Jan. 13, 2023 – Matthew 13

Something never sat quite right with me: 

Jesus does all of these miracles, teaches about the inclusive kingdom of God, and makes people’s lives better, and the people from his hometown get… angry? 

In Matthew 13, we hear all about how Jesus was rejected in Nazareth, which was his hometown. They acknowledge in verse 54 that Jesus has both wisdom and power and identify that they know his family. And then it said that “They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.” 

Wait a second. What? This is somebody you know, that you saw grow up, and when he does something incredible that benefits you all, you get mad about it? It seemed strange to me until I reread their complaints: they asked, “Where does he get this wisdom and power?” It’s this that reveals the major issue, and it has nothing to do with Jesus and his power, at least not really. Let me explain.

Do you ever play that fun game “Whatever happened to_____?” Maybe you find an old picture that has someone in it you haven’t seen for a long time, or a name comes up in conversation that you hadn’t heard in a while. And you end up wondering what that person is doing now. Occasionally, when you look someone up on Facebook, or on LinkedIn, you have a surprise like “Wow, that person I knew in high school is married with four kids!” Sometimes, it’s not just life circumstances, but your surprise is more about what they’ve accomplished: “Wow, that weird kid in my math class is a neurosurgeon!” How can that be? 

These types of discoveries always seem unbelievable and surreal, because the folks we’ve fallen out of contact with become frozen in time. It makes sense – if you never saw someone after high school graduation, that individual is stuck as a 17/18-year-old in your mind. Just like you, their life goes on, and they go on in their own stories. But to you, they remain a time capsule of how they intertwined with your own story. 

The negative version of this happens when you find out that someone has succeeded, and there’s some perhaps surprising ire that rises from within you. Especially when a person comes from the same place as you. It’s easy to view that person as having a lot of the same opportunities you did. It can awaken some deep insecurities. If that person became a doctor or a rocket scientist (or whatever your version of “extravagant success” looks like), what does that mean for you, who didn’t achieve that success? Does that mean you did something wrong? Does that mean we, who haven’t achieved the same things, are worse? 

This is what happened with Jesus and his hometown – they all undoubtedly had issues in their own lies that they would love to solve with a miracle. And had probably prayed for such a thing to happen. And then, seemingly out of the blue, the carpenter’s kid from down the street can do miracles and speak with wisdom and authority. Mary’s boy? It probably seemed unfair, and they let their own pain and jealously hide what was happening right in front of them: being included in the blessing of God.

We often confuse others’ successes with our losses. We do this because we believe that because other people’s stories are intertwined with ours we end up feeling like we aren’t the main character of our own narratives. But let’s be clear: these insecurities do not reflect the attitudes and opinions of God. They are simply an indication that the voices of the broken world and people around us have gotten louder than the Words of God. 

Questions for reflection:

  1. How can you, even in your most insecure moments, recenter yourself on the God who calls you “very good” in Genesis 1, and even after the fall of humanity, still decided you were worth dying for in the person of Jesus? 
  2. What is an affirming statement or verse you can have on hand (a note on your phone, a computer/phone wallpaper, a sticky note on the fridge) to remind you of who you really are?