Mark 6: 1 Jesus went out from there and *came into His hometown; and His disciples followed Him. 2 When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. 4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” 5 And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He wondered at their unbelief.
When Jesus the prophet of God returns to his hometown of Nazareth the townspeople he’d grown up with can’t see a prophet, only a carpenter’s son. Verse 3 is the key: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon? We need to inject in our thinking the word “only” when we read the text to get the nuance here: is this not “only” the carpenter…. is this not “only” the son of Mary…. is this not “only” the brother of James, Joses, etc….?
There’s a huge temptation, and a disservice, to relegate to people we’ve known in the past, their past status as the sum and total to which they can ever aspire. It’s really a form of dwarfism— in our minds those people are a shortened, smallish version of their full grown selves. What a person was, as far as we knew them, is all they can ever become. My nephew will always be, in my mind, that five, or ten year old version of himself I knew the last time I visited his family. My sister will never be more than the fifteen year old girl I knew when I left home. That friend from 9th grade will never be more than the gangly adolescent I knew back in the day. I’ve circumscribed the possible existence and development of those in my own “hometown” by my own knowledge of them at some particular point of time in our co existence.
Dwarfism refuses to believe that a majestic oak can really come from a tiny acorn. Dwarfism is a denial of the possibility of a thing or a person; it’s a refusal to believe someone can grow into a fully formed person independent of my inspection, cooperation and permission. This relegating a person’s future potential to a past version of themselves is really a means of deifying ourselves and relegating them to subservient status.
This is what those in Jesus’ hometown did to Him. They couldn’t see a Prophet and a Savior because their sight was limited to the Jesus they had known in times past. They saw the carpenter’s son, or the young carpenter, but not the Son of God. They knew Mary’s little boy, but couldn’t see Mary’s Savior. They acknowledged James’ older brother but not James’ Lord and God.
What Jesus’ home town did to Him we tend to do to each other, and that’s a shame. We miss the potential blessing of recognizing what a person has become instead of merely what they were once upon a time. We fail to respect God’s work and gifts in the lives of others when we refuse to acknowledge the maturing version of their person and gifts.
One of the greatest gifts we can give another, and ourselves, is the gift of allowing that person to become who they were meant to be, and interacting with them as they are and not as they were.
Image from “The Story of George”, see Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Story-George-Cathie-Halpin-ebook/dp/B00DR3N3B0/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1435343786&sr=8-3&keywords=%22the+story+of+george%22