proven to have done something wrong. Barabbas was essentially a terrorist, but the Jewish rulers were able to excite sympathy for him because his evil deeds were directed toward the Romans.
So, which of these behaviors accurately characterizes how communities tend to respond to to the controversies that are stirred up by one of their own? It really depends on the nature of the controversy and the hearts of the people in the community. Seemingly reasonable people may be convinced to support a murderer, if the murderer gives them something they want.
In the case of Jesus, Nazareth’s familiarity with Him was being used as an excuse for them to reject the validity of His message of repentance. Jesus continually challenged people not to settle for the half truths of the scribes and the Pharisees. He challenged them to give up hatred for their brethren, which was contrary to the law. He challenged them to let go of the lusts that preoccupied their minds. He challenged them to commit to becoming one flesh with their spouses. He even challenged them to love their enemies.
The people of Nazareth were conscious of God and they were interested in His blessings. However, they were not willing to do what Jesus told them was necessary to receive God’s blessings. So, they dismissed His preaching and His claims to be the Messiah on the grounds that He had grown up as a carpenter, they knew that His family were common people, and He had not been formally educated in the law. (Matthew 13:54-56) However, these character attacks didn’t change the truth of the message the people of Nazareth were hearing or the authenticity of the miracles they were seeing.
We cannot make the same mistake that the people of Nazareth made. We cannot reject Jesus simply because we don’t want to give up our petty feuds. Sometimes it may feel like we are winning some victory by harboring bitterness in our heart, but are we really winning? Do we really believe that we will be able to stand before God and defend our bitterness? We cannot reject Jesus simply because we don’t want to commit to fighting against lust in our heart. What good thing has lust in our heart ever done for us? Do we think that anyone would be flattered to know that we think of them this way? We cannot reject Jesus based on the fact that we don’t want to hear what He says about honoring the commitment that we made to our spouses.
Finally, we cannot reject Jesus because we think we know everything there is to know about Him. Many people have heard of Jesus, but too many are being turned away from Him without investigating His claims for themselves or putting His teaching to the test in their lives. Why would seemingly reasonable people reject the important claims of Jesus without having carefully investigated them? The example of people of Nazareth tells us that such people do not want to be what the message of Jesus challenges them to be.
The danger of think kind of a rejection is not limited to unbelievers. “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13, 14) If the apostle Paul did not think of himself as having already attained to everything that he needed to be, then surely all of us should realize that we ought not to think of ourselves as having already attained. The path to heaven is one that is continually upward. We will face circumstances that challenge our resolve; we may, at times, face correction as Peter faced when he made the choice to alienate some of his Gentile brethren in an effort to maintain peace with some of his Jewish brethren; we will be responsible for whether or not we are truly pressing upward or whether we are stagnant or digressing in our service to God.
When these moments come, let us also remember Nazareth. Let us not excuse ourselves because we are familiar with Jesus. Let us not assume that a challenge to our behavior is not valid because we have never heard it before, as if we have already attained. Let us not search for some reason to dismiss what we are hearing. The messengers of Jesus will have real flaws, but let us never use those flaws as an excuse to not investigate the validity of what someone may be saying to try to help us come to a better understanding of the Lord’s will.