From Mark’s Gospel….
Jesus came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
(From the Daily Office Readings, Mar. 13, 2012, Mark 6:1-6)
There is so much in this little story! It serves as a great illustration of two old sayings: “Familiarity breeds contempt” and “You can never go home again”. Jesus’ home-town friends were too familiar with him. They’d known him since he was a boy. He’d done the equivalent of delivering their papers, mowing their lawns, playing with their kids, climbing their trees. Those who were his own generation knew him as fellow student, someone they’d sat in synagogue with, a working stiff making chairs and tables in his father’s workshop. They couldn’t accept him as anything more or different, and certainly not as religious leader! Their familiarity with him bred their contempt of his ministry, and that contempt came out in the form of old rumors and gossip: “This is Mary’s son” not “This is Joseph’s son” … those old stories about his parentage. They took offense at him and they became offensive and contemptuous in return. After this incident, Jesus left Nazareth and never returned. Despite Jesus’ ministry, his gifts for teaching and preaching, his ability to heal, in Nazareth he could never be more than his family’s and his friends’ memories allowed: he was a carpenter, how could he ever be anything else? Sometimes you can’t go home again because people are blinded by their memories and only see what was “back in the day”. Jesus realized it was time to detach with love and walk away. ~ In the Episcopal Church, we have a special prayer or “collect” that is to be said at each celebration of the Eucharist; there is such a prayer for each weekday in Lent. The collect for today includes the petition, “Grant that we, to whom you have given a fervent desire to pray, may, by your mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities.” Sometimes the adversities we face come from those whom we expect to be our greatest supporters, friends and family who can’t let go of prejudices, presuppositions, and presumptions. Sometimes the greatest source of comfort in those situations is distance. If we have to detach and walk away, this little story from Mark’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus has been there before and shares the pain of family separation with us.