“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. He was born in Bethlehem, spent a very brief time in Egypt (when Herod the Great was trying to find and kill the “little King”), and was occasionally in Jerusalem in accordance with the instructions God had given His people at that time.
But the town of Nazareth had the privilege of being the place in which Jesus “grew up.” Remember that the Lord Jesus had entered fully into the human experience (except without sin, Hebrews 4:15), so 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 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, in reading of His experience in “going back home” is His hometown’s failure to recognize just Who it was that they had in their ranks for nearly 30 years.
“Jesus … 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?’ And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.’” (Mark 6:1-4 ESV).
What a shame! Here was a whole town of people who thought that they had Jesus figured out! A whole community who thought that they knew Jesus, but didn’t really 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 citizen’s so desperately needed.
“He could do no mighty work (miracles) there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:5-6 NSV).
A great many people have taught a great many things about verse five, saying that somehow God’s power was curtailed by the hard hearts of the people of Nazareth. But that isn’t so. Refusing to recognize the glorious identity of Jesus’ Person cannot in any way diminish His essence. What it DOES do, however, is tragically limit what we could have otherwise hoped for in knowing Him. If we choose to not recognize that from Him flow life-giving waters, we’ll not be able to quench our parched souls’ thirst for something more than what this physical life alone can supply (John 4:10, 14-15; Jeremiah 2:13). Or refusing to accept that He has the authority to forgive sin prevents us from having that cursed burden lifted from our shoulders, liberating us 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). The people of Nazareth spiritual diseases, however, remained with them. The people’s collective refusal to accept Jesus for Who He was closed their hearts to His power over their sick souls and the spiritual hunger that only He could satisfy. In fact, Matthew 13 says that they “took offense at Him” (verse 57) and Mark 4 records that they not only were offended but just about “lynched” Him. And why? Because they didn’t like the fact that this “carpenter” forgot His place and was “meddling” with their personal lives. People don’t like people who point out their depravity, especially if the people pointing it out are their own people.
We’ll 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!” and so on. And how do I know that the spiritual realm is where Jesus “couldn’t” do His miracles in the hearts of the Nazarenes? Because of what happens next in Mark 6. When Jesus leaves Nazareth and begins to reach out with the love of God to the neighboring villages, He sends out His disciples with the message that “people should repent” (Mark 6:12).
Again, Jesus’ essence cannot be diminished by lack of faith on your part or mine, but we are rendered “unreachable” if we refuse to climb down off the pedestal of our pride or relinquish our selfishness. Rejecting His right to our lives as Lord or refusing to acknowledge the truth of His Word as applied to our lives (e.g., that we need to forsake sin and follow Him) leaves us shut out of 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 your life if you would turn wholeheartedly to Him and let Him into your heart! Such power can transform you, your family, your community and your country!
“If My people who are called by My name 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 heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).
We as a people need miracles. We need the miracle of lives being changed 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. The fact is that God is wanting to do just that in our lives.
The only thing He is waiting on is for us to really start believing that He is Who He says He is, repent and turn to Him.
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church in Gallipolis. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.