The story never fails to surprise us. Jesus was rejected precisely in his own town, among those who believed they knew him better than anyone else. He arrives at Nazareth, accompanied by his disciples, and no one comes out to meet him, as often happens in other places. Nor do they bring him the sick of the town to be cured.
His presence only awakens astonishment in them. They don’t know who could have taught him a message so full of wisdom. Nor can they explain where the healing power of his hands springs from. They only thing they know is that Jesus is a worker who was born in a family from their town. Everything else «appears shocking to them».
Jesus feels himself «rejected»: his own don’t accept him as the bringer of God’s message and salvation. They have in their heads an idea of who their neighbor Jesus is and they resist opening themselves to the mystery that is present in him. Jesus reminds them of a saying that they all most probably know: «A prophet is despised only in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house».
At the same time, Jesus is «amazed at their lack of faith». This is the first time that he experiences a community rejection, not by the religious leaders, but by everyone in his home town. He wasn’t expecting this of his own. His disbelief even goes so far as to block his ability to heal: «he could work no miracle there, except that he cured a few sick people».
Mark doesn’t tell this episode in order to satisfy his readers’ curiosity, but to warn the Christian communities that Jesus can be rejected exactly by those who believe they know him best: those who have preconceived ideas in their heads and won’t open themselves to the newness of his message or to the mystery of his person.
- How are we about welcoming Jesus, we who believe ourselves to be «his own»?
- In the midst of a world that has become so advanced, isn’t our faith all too infantile and superficial?
- Isn’t our lack of faith in his transforming power strange?
- Don’t we run the risk of stifling his Spirit and despising his Prophecy?
- This was Paul of Tarsus’s worry: «Do not stifle the Spirit or despise the gift of prophecy with contempt; test everything and hold on to what is good» (1 Thes 5,19-21). Don’t we Christians of today need something of this?
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf