Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in the synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?...” And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honour.”
And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (verses 54-55, 57-58)
This passage is a surprise. The people are amazed at the wisdom Jesus speaks and the miracles he performs. Yet their response is offense, rather than faith. The old saying, “seeing is believing”, is once again proved false.
We see this often in the Gospels. Any number of miracles (healings, deliverances) are performed by Jesus on the Sabbath and the religious leaders miss the faith-building wonder, instead latching on to the perceived infraction of the Law. The jaw-dropping scene of Lazarus emerging from the grave alive after four days leads some observers to faith but provokes others to run off to the Pharisees and tattle the news with deep offense, leading the Sanhedrin, under Caiaphas’ direction, to plot Jesus’ demise. And on the very night of Jesus’ betrayal, in the midst of the skirmish of his arrest, Jesus brings about the full healing of a severed ear, bringing wholeness to one of those sent against him. Yet the storm of hostility is not interrupted for even a single moment.
This little scene at the end of Matthew 13 seems to encapsulate Jesus’ rationale for speaking in parables, a rationale spoken earlier in the chapter: if hearts are calloused and hard, they are unable to hear and see and believe (verses 13-15). The offense in the heart of his hometown disconnects amazement from faith. Having heard the wisdom and seen the miracles they are none the wiser.
In joyful contrast, Jesus says to his disciples: “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear”(Matthew 13:16).
O Lord Jesus, would you please weed out offense from my own heart, those moments when I am frustrated by the slowness of prayer’s answer, or troubled that your plan for unfolding events is so different than my own, or your outpoured blessing comes on someone else in ways that spark envy in my own heart. Please keep my heart soft; please guard callouses from forming. And let my eyes be clear and my ears unclogged that I might perceive your wonders and wisdom in the whole of life, step more deeply into faith, and follow your lead.
In your Name, Amen.
Prepare: Having prayed the Prayer (above), look for opportunities today to positively embrace the Lord’s work (in yourself or someone else), even when it is not what you had wanted.