by Michael E. Brooks
“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 6:4 ESV).
I have long recognized that a certain portion of the attention which people in Asia pay to my preaching has to do with the fact that I am a foreigner.
Perhaps that is heightened even more by my identity as an American. They come and listen partially from the assumption that I have greater knowledge than their more familiar local teachers, and partially from sheer curiosity.
The first nationally known speaker whom I can remember hearing in person was former president Harry S. Truman, when he was campaigning on behalf of John F. Kennedy.
My parents took the family to the city park in our hometown to hear him. Though I no longer remember much detail of his speech, his status as an outsider and a celebrity assured that there would be a permanent impact from the occasion.
Even Jesus was not immune from this phenomenon. Wherever he went, great multitudes came out to hear him (Matthew 4:25; Mark 6:33-34). Except, that is, at Nazareth.
There in his home village the local people who knew him best “took offense at him” (Mark 6:3). “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them” (verse 5).
Why could Jesus not perform miracles in Nazareth? Was it because their unbelief limited his power? No, the answer is much simpler than that. Because they did not believe in him, they would not go and ask him to help them.
“You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).
We can easily put ourselves in their shoes. Would we go to our child’s former playmate expecting some extra special performance? It is not likely, to say the least.
Yet who knows us best? Is it not these same hometown friends and relatives? If our character and abilities are outstanding, should they not be aware of them?
Is it really that only strangers truly respect us? Or is it more likely that the prophet is often dishonored among friends because they may know too much about him?
I am certainly not suggesting that Jesus had any flaws that were known in Nazareth, or that there were some kind of skeletons in his closet (though who knows what rumors about his birth might have still lingered in Galilee?).
But none of us today can claim the same sinless perfection which our Savior achieved (Hebrews 4:15). We do have secrets and past indiscretions which harm our reputations and influence. These are of course most familiar to those who have known us the longest and best.
Yet, to whom do we most want to take the message of salvation? Is it not to that same group of friends and family? How can we overcome the dishonor which we have justly deserved? We cannot live life over again, undoing our sins. Is there no solution?
The answer is repentance.
In Mark 5:1-20, we are told of a man possessed by demons whom Jesus cured. He had been a terror to his community, living naked among the tombs, impossible for his neighbors to restrain. Yet, after Jesus cast the demon from him, he was found “sitting there, clothed and in his right mind” (verse 15).
In this condition Jesus sent him back to his own home to “tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (verse 19). They received his message favorably (verse 20).
Repentance is a commitment to change, and to ask God for forgiveness. When that change is real and evident honor and respect can be restored, even in one’s home town among friends and family. Thank God for this blessing.