Rejecting Jesus | Matthew 13:53-58 (Mville)
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 13:53–13:58
Good Morning! Today is our last sermon in part 2 of our series in the book of Matthew; the Gospel account revealing Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This whole series has been titled the Mission of the King as the section we’ve been looking at (chapters 8-13) have included Jesus demonstrating His power healing individuals, showing them his compassion, while also demonstrating His power over creation calming a storm with a word. We’ve seen the Mission of the King spread out as Jesus commissioned and sent disciples and apostles out as missionaries. We have seen the Mission of the King meet opposition from religious leaders, and we have seen Jesus teach on the nature of the Kingdom through parables. Jesus has just finished his teaching “by the sea” and he has now transitioned back to his hometown were we see how His mission and identity are receive from those who have known him the best and the longest.
Matthew 13:53-58 53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
We often love our local heroes. The greater the hero or accomplishment and the smaller or more humble the town the more positive the reception. We love to think about people like us from places like us doing amazing things because by our association we can think better of ourselves and our community as we swell with civic pride. A great example of this is John Basilone. He was a US Marine gunnery sergeant in WWII who was given the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading two squads against 3,000 Japanese soldiers for three days at Guadalcanal, until only him and two other marines remained, and he was fighting with his .45 pistol at the end of the battle the enemy forces were completely decimated. He came home to a hero’s welcome parade on Sept 1943 in his home town of Raritan, NJ. He later died on Iwo Jima on Feb 19th 1945. But every September the town still celebrates John Basilone day with a parade and ceremony.
Growing up my hometown, Vancouver, WA had a local hero of sorts, Lawson Fite in 8th grade won the National Geography Bee. The paper had big articles about him, the mayor declared a “Lawson Fite Day” the school district gave him awards “see our schools are great!!” But for me, Lawson was just my neighbor and friend, who drove me to jazz band practice in a car that was never clean and who always had to snort and blow his nose because of his allergies. Sure he was super smart and a good friend, but I was really familiar with him. I wasn’t going to give him any awards, certainly wasn’t going to honor him. Sadly Jesus reception in His hometown of Nazareth looks nothing like John Basilone’s or even Lawson’s.
Verse 53-54 | Jesus Teaches His People
Why was Jesus here? We don’t know specifically but we do know his family was looking for him back in chapter 12. He may have gone back some other times, as there are various accounts of Jesus in Nazareth, but all of them are clear he did not receive a good reception in his hometown. Why? He had a booming teaching ministry and was known for might works, was it because they didn’t like his teaching or his works?
Jesus was given an opportunity to speak and teach in his home synagogue, as we’ve said previously this would have been the center of societal life particularly in the small town. This is where all teaching would take place so everything that could be known or taught would have come from the synagogue. There was a high standard to meet so men who taught were either highly educated (which was rare in a town like Nazareth) or they would appeal to other known and respected teachers as they taught so everyone would know the credibility of what the guy was saying. It’s the same thing we do today when we say “Tim Keller, John Piper, RC Sproul, say it this way….” If we want to go old school we quote Charles Spurgeon, or a great reformer like Luther or Calvin, that way everyone knows “oh that guy said that, it must be right, and my pastor’s not an idiot because he quoted a smart guy.” But this is not how Jesus spoke or taught, He spoke “as one with authority”. Meaning he didn’t need to appeal to outside sources. When he did teach, reading an OT prophet, He is clear the verses were about him and his identity. We see in Luke’s account in Luke Chapter 4 how this teaching in the synagogue likely went when he reports Jesus read from Isaiah
Isaiah 61:1-2a The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
And then He said today this scripture is fulfilled, namely. “I come with the authority of God.” That is a bold claim for the local “carpenter’s.” son. Luke’s account also said everyone spoke well of him until they began to question his lineage, his background, his family to make such a grand claim and say he was the savior.
It says they were “astonished”. This is not an uncommon reaction to Jesus teaching and his works. “Where did he get wisdom AND mighty works? It certainly wasn’t from here. We don’t have a seminary; he can’t podcasts Pharisees from Jerusalem”. They were amazed with their minds, but completely unmoved in their hearts. Actually the movement in their hearts was one of hardening.
It also says he didn’t do many mighty works there, but he may have done some, or they heard about AND believed the works Jesus had done around the region. Regardless, they believed Jesus was capable of miraculous works. They recognized his wisdom; they recognized his works. Their problem wasn’t with what he said or taught, or did. It was with who is. Jesus is God. To them Jesus was not impressive enough to be God. They didn’t like the source.
Today when we speak of Jesus, and his teaching there is nearly universal acceptance of Jesus as a “good teacher”, regardless of if people actually know what Jesus specifically taught. Some even believe he performed supernatural miracles or even was a prophet speaking for God. Opposition to Jesus and rejection of Jesus happens is when the truth of his identity as the only Son of God, and the exclusive nature of salvation from God’s wrath for or sin, only being available through belief in and submission to Jesus as divine Savior and Lord is lifted up above all claims of other religions, spiritualties, and worldviews.
Verse 55-56 | Jesus Doubted by His People
Face to face with Jesus, we see the town twice say “this man”, it has a note of contempt “who’s this guy think he is?” Mark’s account says they just refer to him as the “carpenter”. The point being he should have no ability and certainly no authority to be teaching and acting as he is. And yet, they couldn’t call out any of Jesus teaching as specifically wrong or his works as particularly ordinary, so they are only left to call out who he is associated with, his family. Jesus had a family. Did you know that? Jesus wasn’t an only child, praise God! By trying to call out his family, who clearly was less than impressive to the people of even this small and humble town, they are attempting to make Jesus less than he truly is. His association with James, Joseph, Simon, Judas, and his sisters did not minimize who he is. It doesn’t change the divine nature of the virgin birth (early for Christmas) but this is a big idea, Mary is his mother by birth, but Joseph is his father by adoption. The question they ask “Isn’t he the carpenters son?” shows a distain for his family heritage. There is a problem with their assumptions about Jesus. Matthew uses Jesus’ genealogy to open this book expressly to show Jesus lineage from King David. While raised by Joseph, Jesus isn’t the carpenter’s son, He is God’s Son. Nazareth isn’t truly Jesus home town. Jesus is from another city a greater city. He says so.
John 6:38-42 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” 41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Jesus is not defined the greatness of his family. His family, the people of God, are defined by His greatness! The people of Nazareth are struggling with Jesus humanity, he’s too much like us to be God and too humble in form to be honored. We struggle with this same tension in understanding Jesus very nature and character as full human while also full God in one individual existence. “Hypostatic Union” Jesus wasn’t apparently too impressive….
Isaiah 53:2-3 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
People were underwhelmed with his form. Why? We love a winner, we love style over substance. We like to identify with things that are awesome, impressive and attractive because when they’re doing well we think we’re doing well. We don’t like to identify with things lowly, unimpressive, unattractive, because then by association we are not that great. This wasn’t just the people of Jesus hometown who had their doubts about Jesus. Jesus own family didn’t believe in him. Mark 3:21 records his family saying “He’s out of his mind” John 7 says plainly “not even his brothers believed in him” While specific to Jesus work and ministry, it is not uncommon for people to easily disregard people they’ve know their whole lives. It’s called Powdered Butt Syndrome “we knew you when your butt was being powered by your mommy and daddy so we’re not going to treat you with the same respect or credibility we would someone else.” “You’re always 17 in your hometown.” (l love getting my theology from pop country songs) Familiarity breeds contempt. People in Nazareth know Jesus so well they despise him at worse and fail to honor him at best.
Saw this play out in Texas in an opposite way of a whole culture that believed they knew Jesus well, yet don’t submit to him at all. How can I say that? Highest church membership/attendance per capita, while also having the most violent crime, restaurants, shopping malls, and strip clubs per capita. They know enough about Jesus to know they should like him, but do not honor him enough to actually follow him. There is also the error our culture makes of making Jesus merely human like in Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code where Jesus just wants to get married and have a family. Joan Osborne’s “what if God was one of us….”
We do this ourselves when we say “I’ve known the commands of God my whole life, I’ve known Jesus is God and savior of God’s people for as long as I can remember” yet we fail to actually live out the commands of God or worship, follow, serve Jesus. We can become so familiar with Jesus, his teaching, his work that we can actually cease to be “astonished”. Familiar is tired, familiar is boring, we like new, we like different, we like exotic. We cut Jesus down to size when we only “give him” authority over certain aspects of our lives. We may even trust him for eternity but we won’t trust him for today.
Verse 57 | Jesus Rejected by His People
Doubt about Jesus paired with their expectations of how God should work, leads to rejection of Jesus. They have a very clear picture of who God is and who Jesus is and those two don’t jive together. Earlier in Matthew, Jesus says Matthew 11:6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” That is not the people of Nazareth. This Jesus means trouble, when trouble is defined by changing the status quo. They took offense AT him. This wasn’t a passive indifference this was an active rejection. What were they offended by? Jesus exaltation of Himself. If Jesus is king, if Jesus is mighty, if Jesus is God, than it means very clearly, they are not any of those things. Like them, we can’t stand that possibility.
So, what happens when God doesn’t meet our expectations of Him? How do we respond? Do we demonize God and reject Him, or do we change our expectations (note I said change not lower) of God to fit how he reveals Himself to us? We can’t think to ourselves, if we had just seen Jesus work or heard his voice teach/preach we would have a stronger faith, or if this person just gets to experience Jesus or be exposed to Jesus they will follow and worship Him. These people all knew Jesus the best, the longest, and yet their response was complete rejection. When you reject Jesus, and reject those who lift up the name of Jesus, and in doing so you are actually rejecting God. This is the heart of what sin is, a rejection of God, His plans, His purposes, His rule over our lives and our world.
Luke 10:16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
Jesus seems to actually be concerned with his honor. He calls himself a prophet. Remember this time last year we were in Malachi the last prophet of the Old Testament there was over a 400 year period where God had not spoken to his people through prophets until John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. We can’t ignore what Jesus is saying here. This is the last time recorded in Matthew where Jesus teaches in a synagogue. For the rest of this book and Jesus ministry is carried out beyond the borders of “official Judaism.” For countless generations the people of God have rejected the messengers of God. The prophets all pointed to a coming King, a coming messiah, yet here he is and his own people who knew what the Messiah should look like the best when confronted fact-to-face with God in the flesh, the savior of God’s people, reject his very identity and do not worship, follow or honor him as they should.
Hebrews 1:1-3a 1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
That is no carpenter’s son, that is God’s Son! Sela is a 4 year old theologian “Jesus is God and God is Jesus.” Jesus says as much in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”
It’s not enough to be like those in Nazareth who were sure Jesus was wise and even believe he did miracles, belief in Jesus identity can still lead to rejection of Jesus. Jesus’ own brother James, after Jesus mighty work of death on the cross and even mightier act of His powerful resurrection, says James 2:19 “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder!” Intellectual agreement with Jesus or even believing He did something is not the same as honoring Him as your King and trusting Him as your Savior, it will not save you if your response is rejection.
Verse 58 | Jesus Saves Despite His People
This chapter closes with frightening words if they are the end of the story. Jesus doesn’t do many mighty works BECAUSE of their unbelief. It would be easy and terrifying to reverse the equation Jesus apparently lays out to make it apply universally; No Belief = No Mighty Works. While Jesus, often worked in environments accepting of Him, it would be an error to say Jesus never healed anyone without faith. There are countless episodes where Jesus heals and Jesus saves without faith first entering into the equation.
The environment here is one of total and outright rejection. We cannot have expectations Jesus is going to do might works where there is atmosphere of hostility. Our prayers need to be the prayers of the song we sung this morning pleading with God to “change the atmosphere, and build your kingdom here.” We need the Holy Spirit to change the hearts of people, prepare soil.
Praise God He is not merciless mathematician when it comes to our faith and our sin. God purposed humanities ultimate act of rejection, the murder of His Son on the cross, to be used as the ultimate act of reconciliation. Jesus did an amazingly mighty work on the cross, despite anyone honoring him or believing. Everyone had turned their back on him, even his own disciples.
Colossians 1:19-22 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
If you have been healed and saved by Jesus you WILL honor Him with your life! God’s action and power are not limited based on our unbelief or lack of faith. If God’s power or God’s actions needed our approval He couldn’t act ANYWHERE! God is mighty, God’s will is mightier than our own. It is good news that God is gracious to work where there is unbelief and faithless because those are the only places available. Jesus is mighty to save despite us. Trust Jesus!
More in Mission of the King | Matthew Part II
September 7, 2014Parables of Kingdom Power and Price | Matthew 13 (Mville)
August 31, 2014Parables of the Kingdom | Matthew 13 (Mville)
August 17, 2014Jesus Rebukes | Matthew 12:38-50 (Mville)