A Prophet without Honor

Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household’ ” (v. 4).

- Mark 6:1-4

Familiarity breeds contempt.” Although this idiom is not divinely inspired, it does capture much of the truth of our experience. Peculiarly, we often tend to listen more to acquaintances than we listen to those who know us most intimately—our closest relatives and dearest friends. Husbands might not take the advice of their wives, but they will pay close attention to what a work acquaintance says. Wives may not listen to their husbands, but they will act on the words of people in a discussion group.

Christ experienced this reality when He visited His hometown of Nazareth after healing Jairus’ daughter (Mark 6:1; see 1:9). During the earthly life and ministry of our Savior, Nazareth was an insignificant village in Galilee where no more than about five hundred people lived. Given the small size of the town, everyone would have known Jesus and His family well. This is somewhat evident in the people’s reference to Jesus as “the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon” (6:3). That Jesus had been a carpenter before beginning His itinerant preaching does not mean He worked exclusively with wood, as the term carpenter in the Greek can refer to someone who worked with stone as well. Probably, Jesus was a skilled woodworker and stone artisan.

Any Jewish male could teach in the synagogue, but the residents of Nazareth found Jesus’ teaching remarkable (v. 2). Coupled with the evidently supernatural signs they knew Jesus had done, they should have seen that Jesus was at least a prophet. And yet they rejected Him, for they could not conceive of how a man with no formal rabbinical training could achieve such insight into the Word of God. First-century Jews did not regard manual labor as an unworthy occupation, but it was unheard of for those without formal theological education to handle the Scriptures so well. The people had no explanation for this, and so they were offended by Christ (v. 3). After Jesus’ ascension, Peter and John would face something similar (Acts 4:13).

Jesus’ teaching and the wonders He performed should have led the people to embrace Him as Messiah, but they rejected what they could not understand. Thus, they revealed their darkened minds. John Calvin comments, “In this miracle [of a carpenter having such biblical insight] they ought to have perceived the hand of God; but their ingratitude made them cover themselves with darkness.”

Coram Deo

John Calvin comments, “It is not mere ignorance that hinders men, but that, of their own accord, they search after grounds of offense, to prevent them from following the path to which God invites.” People do not fail to believe Christ because of lack of information but because their hearts are hard. The Lord must awaken the hearts of unbelievers, or they will not be converted. That is why we pray for Him to change the hearts of sinners.

Passages for Further Study

Matthew 13:53–57
John 1:43–51

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