Mark’s account of Jesus’ return to Nazareth picks up on a common theme in the Bible, the rejection of God’s prophet. It seems strange that those who knew Jesus well could not accept that he had a divine mission.. But this rejection points to a common experience, we often fail to respond to God’s word, or even recognise when he is speaking. The passage gives us three reasons for this:
Firstly, false familiarity. The villagers of Nazareth knew Jesus and his family, they therefore felt they knew everything about him, “Isn’t this the carpenter, Mary’s Son?” This same false familiarity can be a barrier to us hearing God’s word. In the UK today, many people have a false familiarity with Christianity, thinking because they know a little about it they understand enough to reject it. Often, when people grow up in church without ever having their faith explained properly they reject it when they get older because they think they understand it. For Christians, we can miss what God is saying for similar reasons: we think we understand our faith perfectly and close ourselves to new understanding, or we become over-familiar with his means of grace. Do we come to the Bible, to Church or prayer with an expectation that God will speak to us powerfully and prophetically? If not, why not?
Secondly, pride: the people of Nazareth question Jesus’ status and qualifications, on inferring either that he is beneath them, or getting ideas above his station. But their need to put him down blinds them to what is being offered. Pride stops many people coming to faith today, not recognising their own needs or the power and reach of the Gospel, they dismiss faith in Christ as irrational, unscientific or superstitious. Christians struggle with as similar thing, when God speaks to us through humble means: poor preaching, other Christians at church, or providentially through everyday circumstances or even suffering. We prefer God to speak to us in striking, glamourous ways, yet often the most important things he speaks to us about come in humble wrapping.
Thirdly, unbelief: understanding the implications of recognising Jesus as sent from God, they refuse to listen to him. Often, understanding what following Jesus involves can prevent people from making a commitment to him: repentance, the humiliation of admitting you’ve been wrong, a change of lifestyle or even unpopular or unfashionable beliefs. In the same way for Christians, when God speaks into our lives, we can reject what he says because we think the consequences will be bad or unpleasant. God’s track record, of leading us through things we wouldn’t choose, in order to increase our love for him and others should reassure us and encourage us to respond quickly and with faith.