“But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house’” (Mark 6:4 NKJV).
It can be difficult to determine just how people in other places really feel about you. On the one hand, there are often expressions of great honor and respect for the foreigner who has come to their land. Visitors are often assumed to be of higher social or economic status than the local inhabitants. They often are given special legal privileges which ensure favorable treatment. Much of the time it is assumed that such treatment may produce advantage to the good host. All of these and other factors argue for a generous welcome with appropriate honor to the guest.
On the other hand, such eminently human traits as envy, fear of the unknown, prejudice against outsiders, and resentment for poor treatment from other foreigners, frequently produce hidden feelings that are far from respectful. Though these are often concealed, experienced travelers may discern them, at least occasionally. Americans have learned that not everyone likes them. In fact, recent terrorist attacks have proven beyond doubt that that is an extreme understatement.
In spite of this, however, I find that most strangers in the nations I visit are sincerely welcoming and respectful. Abundant honor and respect are shown to me, even to the point of embarrassment. Some of this is due to their appreciation for what they perceive as my sacrificial efforts on behalf of themselves and their countrymen. Some is cultural respect for my age and status.
I don’t get that same reaction here at home, especially from friends and family. That does not mean that they mistreat or dishonor me. But the people who know me well have a better conception of my capabilities and achievements. They are not likely to harbor grandiose expectations regarding future accomplishments. There have a certain evaluation of me based on what they have already experienced through years of exposure.
Was this not Jesus’ experience in his return to Nazareth? His relatives and neighbors had known him for approximately 30 years. They knew his parents and his siblings (Mark 6:3). The rumors about miracles and great teachings which were coming from other places did not impress them; surely this Jesus could not be responsible for such things!
Jesus is not teaching that every stranger is honored, or that every familiar person is treated with disdain or contempt. Rather he reminds us that people tend to categorize and stereotype, and then place limits upon expectations. They were certain that they knew who Jesus was and what he could do and would not give him opportunity for anything else.
Do we not make the same mistakes about others? How often have we said that a certain neighbor could never be converted, based on their sinful habits or prior religious convictions? We receive a confession of sin with skepticism, feeling certain that a relapse is only a matter of time.
One of the great and exciting features of Christianity is that it grants us the power to change. Note the amazing statement of Paul about the Corinthian Christians:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
Let us never limit the potential of the Gospel of Christ or of the grace and Spirit of God. When a sinner comes to repentance, all Heaven rejoices (Luke 15:7, 10). What is impossible with men is possible with God (Matthew 19:26).