Psalm 143:1-2; 5-8
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Many of you will understand this perception I am about to impart, first hand or at least second hand. It is the perception that one feels with regards to watching the young grow up, particularly a younger sibling. I am the oldest of four kids. I have one brother close to me in age followed by one sister and then finally a wee little brother. There is a nine year gap between me and the youngest of my siblings, and growing up I have always viewed him as the baby of the family. Before I went to college, Jacob, my youngest brother had yet to go through a growth spurt, so the image of Jacob cemented in my mind is still the little snot nose brat who whined about everything in order to manipulate our parents into doing things for him. He was a great actor, even went into paid acting at an early age, and as the youngest child he got away with a lot. Now it’s not that he wasn’t a child who misbehaves, for he has always been polite, a joy to be around, and has a good sense of right and wrong. It just that he was also the crybaby of the family and a great manipulator. He was a kid.
Now this was the perception I had of him as I left home and went to college. Once a month during college I would come back home to say high and during most of the summers I would be home. After I left college, Jacob was in middle, so by the time I
started officially living on my own year round was the time that Jacob started to truly grow up into the adult he is now. The only problem is that my observation of him during then all the way to now has been severely lacking, and behold, in a matter of weeks, he is about to be married.
My wee little brother, this snot-nosed brat is about to become a husband, I can almost not believe it. Time flew by quickly and I missed quite a bit. Who is this man who stands in front of me? I almost cannot recognize him, for the Jacob I knew was a short child. Now I see a tall skinny dude with a beard adorning his face. Is this my brother? Again I marvel at my unbelief, caught up in years past, back in the days when I lived in Dayton, for that is the Jacob I remember, and not this man who is about to give his wedding vows and in the presence of God and his family join as one with his soon to be wife.
So many of you may understand this sentiment, where you observe a person growing up and then you marvel at your own disbelief as you see the adult in front of you but can’t help but think of them as the child they once were. Jacob will always be the baby of the family to me; always my wee little brother. But he is not a baby no longer, for he is just that in my mind.
It is a variation of this sentiment that Jesus faces in His home town. Jesus, a well renowned rabbi, a prophet, from the perspective of many who listen and follow him, has come back home to preach the good news and to teach the Scriptures, just like he had in other regions. He has been away for a while, and now He comes back a rabbi with a following. Sure He was a kid
who was wise beyond His years, but He was the son of a carpenter of all people! What is he doing acting like a prophet? When Jesus came back home His own people were conflicted for they were astonished by the power and wisdom that came out of Jesus’ mouth, but then they remembered who He was and were He came from.
They began with astonishment, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?” Jesus was preaching in the synagogues and like everywhere else was performing miracles, healing many who came to Him. Thus the amazement the crowds had was genuine, but that amazement quickly faded, “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?” The crowd quickly took offense at him. They became blinded by their own perception of Jesus before He left them to fulfill His purpose on earth. Why is this snot-nose brat, this carpenter of all people, acting like some noble priest, teaching to us such lofty things? Why does he not instead just grab a nail like usual and help fix own of our leaky roofs? Why does he not instead get a knife and craft a sturdy chair? Why does he not use those good calloused hands of his to move wood and help raise new buildings?
Though they at first saw a preacher and was amazed by His words, they quickly saw a child and was offended that such a person had the audacity to tell them Scripture. This was the trouble Jesus faced in His own home town and amongst His own family, thus leading to Him say, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own
household.” After which, because no one had faith in Him and turned their backs from Him he had little chance to speak words of wisdom and do mighty works such as healing the sick. He marveled at their unbelief, turned around, and sought a new place to preach.
At least Jerusalem, the place that murdered Him, received Him. At least Jerusalem had many who listened to Him and reached out to him for help. Yes, His hometown did not seek to kill Jesus; he was one of their own, and only wicked people will seek to harm a brother. But they did not receive Him, but rather gave Him, as a community, the cold shoulder. This is why Jesus was unable to do mighty works.
Jesus came to the world to save us from our own sins, but he does not force his salvation on others. Jesus wants to save us and through His death He has saved all who believe in him, but that is the key, faith in him. For it is through faith alone that you are saved, and not through any amount of merit nor reason. Because Jesus is not like some evil totalitarian tyrant who forces his dictates on others, we have the ability to turn away from his. And it is this that His own people whom he grew up did. They turned away from Him, which completely baffled Him, and I would wager greatly saddened Him.
He came with great wisdom, and because the crowds were amazed by Jesus’ wisdom it must go to show that Jesus was saying things that they never thought about. Jesus was opening their hearts and minds to the truth. But the mere fact that Jesus was doing this disturbed them, for that would mean this child
whom they raised was claiming to be better than them, so out of their own misguided pride they became offended because they could not see the prophet their own brother Jesus had become.
A brief example of this, and I’m sure most pastors has faced a similar situation. After I was trained in seminary and still to this day I will get in a tussle with my mother, of whom I am very close to and who is the daughter of a Lutheran Pastor, but she is not a pastor, nor was she ever trained to be a pastor. But I am her child, and out of genuine motherhood she tells me things, strongly instructing me on certain things, that I disagree with and will show her through Scripture why she is false. Such is the relationship between parent and their pastoral child. For whereas I respect her, I cannot allow her to dictate to me things that I cannot agree with on the basis of conscience guided by Scripture. So respectfully, I show her why I disagree. Some pastor’s may have it worse of then me in that their family may try to force them away from Scripture and adopt that which goes against God. This is not out of hatred or any ill will, but is usually due to the relationship that was nurtured over the years prior to said person receiving their pastoral duties.
So Jesus’ statement also applies to pastors, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”
Despite all of this, it should always be noted that Jesus never truly gave up on them, just like how He never gave up on Israel, a rebellious people. He kept on fighting for them, fighting against sin in of itself. And died not only for those who accept
Him, but for all people. He died for friend and enemy, near and far, family and outcast, Jew and gentile, for the eternal lives of all people equally mattered to him, and not just some select few. Again this does not mean He will force his salvation onto them, but regardless, He died for them. He died for you and me. And he even died for the one who hates him, hoping that one day that person, whomever he may be, turns to accept the gift that Jesus is so desperately wishing to give. In the end Jesus is not so easily discouraged by tough crowds, but he will always be at the ready.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, though you marvel at our rebellious nature and our unwillingness to faithfully follow you, regardless you continue to look out for us and provide for us just like a parent who lovingly raises an unruly child. Though we may struggle against you, your hand of mercy and grace is always readily open, ever so waiting for us to grasp it. So we ask that as we struggle against you, that you never turn your face from us and withhold your hand, but rather help guide our hearts towards you. We ask this in your most holy name Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.