A Prophet is Without Honour

(Matthew 13:53-58)

There are three valuable lessons in this last section of Matthew 13, culminating with the teaching that a prophet is without honour in his own country and house. In this part we see him finish his parable teachings and returning to his own home country.

Firstly though we see an insight into Jesus earlier life and his family life. Contrary to how he is often portrayed, Jesus was part of a wider family. We know that his mother was Mary and his earthly, though not biological father was Joseph. However Jesus is often portrayed as an only child. This was not the case for here we see there was an extended family. He had four brothers who were names here as James, Joseph, Simon and Judas and he also had a number of sisters who were not named. The sisters were described as “all his sisters” who could mean three or more, and definitely at least two, although you would expect if there were only two they would say “both his sisters.” (Vs. 55) So Jesus understood the issues and problems as well as the benefits of family life.

Secondly we see that the people of his hometown all recognised him. They knew who he was for he had grown up among them. This was Jesus, the carpenter’s son who played and worked in their streets and villages as a child and young man. They were puzzled because they had heard about him but when he came and taught with such wisdom in their synagogue, they were astonished. However they did not recognise him as the Son of God. Thus they took offence for they were hardened of heart because of their familiarity with the old Jesus, not this teacher of God’s Kingdom bring the good news of the gospel. They could not accept that this was the same person and so they did not believe in him.

We see also that because of their unbelief and lack of faith, Jesus did no mighty works there. Why? Because the works that he did were based on faith. The people had to believe that God could do the works that Jesus did before they would come to him for his help. For example, if a person did not believe Jesus could free them from a sickness, disease or infirmity, they would not come for healing. Over and over we see this when Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well” (Matthew 9:22, Mark 5:34, Mark 10:52, Luke 8:48, Luke 17:19, Luke 18:42) Without faith the people would not come. Was the power Jesus had lessened because the people did not believe? Absolutely not. But if they did not come and ask for healing through a lack of faith, then they would not get healed. Jesus did not force his will or his healing power on anyone. They had to make the first move, and the first move is faith. The people did not believe for they considered him to still be the carpenter’s son rather than the Son of God.

Finally we find Jesus make the statement that a prophet is without honour in his own country, land and house. This is the same as saying that familiarity breeds contempt. In his own house and country a prophet was nobody special. Everyone knew them for they had grown up together so they knew the person’s behaviour, strengths and weaknesses. A prophet in another place is among strangers who do not know these things and so they listen for all they have to judge the character of the person is what they see and hear. But in his own home a prophet is just a brother or son and part of the wider family unit.

Even Jesus had this experience and it was included here to show us an insight into the nature of man. Often when we try to bring the good news to our own family and friends we too are treated with a lack of faith. These people know our past and us. If we had a colourful past they will not believe this is the same person speaking to them as the one they knew. And so they too may take offence as they did with Jesus. Sometimes the people closest to us who we may want to bring the message of the gospel to are the hardest to convince. With them we need to adopt a silent approach so that they may be won over by observing our changed behaviour. The apostle Peter wrote of this very thing saying, “Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behaviour of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behaviour.” (1 Peter 3:1-2)

So we can take heart from these lessons and understand that if we are rejected by those we know best, it may be that it is not the right time for them. They may need to be convinced not by words but by seeing the changes in our life.

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