They Had Him All Figured Out
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 4, 2021
Have you ever heard the expression, “familiarity breeds contempt”? Well, this is what Jesus is facing in this Sunday’s gospel (Mark 6:1-6). He has come to the town where he grew up – Nazareth. We learn from this passage that Jesus had lived a very circumspect life at home. Jesus was laying low—he
was fully a carpenter during these hidden years. Later, when Jesus did come back as a teacher and miracle worker, he had hidden his Divine identity so well that no one believed him. No big showy miracles or even memorable talks at the synagogue on Sabbath. No, they had never heard anything like this! They had him all figured out, they knew who he was! It couldn’t be true – so, for them, it wasn’t true.
We can hear his neighbors saying: “Isn’t this the carpenter? We watched him grow up – and build things.” The actual word used here is TECHTON; a construction worker; a handyman. He would build things: handy to have around. Not the kind of person to give theological talks or work miracles. No, we know who he is! We have him all figured out.
It is always a danger to think we have someone all figured out. Obviously, relatives and former acquaintances can be the worst examples of this. If you were something else when you were young, and have changed, don’t be surprised if some may never let you get past it. Sometimes at reunions or when visiting places where we had another role, we find people who still have us in that same box we were in decades ago.
But the real danger is that we may think we have the Lord all figured out. The Lord frequently acts in surprising ways in our lives and not always as we are expecting. Of course, the Lord tells us not to judge because we really have no idea what is inside others, what makes them who they are. Whether it’s our own relatives and neighbors or Jesus returning to his hometown, if we think we have them all figured out, we are often closing ourselves to God’s grace.
The surprising theme that runs through all the readings this Sunday – and our lives – is weakness. One of my favorite quotes, which I have used before, was from a major media founder who once famously said he wasn’t a Christian because it was a religion of “losers and weaklings”. Yep, that’s what Jesus appeared to be all right – he takes the disguise of a loser and weakling to fool the proud and arrogant who prejudge and condemn what they do not understand.
God’s grace, his Holy Spirit, will be available to us in the most unusual circumstances, speaking to us through the weakest persons and the most difficult situations because this is how the Lord prefers to operate. One way of looking at life is that we ourselves live in “Nazareth”, and Jesus wishes to come calling at our homes. When he does, you will think you recognize him as someone else or something else. But stay open to the Spirit, don’t pre-judge the messenger, and God will have gifts, teachings, surprises and healings for you.