Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Hometown Crowd

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. - Mark 6:4-6

A few things come to mind when I contemplate the beginning of the 6th chapter of St. Mark's gospel. Jesus is back in his hometown amongst people who know him, and he is teaching in the synagogue. To their amazement, Jesus teaches with great authority, and they are astonished by this. They ask, "Isn't this the son of Mary? Aren't his brothers and sisters here? Where on earth did he get this wisdom?" Then the gospel goes on to say, "And they took offense at him." (Some say "And they did not accept him.")

First of all, the people of Nazareth are intimately familiar with Jesus and his work as a carpenter. For him to show up as a teacher in synagogue, and one who appears to know what he is talking about at that, obviously sets people aback. This is the sin of pride. It is one which we often encounter when we become jealous of the special talents of someone with whom we are familiar, especially if there is no prior witness of the talents. It is fairly easy to see what the people in the synagogue were aiming to do. Because they were familiar with him, they were attempting to denigrate Jesus by saying, "What's so special about him? That's just Mary's boy, the carpenter."

God is always offering to us all that we need, however, we are free to reject his gifts, and if we reject them, what can they do for us? Similarly, Jesus offers much to the people of Nazareth, but in their rejection of him, he is not able to do much for them. While this rejection prevents "mighty deeds" from being witnessed, it is not because of a lack of the ability of Jesus to do so, rather it is out of love because Jesus will not force upon anyone something that they themselves are not willing to accept. To do otherwise would be self-centered, something that is foreign to God.

I really liked the last sentence: "He was amazed at their lack of faith." What a paradox! The people in the synagogue were amazed at the wisdom which Jesus displayed and at the works he had done, yet despite this, they resented the Lord. Just as Jesus was familiar to the people and this led to them being offended by him, so the people were familiar to Jesus, and rather than being unaffected by their response to him, he is amazed, amazed that people whom he loves so well, whom he would serve so willingly would be so quick to reject him.


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