“Going home is never easy,” I once heard someone say. I’ve also heard that once you leave and set out on your own path in life, “you can never really go back home.” I’m not sure that such sweeping statements apply to every situation, but they certainly applied to the Lord Jesus who did go back to His hometown in the days of His earthly ministry.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, spent a very brief time in Egypt – when Herod the Great was trying to find and kill Him – and he frequented Jerusalem, in accordance with the law of Moses. But the town of Nazareth is privileged to be known as Jesus’ hometown. It was Nazareth in which the Lord would have cultivated His earliest human friendships and fond memories. Did He feel sentimental towards this small town and wax nostalgic whenever He heard the first century equivalent of the Bruce Springsteen song, “This Is Your Hometown”? I have no idea, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that He did.
What I do see, however, as I read of Jesus’ experience of going back home, is that Nazareth had no earthly idea who they had in their ranks for nearly thirty years.
“Jesus… went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home’” (Mark 6:1-4).
What a shame! They thought they were seeing right through this guy, but they really didn’t know Him at all. And in dismissing His divine identity, they were dismissing the very hope and only source of life that each and every one of Nazareth’s citizens so desperately needed.
“He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:5-6).
There are a lot of takes on Mark 6:5. Some say that somehow God’s power was curtailed by the hard hearts of the people of Nazareth. I disagree. Refusing to recognize the glorious nature of Jesus cannot in any way diminish it. What it can do is tragically limit what we could otherwise hope for in knowing Him. If we don’t recognize the Living Water, our parched souls will always thirst (John 4:10, 14-15; Jeremiah 2:13). Refusing to accept that He has the authority to forgive sin prevents us from having that cursed burden lifted from our shoulders and being liberated from crushing condemnation (Matthew 9:2, 5-6; John 8:10-11; Romans 8:1).
What miracles then couldn’t He do in the little burg of Nazareth? Well, His power over the physical realm was clearly unhindered, for He was still fully capable of bringing healing to physical bodies – and did so for some. Yet, the spiritual diseases of the people remained with them. The people’s collective refusal to accept Jesus for who He was closed their hearts to His power. In fact, Matthew 13 says that they “took offense at Him” (verse 57) and Mark 4 records that they practically lynched Him. Why? Because they felt that this carpenter had forgotten His place in society and was meddling with their personal lives. People don’t like when others point out their depravity, especially when it’s from one of their own.
We often say things like, “Just who does he think he is anyway? Why, that hypocrite! Where does he get off telling me how to live my life?”
Yes, it was actually in the spiritual realm that Jesus couldn’t work miracles. The hearts of the Nazarenes could not be penetrated. Though Jesus’ power is not diminished by lack of faith on your part or mine, we can be rendered unreachable if we refuse to climb down off of the pedestal of our pride and relinquish our selfishness. If we reject His right to our lives as Lord, or refuse to acknowledge the truth of His Word as applied to our lives – that we need to forsake sin and follow Him, we miss out on the grace that He would lavish upon us, if we would simply humble ourselves and turn to Him.
Just think of the power that God could unleash in our lives if we would turn wholeheartedly to Him and let Him into our hearts! Such power can transform us, our family, our community and our country!
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
We as a people need miracles – especially that of transformation from self-serving to serving God and others. We need the miracle of hearts being set free from hopelessness and despair, given instead a new destiny filled with purpose, peace and joy. God wants to do just that in our lives! He is only waiting on us to really start believing that He is who He says He is, to repent, and to turn to Him.
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 16 years and is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables. He is the pastor of Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.