53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54 Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”
58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.Matthew 53-58 (NIV)
Growing up in a small town has advantages and disadvantages. Small towns provide a sense of safety and familiarity. While common sense in regards to caring for your personal property still is important, crime is not a major feature of a small town. The familiarity is a double-edged sword. You are easily recognized and trusted. At the same time, people tend to know more about you and your activities than you may like. When you leave the small town, people who remain always identify you with the characteristics and behaviors you exhibited when you lived there.
Our reading today comes at the point when Jesus has ended his most recent session of teaching and returns to his hometown. After he arrives, he starts going to the synagogue which is his custom in any town he enters. It only seems natural for him to teach the people while in the synagogue. They are amazed with his teaching. This is the general response he receives everywhere but here is a little different. When the people saw and heard Jesus in this synagogue, they saw and heard him filtered through the memories of the boy who had grown up there. They knew his parents and siblings well. They knew he had wisdom and power which he did not obtain in Nazareth. So they began to see him as someone trying to be something he did not have the background to be. As it states in the passage they were offended. You can almost hear someone ask, “Who do you think you are?” Jesus is aware of their disbelief so decides he will discontinue his work in Nazareth because they have failed to see who he really is.
How often do you fall into the same category as the people of Nazareth? Jesus seems to indicate with what he says that this is common with others, not just himself. It can be very easy to have preconceived notions of who a person is, especially if we have witnessed them growing up. Sometimes a person can also revert to their characteristics and behaviors from childhood when returning to their hometown. A message which seems to come from this passage is that we must realize that people change, discover new gifts and skills, and can offer more than we think they are capable. Trying to keep a person in the mold we saw created when we knew them before does a disservice to them and us.