I’ve preached many places in this world, but somehow never managed to do it in Louisiana. This last Sunday was the first time ever for me to occupy a pulpit here. I didn’t know what to expect, but I did have a little bit of trepidation.
Good things don’t always necessarily happen when ministry comes home to childhood digs.
Mark chapter 6 says of Jesus, “he came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works 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?'”
By this reaction, it almost sounds like there would be a positive response. But the verse goes on to say, “they took offense at him.” That’s odd. Why would anybody dislike wisdom or mighty works? It seems they should have celebrated him with a little community pride– Local boy makes good–or something of that nature. Instead, there was only smoldering offense.
Maybe it was because they knew him when he was a young boy and young adult, and he had dared come back to teach…them? Long, deep familiarity can create a blinder that eclipses spiritual things. The messenger can be known in a previous way so much, that listeners can’t hear his message. This ex-carpenter who was known for building tables and doing woodwork, had a role in the minds of his Nazareth audience so contrary to prophethood, that they couldn’t shift gears and see Him anew.
And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household. And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” (6:4).
The wonderful revival that should have broken out in Nazareth didn’t. Instead, Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief.”
Although I am not Jesus, or Jesus Jr., these verses were at the back of my mind as I went up the steps to the pulpit on Sunday. Natchitoches, Louisiana is not my hometown, but one person was in attendance that morning who knew me prior to the time I was a pastor and globetrotting preacher, even before I was a Christian at all.
She was the one person present who knew me when I was the skinny, overbearing older brother, a candy bar addict, and a church escapee–statuses that can eclipse so-called prophethood. But I believe that morning I got better treatment from my sister, and from the rest of those Louisianians, than Jesus got in Nazareth.
Of course, He was doing quite a bit more than giving one Sunday sermon.