15 October 2016

Matthew 13:54-58

“He came to his home town and began to teach the people in their synagogue.” (v. 54)

Psalm: Psalm 32


The disciples' assertion that they had understood the import of Jesus' parables is contrasted by Matthew's Gospel with another audience for his teaching. This is the only occasion that Matthew records Jesus visiting his home town of Nazareth, which he doesn't name here. It appears that Jesus' usual base was Capernaum and that he came to the place where he had lived as a child as part of his preaching mission around the towns and villages of Galilee. We might also imagine that this was a slightly awkward return following the incident in Matthew 12:46-50 where Jesus had responded to a visit from his mother and brothers by saying that his true family was made up of disciples.

Mentions of Jesus' siblings have caused a considerable amount of discussion over the centuries. Eager to maintain that Mary was 'ever virgin', some ancient and mediaeval writers speculated that these were step-children of Mary from a previous marriage of Joseph; others argued that they were cousins. Neither reading is supported by evidence elsewhere in the texts, so there is no reason to think that these are not younger brothers and sisters of Jesus. Given Matthew's account (Matthew 2:22-23) of the family only settling in Nazareth after the return from Egypt, it is not surprising that Jesus was clearly understood to be the son of Joseph, the carpenter.

Initially the teaching in Nazareth was well received but the attitude of the congregation moves from admiration, through a questioning of how Jesus came to acquire such wisdom, to rejection because they cannot accept his authority. Jesus' response is to recognise that those who speak God's word often find it hardest to be heard when they are with those who know them well. But this hardness limits the work of the gospel in that place.

To Ponder

  • Methodism's tradition of local preachers challenges some people to be prophets in their own country and own house. How difficult is it to speak of the things of God with the people with whom you live? Or to hear the things of God from someone you have watched grow up?
  • Receiving or rejecting the good news has been a repeated theme this week. Identify someone who is not a Christian but who you wish had the gift of faith. Pray for them. 

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler

Having been a Methodist circuit minister and a theological college tutor, Jonathan is now Ministerial Coordinator for Oversight of Ordained Ministries in the Connexional Team..