So Near and Yet So Far
Amazing God, be my strength and power, that I might become the person You want me to be.
Consider: "There are those in our churches who know about God but don't know him, are informed about Jesus but not transformed by him..." (E. Stanley Jones, 1884-1973).
As a young man I would sometimes fall into a dream: If I had only been there with Jesus, if I had been there near him--heard his actual words, caught his eye and seen a healing from the back of a crowd--then I would be different. I wouldn't live in this twilight of half-commitment. Has this dream ever haunted you? Here at the end of these seven parables comes a lesson we'll never forget as we travel with Jesus to his hometown (patris) of Nazareth.
Jesus enters the familiar portals of his synagogue, and his teaching is met with astonishment, but something quickly turns. "Wait a second. Isn't this the carpenter's boy? We all know his mother, Mary, the four other sons, and the daughters. They've been part of the scenery here forever." And they take offense at him (37) and reject him. This is a strange and sad alchemy. These are the ones who are closest and nearest! "He came to his own and his own people did not receive him" (John 1:11, ESV).
"Let us see a melancholy page of human nature unfold to our view in this story. We are all apt to despise mercies if we are accustomed to them, and have them cheap" (J.C. Ryle). We are like the museum guards at The Hermitage, within touching distance of incomparable art treasures, day after day, so close it almost ensures they are never seen. There is Jesus. There is the Pearl of great price, the one in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). But the people of Nazareth were not there. "You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull" (Matt. 13:14-15, ESV). What a heartbreak! It should stab us to wakefulness, never to despise familiar mercies or miss Jesus' visitation some ordinary hour called today.
What does this event teach you about taking Jesus for granted? What relation does your faith have to Jesus' ability to work in your life?
God, I do not want to be like the people in Jesus' hometown; forgive me for despising familiar mercies. Wake me now in wonder to recognize You are here with me.