Having settled his mother in her seat, Mark surveyed the courtyard as people continued to arrive for the evening gathering. He noted Yiftach in typically animated conversation with a friend. He also noted with interest Adina’s occasional sideways glance at Yiftach and the smile she tried to hide behind a hand. He rose to his feet and the courtyard gradually grew quiet.
“After the dramatic events in Capernaum, Jesus left there and came to his home town, Nazareth, and his disciples followed him. Word about what had happened in Capernaum went ahead of him, and when the Sabbath had come, he began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished. They said, ‘Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to him, and such miracles as these performed by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.”
“Wow, that’s quite the put-down,” said Yiftach. Mark gestured for him to elaborate. “Well, they make it sound like he’s the last person who should be doing those kinds of things. Teaching with wisdom and authority, healing.”
Devorah spoke up. “And ‘son of Mary’? Why would they say that? Why not, ‘son of whatever his father’s name was’?” “Why would they say that?” asked Mark. Devorah’s cheeks flushed as she responded. “Well, they’re you know, questioning his…” Her voice tailed off. Yiftach finished her thought. “They’re saying he’s a bastard.” “Quite so,” said Mark. “And,” continued Yiftach, “saying, ‘Isn’t this the carpenter?’ is dismissing him as just the local handyman. As if someone with thick callouses and muscles couldn’t possibly say the things he was saying. Or do the things he was doing.”
Miryam leaned forward and spoke. “And so they can dismiss both him and his message. The Kingdom of G_d that Jesus proclaimed threatened to overturn all they knew and understood – it truly was dangerous. So they call him illegitimate and ignorant and have an excuse to take offense. And then reject him.” Devorah’s brow wrinkled as she asked, “How did Jesus respond?” Mark continued. “And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his home town and among his own relatives and in his own household.'”
“Even in his own household?” Ya’el asked, a note of astonishment in her voice. “Apparently so,” said Mark. “Even his own brothers seemed to have a hard time accepting him. At least, to begin with.” “I can understand that,” said Yiftach. “It’s not always easy to accept the ‘local boy made good.’ And when it’s your oldest brother… I can see them being a little puzzled by all the fuss – maybe even angry. Resentful. I imagine their neighbors laughing at them behind their backs. ‘There goes James – I wonder what that crazy bastard brother of his is up to now.’ That’s got to be hard. And confusing.”
Miryam noticed the flash of pain that crossed Mark’s face, and knew that he was thinking of his own brothers, just as she was. She spoke up. “And yet James would come in time to embrace his brother as the Messiah. He led the church here in Jerusalem for thirty years, and presided at the Council where the question of just how the gentiles would participate in the Kingdom of G_d movement was settled.” She offered Mark an encouraging smile, who returned it gratefully. Ya’el noticed the exchange, and looked confused, not understanding what lay behind it.
She continued. “Jesus had already redefined family when he said, ‘The one who does the will of G_d is my brother and sister and mother.’ But saying this in his hometown marked his break with kinship structures. Only those who were open to the gospel he proclaimed and the new order he was bringing would experience what G_d was doing wherever he went.” “Indeed,” said Mark. “Jesus could do no miracles there in Nazareth except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he wondered at their unbelief. For there were many in Nazareth who needed what Jesus had to offer, but their suspicion of the local boy prevented them from receiving it. So he left to go around the neighboring villages teaching. That was Jesus’ last public appearance in a synagogue on the sabbath.”
Devorah shook her head slowly and said, “How sad. To be rejected by your own people. By the ones who surely ought to know better.” Miryam responded. “Heartbreakingly so, my dear. But this incident just points ahead to the time when Jesus – the Messiah – will ‘come home’ to Jerusalem and there also be rejected, with truly terrible consequences.”
“And so,” Mark said, “his own people having rejected him, Jesus continued with those he had chosen and who had chosen him. He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs…”