My family left our hometown of London, KY almost two years ago to help shepherd a local church of God’s people in Tupelo, MS. No one in either of our families had moved away from home for a job or ministry or anything permanently. So, our move went against the status-quo of our family. And while some of our family members didn’t understand our decision to move, I’ll never forget something both my dad and papaw told me. They said, “I’m happy for you. I’m proud of you. And no matter what happens, remember you will always have a home here.”
Homecomings are usually very emotional and reason for celebration. When the NBA’s villain, LeBron James came back home to Cleveland after leaving his hometown team for Miami, there was endless partying in the streets. The hometown hero came home and he was welcomed with open arms.
Jesus’ story was a little different. When the hometown kid returned to Nazareth, he wasn’t met with parades and parties, but torches and pitchforks. Jesus faced ugly opposition from his own hometown despite the astonishment that filled the synagogue where Jesus taught. The people were genuinely recognizing Jesus’ wisdom and power, but there was just something about him that rubbed the Nazarenes the wrong way. As Mark puts it, “they took offense at him.” They even took a shot at his profession as a carpenter. Knowing Jesus as a child, teenager, and young adult didn’t produce loyalty and love, but rather doubt and contempt.
Their ridicule neither surprised nor sunk Jesus. He knew from the experience and example of the prophets that he would not be welcome in Nazareth (Isa. 53:3). The disciples learned that anyone identified with Jesus would share his fate. Seeing Jesus’ rejection was the training they needed just before they were sent out to proclaim the news of Jesus’ kingdom.
There are really only three ways to respond to Jesus.
First, you can be offended by Jesus. Jesus isn’t just a good teacher or good guy. He is a sovereign King who demands sacrificial obedience. He makes radical claims that confronts our selfishness and sinfulness. Jesus is offensive.
Second, you can be opposed to Jesus. Jesus may not offend you, but you may have no interest in submitting to his authority. We naturally have a desire to create a kingdom for ourselves where we can reign as kings and queens. Jesus and his kingdom oppose our kingdom-building efforts.
Third, you can offer worship to Jesus. Jesus is either rejected or worshiped. There is no middle option. If you only want Jesus for the power of his miracles or the wisdom of his teaching, but want no part of his sovereign authority to reign as king over your life, you can’t have him. Jesus will never be used as a pawn for your amusement. Jesus is the unapologetic Lord of heaven and earth who produces astonishment, amazement, and lasting joy in those who renounce themselves and run to him.
Mathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.