Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go home again.” Jesus could have used that advice. In the fifth chapter of Mark, he does mighty miracles (including bringing a child back from death) and is surrounded by crowds hanging on his every word. But without saying why, Jesus leaves the region where he was respected and goes home. In Nazareth, he preaches. Folks are not impressed. They begin to tell “I remember him” stories. They remark that he is unremarkable because he is the child of ordinary people and grew up in a less than stellar family.
Jesus is surprised, and says, “Prophets are without honor when they come home.”
Mark says that this wet blanket of unbelief hindered Jesus. I’m inclined to believe that our lord is more of a shepherd than a showman. He leads us forward at our own pace. As we are willing to accept them, miracles come into our lives. He didn’t do great things in Nazareth because he wasn’t playing the “can you top this” game. People either willingly place faith in him – we see this at the end of the 5th chapter where first a synagogue leader and then a woman suffering from the same chronic condition for 12 years allow Jesus to help them – or people challenge Jesus to prove himself. When people talk about religion today, the same division occurs. The hungry come and find bread. The affluent and apathetic turn themselves away.
But Jesus still went home. Why? I think he offers to be our shepherd, even when we have already expressed a reluctance to follow him. He goes and speaks the gospel, even where he has been told in advance that no one will listen. On the day that he is to be crucified, we see him offer the gospel to the hardened and cynical Pontius Pilate.
Further, we need to be aware of how the people around us influence our receptivity to the Holy Spirit. We live in a sea of prejudice. Our free will is constantly devalued by the narrow-mindedness of those around us. Hometowns are famous for this. And nations, even those with great constitutions -- that talk of equality and justice for all – can have their basic freedoms eroded by systemic racism.