FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT IN JESUS’ HOME TOWN OF NAZARETH –
THOSE CLOSEST TO US RESPOND IN HURTFUL REJECTION AND UNBELIEF
Jeffrey Crabtree: Verse 53 brings the kingdom parables to an end and marks the end of Matthew’s third major block of teaching materials (cf. 7:28; 11:1). This verse also introduces the next section. The following verses document Jesus’ continuing ministry in the midst of increasing resistance against Himself and His message.
Richard Gardner: The two stories that comprise 13:53 – 14:12 come from Mark 6:1-6 and Mark 6:14-29. (Matthew has already used the intervening material in Mark 6:7-13 in the mission discourse.) What we have in these accounts is a two-panel unit on the fate of prophets. Panel 1 features Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth, and panel 2 reports the beheading of John the Baptist in Herod’s court. Linking the two stories and the two figures is the fact that both Jesus and John are identified as prophets (13:57; 14:5); the note that Jesus’ powers evoke memories of John (14:1-2); and the reader’s awareness that Jesus’ rejection will lead to a fate similar to John’s (cf. 17:9-13).
Jesus in His Hometown, 13:53-58
John in Herod’s Court, 14:1-12
Donald Hagner: The passage is thus structured in the following sequence:
(1) concluding formula and transition (v 53);
(2) the teaching of Jesus in Nazareth (v 54a);
(3) the response and questions of the people (v 54b–57a);
(4) the response of Jesus in a proverbial logion (v 57b); and
(5) comment on the resultant paucity of miracles (v 58).
The five successive questions in (3) are particularly notable, especially the parallelism of the first and fifth (πόθεν τούτῳ, lit. “whence to this one”); the three center questions have to do with Jesus’ family. Just before the questions is the reference to the crowds being “amazed” (ἐκπλήσσεσθαι); just after is the reference to their being “scandalized” (ἐσκανδαλίζοντο). The references to πατρίς, “home town,” in vv 54 and 57 unify the passage. These correspondences thus reflect a chiastic structure.
R. T. France: This is Jesus’ only recorded return to Nazareth after his public ministry began down by the lake. Luke 4:16–30 tells the story at length and in a more dramatic form, culminating in an attempt on Jesus’ life; he has moved it out of its natural place in the narrative4 in order to use it as a “frontispiece” for his account of the Galilean ministry. But in Matthew and Mark it fits more naturally, with reports already having reached Nazareth of the “wisdom and miracles” which Jesus has been displaying down in the lakeside area and beyond. He comes back to them now as the “local boy made good,” and they react with the predictable scepticism of a small village community. Nazareth apparently joins Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum (11:20–24) in the inglorious roll of the communities which failed to repent despite the evidence of the miracles.
David Turner: Jesus’s rejection in Nazareth provides a sad yet fitting introduction to the narrative block 13:53 – 17:27. Jesus has made it clear that the message and messengers of his kingdom will often be rejected (cf. 5:10–12; 10:14–39; 11:12; 12:2). This rejection begins with Jesus himself (cf. 5:11; 8:34; 9:3, 11, 34; 11:19–24; 12:10, 14, 24–45) and includes even his hometown, Nazareth (cf. 2:23; 4:13; 21:11; 26:71; John 1:45; Acts 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 6:14; 10:38; 22:8; 24:5; 26:9), which he left for Capernaum to begin his ministry (Matt. 4:13). Chiastic analysis of this pericope has merit, since the pericope begins and ends with references to Jesus’s hometown (πατρίς, patris, 13:54, 57) and focuses in its center on the cynical questions from the Nazarenes (13:54c–56).
Leon Morris: Although Matthew has not tried to disguise the fact that there was some opposition to Jesus from the first, his book so far has been mostly concerned with the wonderful teaching of Jesus and with the way people flocked around him to hear him teach and to see the miracles he did. But this did not last. Matthew now makes it clear that the opposition grew. There were still faithful and loyal followers, but in these chapters he tells us of people who failed to respond in the right way. We see the opposition growing and becoming increasingly bitter; in time it would lead to the cross. Matthew begins with two stories of rejection: the rejection of Jesus by the people of Nazareth and the rejection of John the Baptist, slain at the hands of Herod. These two stories make a fitting introduction to the next section of this Evangelist’s narrative.
“And it came about that when Jesus had finished these parables,
He departed from there.”
John Nolland: ‘It so happened that when Jesus had finished’ repeats language that Matthew has already used in 7:28 – 8:1 and 11:1 to mark the conclusion of major blocks of teaching in the Gospel. The language will serve the same role in 19:1; 26:1.
I. (:54-56) REJECTION IS HURTFUL
A. (:54a) Home Town Ministry Creates a Buzz
- Return to Nazareth to Teach in the Synagogue
“And coming to His home town He began teaching them in their synagogue,”
Grant Osborne: Here Jesus leaves the area around Capernaum and returns to his hometown of Nazareth, about fifteen miles west of the southern tip of the lake.
Charles Swindoll: The journey to Nazareth would have taken two full days on foot. And the trek would have taken Jesus southwest about 40 miles uphill!
Richard Gardner: Nazareth is implied (cf. 2:23; 4:12-13), but the vagueness of the language in the Greek text (literally his native place) lets the story that follows typify Israel as a whole (cf. v. 57).
Donald Hagner: Jesus had left Nazareth after the arrest of John the Baptist, moving to Capernaum (cf. 4:13). Although there are indications of a wide ministry (e.g., 9:35; 11:1), the narratives focus on Capernaum and the area around the Sea of Galilee (14:13 assumes his return to this area). At this point in the narrative, however, Jesus returns to his πατρίδα, “home town” (the word can mean “home country” or “home territory,” but the context suggests “home town”), and teaches (ἐδίδασκεν, “was teaching,” i.e., for some time, or less probably inceptive, “began to teach”) “in their synagogue” (ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ αὐτῶν), probably the very place in which he had worshiped as a young man before embarking on his ministry. Although no attention is given to the emotions of Jesus, this must have been a particularly momentous occasion for him. Here τῇ συναγωγῇ αὐτῶν, “their synagogue,” is not, as elsewhere (4:23), the synagogue of the Jews, thus reflecting a break with Judaism (contra Luz), but merely the synagogue of the people of Nazareth.
R. T. France: This synagogue visit does not evoke a welcoming response, and from this point on we shall hear no more of Jesus teaching in synagogues.
- Response of Astonishment
“so that they became astonished, and said,”
Jeffrey Crabtree: Their reaction at first was surprise. They knew him. He had lived there most of His life. His teaching ability, and probably the subject matter as well (Evans, Matthew 284), caught them by surprise (cf. 7:28; Lk. 4:24; Is. 50:4). They knew Jesus had not formally studied under recognized rabbis. How did He know so much about the kingdom? What right did He have to preach the arrival of the kingdom of heaven or call them to repentance?
His healing miracles also surprised them (Mk. 6:5). They wondered how He was able to perform miracles. Compare this with the Pharisees’ doubts and comments in 12:24. They too questioned the source of His power (Osborne 550).
A. T. Robertson: What the people of Nazareth could not comprehend was how one with the origin and environment of Jesus here in Nazareth could possess the wisdom which he appeared to have in his teaching . . . It was unpardonable for Jesus not to be commonplace like themselves.
B. (:54b-56) Hearts of Skepticism Instead of Faith
Walter Wilson: Between the two πόθεν questions (13:54c, 56b) are three οὐχ(ί) questions (13:55a, 55b, 56a) that bring up the matter of Jesus’s family ties.
- (:54b) Key Issue = Source of Wisdom and Power
“Where did this man get this wisdom, and these miraculous powers?”
John Nolland: The Pharisees have already raised the question of where it all comes from in 9:34; 12:23, and answered in terms of power from the evil one.
Donald Hagner: Their amazement, however, did not move them to faith but instead provoked skepticism. Their initial question, to be sure, expresses a degree of wonder and, finding no obvious answer, testifies inadvertently to the unique reality and authority represented by Jesus and his message.
- (:55-56a) Depracating Questions Due to Familiarity with Jesus’ Family
a. (:55a) Tone of Deprecation Regarding Jesus’ Father
“Is not this the carpenter’s son?”
David Turner: Joseph is traditionally viewed as a carpenter, but the word τέκτων (tektōn; cf. Mark 6:3) means simply “builder,” and in ancient Galilee this would likely entail working with stone (BDAG 995; K. M. Campbell 2005).
b. (:55b) Tone of Deprecation Regarding Jesus’ Mother
“Is not His mother called Mary,”
c. (:55c) Tone of Deprecation Regarding Jesus’ Brothers
“and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”
Craig Blomberg: Though they do not yet support him, James and Jude (the abbreviated form of Judas) will later distinguish themselves as Christian leaders (on James, see Acts 15:1-29) and as writers of inspired epistles. Only here does Matthew indicate that Jesus had an unspecified number of sisters as well.
d. (:56a) Tone of Deprecation Regarding Jesus’ Sisters
“And His sisters, are they not all with us?”
- (:56b) Key Issue Repeated
“Where then did this man get all these things?”
Donald Hagner: The point is the same: Jesus and his family are well known. And thus the initial question is repeated: “How did all of these things [ταῦτα πάντα] come to this man?” Although that question remains unanswered, it is clear from the following statement that they found it intolerable that Jesus spoke as he did with the undeniable implication of his own self-importance.
Walter Wilson: Specifically, it appears that the townspeople have interpreted Jesus’s words and actions as a claim to a form of honor inconsistent with their estimation of his status, an estimation based on their understanding of his kinship ties. It may also be based on their estimation of Joseph’s occupation, insofar as manual laborers were sometimes disparaged for their lack of wisdom, as in Sir 38:24–27 (also with τέκτων).
II. (:57) REJECTION SHOULD BE ANTICIPATED
A. Hardened Opposition
“And they took offense at Him.”
D. A. Carson: “They took offense at him” (eskandalizonto en autō), i.e., found in him obstacles to faith, even though the biggest obstacles were in their own hearts. It is sad that every time in the NT somebody is “scandalized” by someone, that someone is Jesus (see TDNT, 7:349; cf. 11:6; 26:31, 33; Mk 6:3; Lk 7:23).
Robert Gundry: The townspeople’s taking offense at Jesus displays their lack of understanding: they understand neither the source of Jesus’ wisdom and miracles nor the identity of his true family. Since to take offense means to fall into a trap, lack of understanding has trapped the townspeople in unbelief.
B. Honor Not Given
“But Jesus said to them,
‘A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, and in his own household.’”
Craig Blomberg: Throughout Christian history many of Jesus’ followers have experienced the truth of this teaching: those who have known them best from an early age on are often least willing to accept them as spiritually gifted or empowered.
III. (:58) REJECTION RESTRICTS PRIVILEGE
A. Withholding Miracles
“And He did not do many miracles there”
Richard Gardner: The unbelief that denies honor to Jesus denies something to Nazareth as well (v. 58). It leads Jesus to restrict his ministry there, so that the people get only a smattering of all that Jesus has to give.
Charles Swindoll: As a result of their unbelief, Jesus did few miracles in Nazareth. On the one hand, we can look at this as an act of judgment – their rejection of Jesus would mean that their sick and oppressed would not receive the blessings of healing and deliverance. On the other hand, this withholding of miracles can be interpreted as an act of mercy toward the people of his hometown – the greater the revelation of Jesus’ power and majesty, the greater the guilt for their rejection of Him as the long-awaited Messiah.
B. Warning against Unbelief
“because of their unbelief.”
Jeffrey Crabtree: Jesus responded to their rejection with a proverbial saying that means much the same as “over familiarity breeds contempt” (v. 57). This saying is repeated in John 4:44, but there it evidently refers to His rejection by the whole of Galilee (Carson, John 236). Even though those who knew Him best as brother, neighbor, friend, or business acquaintance in Nazareth rejected Him, still Jesus claimed to be a prophet. As such, He deserved their honor (Hendriksen 582).
Not only did the general population of Nazareth reject Him so did His siblings (“in his own house”). They did not believe in Him until after His resurrection. Luke mentioned that His mother and brothers were in the upper room as part of the one hundred and twenty (Acts 1:14). Jesus appeared to James (1 Cor. 15:7), who eventually became a key leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13; 21:18; Gal. 1:19; 2:9, 12) and authored the N.T. book that bears his name (Jas. 1:1). Jude (Judas), who identified himself as James’ brother (Jude 1), also later wrote a short letter that bears his name. Nothing specific is known of the other brothers or sisters. One might suspect that given their stage in life as young adults, the sisters might have had family responsibilities that kept them from being in Jerusalem with the others on Pentecost.
Unbelief was the problem (v. 58) in Nazareth and this unbelief was their own choosing (Mk. 6:6). According to Mark, Jesus marveled at the unbelief of His family and acquaintances even as He had marveled at the faith of the centurion (Mt. 8:10). The result of such unbelief was few healings and no recorded kingdom conversions. Unbelief kept Him from helping the needy. Unbelief also kept His family and acquaintances from gaining understanding of His message and joining His kingdom (vv. 13-15). What sad days! Those who had the greatest light will receive the harshest judgment (11:20-24).