The Facts Don't Reveal All
Sunday of Week 14 in Ordinary Time -
After several months of travelling the country preaching, healing and performing miracles, Jesus decided to pay a visit to His home town of Nazareth. That visit proved to be very disappointing because instead of receiving a warm welcome, He was given the cold shoulder. As a result He did not stay very long. After just one teaching session, and healing a few who were sick, He left.
We find it hard to believe that virtually an entire town could treat Jesus with such contempt. They must have been incredibly blind or foolish, or both. But are we any different from them? Mark did not tell this story to vilify the people of Nazareth. He told it for the benefit of his readers, to warn us that we can be just as blind to truth as those people were so long ago.
What an opportunity they missed. They listened to the greatest Teacher this world has ever known, but His message never penetrated their minds and hearts. They were amazed by His words, but having heard what He said, they then walked away and promptly proceeded to forget Him. We, too, have heard what Jesus taught. Like the people of Nazareth, we have been impressed with the power of His words, but we often fail to let His message bear fruit in our lives. We stand face to face with eternal truth and what good does it do us?
Mark does not tell us what Jesus taught, but judging from the response of the people, it was obviously something that made them feel uncomfortable. So they changed the subject. They ignored the teaching and spent their time analysing the Teacher. By doing that they avoided facing up to the truth that Jesus was presenting to them.
Jesus had been treated like this before. People often tried to escape His truth by changing the subject. He confronted the woman of Samaria whose life was in tatters, but she wanted to talk about the geography of religion. 'Should we worship God on this mountain or on the one in Jerusalem?' He told a man to love his neighbour as himself, but he wanted to debate the meaning of the word, 'neighbour.'
We could criticise those ancient people for their evasive tactics, were it not for the fact that we do the same. Jesus taught us to live by faith, trusting God to supply all our needs. That sounds lovely. We are charmed by it, until bills have to be paid. Then we begin to analyse the Teacher. Of course it was easy for Him to speak like that. He never had a family to support and mortgage payments to meet. He taught us to live in loving relationships with others, forgiving all their faults accepting them unconditionally. He was never married. He never had a demanding partner. He never had an interfering mother-in-law. He never had to deal with surly teenagers. When truth gets personal, we all have a tendency to look for loop holes that allow us to excuse ourselves.
The people of Nazareth not only missed what Jesus had to say, they also missed Jesus Himself by assuming they already knew Him. All they really knew were just a few facts about Him. They knew He was Mary's son and that He was a carpenter. They also knew the names of some of His relatives. Those few facts convinced them that they already knew everything that was worth knowing about Him. It was a sad mistake. Their little knowledge robbed them of a chance to know and love their Messiah. That same thing happens to us in dealing with one another. We make assumptions about people from the bare facts we know about them. Facts are indeed true but they don't reveal the whole person. For example, you may fill in an application form for a job. You state your name, age, address, qualifications, marital status and experience, but this doesn't tell your employer who you really are. It doesn't tell him about your personal thoughts and feelings. He can't know that you wept into your pillow last night, concerned about your son's drug addiction or your daughter's marriage problems. Even if he knew all those things, he couldn't know the courage required for you to deal with them. We often miss the truth about people because we look no further than the bare facts about them.
If the people of Nazareth had taken the trouble to get to know Jesus He could have enriched their lives. Are we like them? Do we take the trouble to know Jesus and really listen to His teaching? Sometimes we are so familiar with His words that we don't take them in. When we do hear His message, we are selective about what we accept and follow!
Lord Jesus, we must have the courage of people like Peter and the Apostles, who followed You and came to know You and Your message. May we welcome You into our lives and give You the opportunity of being our Friend and not a stranger.