THE BARRIER OF UNBELIEF
When Jesus had concluded these parables, he left there. He went into his native place and he taught them in their synagogue. His teaching was such that they were astonished and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these powers? Is not this the son of the carpenter? Is not his mother caned Mary? And are James and Joseph and Simon and Judas not his brothers? Where did he get all these things?” And they were offended at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own native place and in his own family.” And he did not do many deeds of power there because of their unbelief.
It was natural that at some time Jesus should pay a visit to Nazareth where he had been brought up. And yet it was a brave thing to do. The hardest place for a preacher to preach is the church where he was a boy; the hardest place for a doctor to practise is the place where people knew him when he was young.
But to Nazareth Jesus went. In the synagogue there was no definite person to give the address. Any distinguished stranger present might be asked by the ruler of the synagogue to speak, or anyone who had a message might venture to give it. There was no danger that Jesus would not be given the opportunity to speak. But when he did speak, all that he encountered was hostility and incredulity. They would not listen to him because they knew his father and his mother and his brothers and his sisters. They could not conceive that anyone who had lived among them had any right to speak as Jesus was speaking. The prophet, as so often happens, had no honour in his own country; and their attitude to him raised a barrier which made it impossible for Jesus to have any effect upon them.
There is a great lesson here. In any church service the congregation preaches more than half the sermon. The congregation brings an atmosphere with it. That atmosphere is either a barrier through which the preacher’s word cannot penetrate; or else it is such an expectancy that even the poorest sermon becomes a living flame.
Again, we should not judge a man by his background and his family connections, but by what he is. Many a message has been killed stone dead, not because there was anything wrong with it; but because the minds of the hearers were so prejudiced against the messenger that it never had a chance.
When we meet together to listen to the word of God, we must come with eager expectancy, and must think, not of the man who speaks, but of the Spirit who speaks through him.
Back to: Barclay’s Commentary