A Prophet without Honor
“‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.’ And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief” (vv. 57–58). - Matthew 13:53–58
While all believers are granted insight into the Scriptures (1 John 2:27), the teaching ministry of the church is still necessary for the spiritual health of God’s people. Jesus speaks of “scribes” being trained for the kingdom in Matthew 13:51–52, and in His day the scribes were those specially trained to interpret the Law and the Prophets. Our Lord is probably alluding to the need for trained teachers in the new covenant community in this passage and may be emphasizing the role of the apostles as the church’s foundation (John 16:12–15; Eph. 2:19–20).
The one place we might expect Jesus to receive a warm welcome is in Nazareth, the town in which He was raised (Matt. 2:19–23). The people of Nazareth (Jesus’ “hometown,” 13:54) are amazed at the wisdom and power of the carpenter’s son. This is due to their familiarity with Jesus and His upbringing. They know His family well, and apparently no one in His clan is all that remarkable. Lacking a formal education, Jesus should not be able to teach with the authority that He conveys. Yet Mary’s son is unafraid to instruct with boldness (vv. 55–56). We would therefore expect the people in Nazareth to experience awe when in the presence of Jesus, whose teaching demonstrates that He is the Holy One of God. But as verse 57 makes clear, their questions arise from contempt and offense. Basically they are saying, “Who does this carpenter think He is? He is no scribe and comes from a family of no special import. How can He possibly act as if He has the right to do what He is doing?”
Like the Pharisees before them (12:22–32), the citizens of Nazareth acknowledge the good work that Jesus is doing and yet fail to discern the source of His authority. For them, familiarity has bred contempt, and they will do whatever they can to deny the obvious. Once more, as John Calvin comments, we find sinners unwilling to believe in what God has sent. “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.”
Western society is blessed to be steeped in the teaching of Scripture and the person and work of Christ. However, we must take care that this blessing of familiarity does not motivate contempt in us for the things of God. Even if we do not consciously disregard the Lord, failing to marvel at the Father’s grace — because we hear of it every week — is a subtle and powerful form of contempt. Take time to meditate on the greatness of our God and His love for us.
Passages for Further Study
- 2 Kings 17:7–23
- John 4:43–45