Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
No Honor In Hometown, Nativity of St. Mary
Volume 5 No. 303 September 4, 2015
 
This Week's Features

Jesus Finds Little Faith in His Hometown
Gospel: Mark 6:1-6a

Today we read about an entire town that, for the most part, missed out on receiving any miracles from Jesus because of their lack of faith. This once again proves that God's will coming to pass in our lives is dependent on our faith. Naturally, Jesus wanted to bring blessings to the people in the town where He had spent most of His life. The Bible, however, said that He couldn't do any mighty miracles there because of the people's unbelief (see Mark 6:5). This clearly indicates that He desired to do mighty miracles there. Notice also that the Bible said Jesus couldn't, not wouldn't do any mighty miracles there. It wasn't because He didn't want to perform mighty miracles for them, it was because He was actually limited by their unbelief.

All Christians know this is true concerning salvation, so why don't they realize that it's true concerning anything else we receive from God? It is God's will for everyone to be saved, but God's will doesn't come to pass in a person's life unless that person believes the gospel. That means there are people in hell right now whom God wanted to be in heaven. Likewise, if a person is ill, we should not conclude that it's God's will for that person to remain ill. God expects us to believe His Word, but so few do when it comes to healing because they've been wrongly taught that it may not be God's will for them to be healed. Thus they have no faith for healing, and Jesus is hindered by their unbelief.

Even when they pray for healing, many Christians confess their unbelief, saying, "Lord, if it is Your will, please heal me." They are admitting that they aren't sure what God's will is, which makes it impossible for them to have faith. Faith can only be born from God's promises. Only when God's will is not revealed is it appropriate to say, "If it is Your will." Otherwise, we're saying to God, "Lord, I know what You've promised, but in case You were lying about it, I don't want to hold You to what You said." The Bible says, "Are any among you sick?...prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well" (James 5:14-15). How can any Bible-believing Christian argue with that?

The reason the majority of people in Nazareth didn't believe in Jesus was because they had known Him and His family for decades. They knew He was a very good person, but they had no idea that He was God's Son. They refused to believe in Him, even though they had heard about His miracles in other places and heard Him speak before them with great wisdom. Thankfully, however, there were a few people in Nazareth who apparently had some faith, but who, as the original Greek indicates, had only minor ailments. Jesus laid His hands on them and healed them. But for the majority of people in Nazareth, Jesus was "amazed at their unbelief" (Mark 6:6).

Q. How do you think Jesus feels about the lack of faith in people today?

A. He is probably amazed at everyone who doesn't believe in Him because of the overwhelming evidence that He was a historical person whose life story is accurately recorded in the Bible. However, Jesus once wondered if anyone would have any faith when He returns, saying, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8, NASB).

Application:

Could it be that you may have hindered Jesus from working more in your life by your unbelief? In prayer today, ask the Lord is this is so, and if it is, ask Him to help you grow in faith.

Source: Heaven's Family

Facing Resistance to God
Gospel: Matthew 13:5358

Additional Scripture Readings: Romans 12:14; 1 Peter 3:1516

It's tough when the people we love don't respond to the God we love. When we come to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we want everyone around us to love and follow him just the way we do.

The truth is that with parents or husbands or even adult children, instead of interest and response, we may get the hometown treatment. When the subject is faith, resistance comes on strong. We spread the contents of our Christianity on the kitchen table only to receive rolled eyes, uncomfortable sighs and raised eyebrows from those we thought would be most interested.

Jesus experienced the same reception when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth. The people there reacted with contempt: "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?" they asked (Matthew 13:54).

"A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home," was Jesus' reply (Matthew 13:57). When we bring the good news of the gospel to our hometowns, we just might get the hometown treatment. But we can be comforted: we aren't alone.

Source: NIV Devotions for Moms

Nazareth - Can Anything Good Come Out of It - Come And See

by Jeremy Troxler

Gospel: John 1: 43-50 / Luke 4: 16-30

"Can anything good come out of Nazareth? . . .
'Come and see.'"

Jesus finds Philip, so then Philip goes and finds Nathaniel to tell Nathaniel that he has found Jesus, forgetting exactly who found whom in the first place.

(We do that sometimes.)

"Nathaniel," Philip says, "we've found him, we've found the one, the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote, the Savior, and, are you ready for this, it's Jesus, son of Joseph from . . . Nazareth."

And Nathaniel looks at Philip as if Philip has just told him that really, the Chicago Cubs are really, actually going to win the World Series this year.

"Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Nazareth, much less the Savior of the world?"

"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

I did some reading about Nazareth. It didn't take long, because we don't know much at all about Nazareth in Jesus' day. Nazareth is barely, if ever, mentioned in first century documents outside of Scripture. The little we do know is largely speculative and wholly unremarkable. Apparently scholarship suggests that Nazareth was a small community of anywhere between 500 and 2000 people: likely just about the size to qualify for funding from the Duke Endowment's Rural Church Division. Nazareth was likely located not far from a major East-West trade route that ran from Egypt to Asia called the Via Maris: picture it as one of the small communities you see exit signs for off that major trade route from East to West that we call I-40. Specifically, Nazareth was situated in the hill country of Galilee, a region of fishing and farming that was also known in Scripture for its distinctive regional accent and for having a large population of Gentiles, a high number of immigrants, foreigners, resident aliens.

Archaeological evidence also shows that Nazareth may have sat somewhat in the shadow of the nearby city of Sepphoris, which was being rebuilt as a regional capital around the time of Jesus. Sepphoris was the place where the action was. Sepphoris was the place with the multiplex cinema- or at least Roman theater. Sepphoris was the place where the young people went off to work and find jobs. Nazareth . . . well, apparently nothing much happens around Nazareth. Nothing to make the news. They apparently don't even have a sign on the edge of town that says, "Welcome to Nazareth, home of . . ." and then the name of some small-time celebrity or state champion high school basketball team.

Even the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary describes Nazareth as, quote, "an insignificant agricultural village." Of course, it would probably say the same thing about Brown Summit, where I grew up, and about most of the rural communities represented in the Thriving Rural Communities program.

So when Philip says we've found the Messiah and he's from . . . well, the insignificant agricultural village of Nazareth, Nathaniel can only say, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Maybe Nathaniel said that not only because of Nazareth's seeming insignificance, but maybe Nazareth also had something of a reputation. After all, Jesus didn't always have the easiest time in Nazareth. Mark says that Jesus could do few healings in Nazareth, because of the residents' unbelief and lack of faith. Matthew suggests the people of Nazareth won't listen to Jesus because they still just think of him as the carpenter's son, Mary's boy. Or we think back for a minute to Jesus' first sermon in front of the home folks, that we read about in Luke 4. Remember how Jesus returns to the synagogue in Nazareth to preach homecoming, and he stands up to read and chooses the scroll from the prophet Isaiah,

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, the let the oppressed go free, the proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

And then Jesus sits down to teach, and tells them, "Today, now, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing: here, in Nazareth."

At first everybody is proud of him, amazed at his gracious words. They pat each other on the back and say to themselves, "Get a load of Joseph's kid; maybe something good's going to come out of Nazareth after all for a change."

But Jesus' homecoming sermon doesn't go too well after that: it's amazing how much things can change in the course of one sermon. Jesus knows his people so well that he knows what message they most need to hear, and he loves them so much he is willing to preach it. He's said he was anointed to release captives and open the eyes of the blind, so that is what he will do.

Jesus is aware that the people of Nazareth are clamoring for him do the same kind of healings and miraculous cures there as he has done elsewhere. And they probably think that since Jesus is from Nazareth, and that they are his own people, that they'll receive preferential treatment: after all, they're from Israel, and believe they are more important than those Gentiles living across the border.

"Doubtless you will quote to me the proverb, 'Physician, cure thyself," Jesus says. (Not a bad proverb in reference to the clergy health initiative, by the way: 'Physician, cure thyself.' "Minister to the body of Christ, minister to thy body."). But what Jesus is referring to is the fact that the people of Nazareth believe Jesus the physician should heal his own people first: them. But Jesus opens the eyes of their blind provincialism and tries to set them free from their captivity to racism by reminding them that God's love extends beyond them, that it was to an immigrant widow whom God sent Elijah, and not a widow in Israel, and that out of all of the lepers in Israel, Elisha only cleansed the foreigner Naaman.

At which point the congregation offers to take Jesus cliff diving without the water to soften the landing.

Those of us who've grown up in Nazareth know that it has its challenges. We've seen some of the violence that simmers beneath the surface of civility, the willingness the draw hard lines between insider and outsider, the family identities that can crush true expression of self, the thinly veiled prejudice propped up with a Proverb. Jesus has had to rescue some of us from that. And it's not the last time a congregation in a rural community would try to run a preacher out of town who dared to preach the truth of God's word.

Hearing those stories about Nazareth, you can understand why maybe Nathaniel might have heard enough about the village to ask skeptically, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

And yet the amazing thing is, Nathaniel is about to discover that something beautifully, wonderfully, salvifically good did out of Nazareth. Jesus came out of Nazareth. It was in Nazareth that Jesus was raised. It was in Nazareth that he likely attended synagogue and recited Torah and learned the words of Scripture. It was in Nazareth that Scripture says Jesus "increased in wisdom and in stature and in divine and human favor." And as Lawrence Wood reminds us, all the rest of his life, Jesus would carry the name of his home community with him: on the lips of crowds, demons, and angels, he would be called, Jesus of Nazareth.

There is a sense in which the greatest gift the world has ever received, Jesus, was the gift of a rural community.

God loves Nazareth. As it is. And as it will be. And God cares about the suffering of Nazareth.

Nazareth can still offer Christ to the world.

Nathaniel asked Philip, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

And do you remember what Philip said? "Come and see."

To a world and a church that wonders, sometimes skeptically, sometimes hopefully, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?," we hope to say, "Come and see."

I believe that the church of Christ is meant to be a preview of the future, a kind of prequel to the kingdom of God, that shows people now what the heavenly life will be like when Christ's new world comes. We are a kind of visual aid for the kingdom, because people have to see it before they can believe it, and they have to believe it before they can be it.

Can anything good come out of Nazareth? "Come and see."

Or, in those moments when you doubt that anything good can come out of rural communities, come to the cross, come and see there the sign above the head of the crucified Savior of the World, the sign that proclaims him the King of the Jews and be reminded that the sign begins, "Jesus OF NAZARETH . . ."

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Source: Faith and Leadership.
Editor's Note: This was adapted from a sermon preached on May 21, 2007, at the Thriving Rural Communities Aldersgate Gathering at Duke Divinity School.

Going Home Again...

by Dr. Janet H. Hunt

Gospel: Luke 4:14-21

I would not presume to lay my experience alongside that of Jesus. And yet, I do know what it feels like to try to 'preach' in one's hometown.

I can remember preaching in a congregation not far from where I grew up. Afterward a woman came up to me and asked me if I was "Tom Hunt's daughter." It turned out she had worked with him and in those first years after he died to know he was still remembered simply made me glad. Still, I wonder now if she actually heard a single word I uttered that day as she sat and tried to put together the pieces of who I was and where I had come from.

Some years back I was called upon to lead a communication skills workshop in a congregation which had been torn apart by conflict. In the room were people who had known me since I was a preschooler --- and others who remembered me best in my awkward adolescence years. I felt uncomfortable all the way through it -- not knowing how these people could think I had anything worth saying.

At our family Christmas dinner a few weeks ago, I felt as though I got a sense of what this will be from the other side. My 18 year old nephew, Andrew, sat down beside me and began to regale us with stories. I look at him and still see the toddler he was, toting everywhere his special case filled with Thomas the Tank Engine locomotives and cars. The day will soon come when he will bear even less resemblance to who he was then and I wonder if I will be able to fully embrace who he is becoming.

And so I wonder as we listen to Jesus today if we don't find ourselves in much the same predicament as his first listeners so long ago. For you and I also know Jesus well. Many of us have been hearing these stories for a very long time and I would guess by now many of us have our own particular favorites which capture at least some aspect of our "preferred" Jesus. Maybe it is the tender baby Jesus --- God coming to us in the very human, the very vulnerable. Perhaps it is the teaching Jesus, speaking words of blessing whose perspectives turn our understandings upside down. Maybe it is the tender, healing Jesus, or the one who notices the widow in the temple. Or maybe it is the Jesus who breaks the bread, pours, the wine, and kneels to wash the feet of his disciples. Perhaps we cannot think of Jesus without picturing him on the cross with all the struggle and all the meaning and and all the hope that offers.

Indeed, you and I sit in the synagogue today and we know Jesus very well. No, our memories are not those of neighbors and townsfolk who remember Jesus as a toddler, who recall an awkward adolescence, who just saw him as one of a passel of kids in the household of Joseph and Mary. Even so, we are challenged for a moment now to set aside everything else we think we know of Jesus and to simply hear what he has to say today. For what he offered in the synagogue so long ago is the picture of who he had become and of all that we are called to as well.

The words spoken in the synagogue that day carry the certain truth that Jesus came bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives and sight to those who cannot see.

These words hold the wonder of the truth that with Jesus all who are oppressed know freedom and that something entirely different is happening now: the "year of the Lord's favor" is ours not only to experience for ourselves, but also to share. As Jesus did and does.

And yes, these words from the Prophet Isaiah serve as the striking reminder that Jesus does not come of his own authority, even as you and I do not do so on our own as we seek to follow him.

Oh yes, those who first sat and listened to Jesus in the synagogue probably thought they knew him well. We hear something of their surprise as we listen to what happens next.

I wonder if our believing we know Jesus well leads us not to truly hear him at all --- not to deeply comprehend who he was and who he came for. I wonder if as we hear Jesus reading in the synagogue if we forget to hear his words as our call as well. Does our familiarity with Jesus stifle our imaginations? Does our long acquaintance make us less sensitive to the radical nature of what he calls us to now? Are we, in some ways, like his first listeners?

What must it have been like for Jesus' first listeners to hear him reading in the synagogue in Nazareth? Do we bear any resemblance to them? Why or why not?

How does Jesus' reading from the prophet Isaiah speak today? Who are the poor, the captive, the blind, the oppressed? Is it us? Is it others?

What does it mean to be anointed for something, to be sent with something? What does it mean for you? For your congregation?

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