‘Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.’
Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple,
You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.’
Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying,
‘When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?’
Sometimes we forget how confusing the events surrounding Jesus were to both his followers and those around him; we have two millennia of interpretation, but they were simply faced with a strange man making extraordinary claims. So it’s no surprise people often didn’t know what to make of him , and this passage includes a debate on whether Jesus really could be the Messiah. Some people think he can’t be, because they know where he is from – presumably Nazareth – and the origins of the Messiah will be more mysterious.
We often define ourselves by where we are from, and it’s often one of the first questions we might ask someone we’ve just met. We’ve all met people who are living far away from where they were brought up but still think of that place at home. Many people make new lives for themselves in a new town or city, or a new country, sometimes through choice, sometimes through circumstances they can’t control. Some people of course are forced by politics or war to make a new home elsewhere, even as they long to return.
So where does Jesus come from, and where does he think of as home – Nazareth, Bethlehem, heaven? In this passage, he tells us he has been sent, but doesn’t say who by or where from. Is he an exile, able to say, as the great Woody Guthrie once sang, ‘I ain’t got no home in this world any more’? Or, as the Messiah, is at home everywhere he goes, on earth as in heaven? And are we, as Christians, at home both everywhere and nowhere; called to be apart, and yet always at home because Jesus is with us?
Gracious God we pray for people who feel they have no home and for those who are building new lives far from the places they come from. We pray we will all find a home where we feel safe and comfortable, yet not too comfortable to respond to your often disruptive and disturbing call. Amen
The Rev’d Dr Nick Jones is Minister at Heswall URC & St. George’s URC, Thornton Hough.