Today Jesus is rejected in Nazareth. “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”
There is something about this story that rings with truth: “The hometown boy returns. That kid? Yeah, I remember him. Always causing trouble.” I have this happen on another level with kids at church. Some of them are graduating from high school, but I will always have in my mind the image of them at 8 years old, or 4, or perhaps I remember them as an infant. It will be even more difficult to envision them in a few years as my doctor or as a Senator, CEO, or President of the US.
It is hard to grow into one’s own authority. And certainly a small town like Nazareth might have trouble seeing past “that little boy who used to run around the market” and seeing him as the Messiah.
And have you ever wondered what those comments about his mother and brother’s are? Some think the phrase “carpenter’s son” is meant to be an insult. But I would argue that that is not true – it is meant as a social strata marker – and a good one at that. Jesus was the carpenter’s son, and Nazareth was in the midst of an economic boom, with much work. Jesus was most likely set to inherit a large business. He was the eldest son. Yes, he was blue collar, and probably as strong as a mule and looked like a hefty blue collar worker, but a rich one.
In other words, he didn’t fit the part of prophet. I can almost hear them: “Isn’t this that eldest son of Joseph? So this is the kid who left his dad in the lurch! This is the guy who left a large, booming, successful business to wander around and tell stories? Oh yeah, this guy isn’t even worth a bag of chips. He can’t even honor his family. Now we are going to listen to him on spiritual matters?”
Maybe this story is told to see the very human side of Jesus, or the struggle to grow into his role as Messiah. I tend to think this taps into the ever-present narrative of “God’s ways are not always our ways.” I think about people like King David, the “runt of the litter” shepherd who becomes king.
For all of us who have felt like the odd choice, or the runt of the litter…this passage is for us. We too are invited into the wonderful and surprising choices of God – for God has chosen us too – chosen us to be a become of light and joy in a hurting world – chosen us to love – chosen us for some bold tasks. We may not feel like it most days, but we are God’s instruments, and God’s beloved child. And if you feel ill-equipped or unworthy, fear not. You are in good company. God was able to use me. He will use you too.