He left that place and 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 offence 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.
Was it the messenger or the message? Either way, Jesus’ teaching didn’t go down well with the home crowd! I wonder what it was about what he said that was so uncomfortable to hear, and led the congregation to start discounting it because they had known him as a child.
As a white man in his 40s I’m aware that I’m generally a lot less at risk of my contributions being ignored because of my identity than others are. I’ve been in meetings where a female colleague makes a key point and it passes unnoticed until a man repeats it. And I remember a wise woman noting churches’ tendency to assume that BAME people would best contribute to worship through music, rather than preaching, for example.
What are our blind spots as individuals and churches, that tempt us to discount the prophetic authority of those different from us? How do we unlock the talents of everyone in our churches, rather than relying on familiar faces? Are we ready to be made uncomfortable?
Mark is famously brisk, but his passing remark that Jesus could only lay his hands on a few sick people and cure them makes me laugh. It reminds me of someone who can’t walk past something that’s out of place without tidying it up! Perhaps Mark is suggesting to us that Jesus’ essential qualities can’t be suppressed even when he feels he is having no impact. Maybe that can encourage us when we feel we are talking into a void (though I would be surprised if any readers of the Daily Devotions were able to heal people with the laying on of hands!).
Lord, we confess that sometimes we prefer the comfortable message to listen to people who will reassure us, not challenge us.
Help us to put aside our prejudices, and open our hearts and minds. May we discover our own prophetic voices, and have the confidence to speak, even when we feel like the odd one out.
And may we always listen for your promptings, no matter who is carrying your message.