"But in the next breath they were cutting him down: 'He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?'"
When Jesus showed up to teach that day in the synagogue, perhaps with his old friends in the crowd - the cranky neighbor, childhood crush, local merchant - people who saw him at his most normal, insignificant moments, were getting a glimpse of Jesus at full throttle.
Perhaps he first spoke about keeping the Sabbath day and living the Ten Commandments; familiar and comfortable laws that didn’t probe any new territory and stayed well with the traditional boundaries of their upbringing. Then maybe he spoke about loving your enemies, conquering evil with goodness and praying for persecutors. Maybe he tried to heal someone during his talk or mentioned that the Kingdom of God is at hand and is also here right now… Whatever it was, something sparked a reaction of offense within the listeners, and instead of them seeing Jesus as both the kid they grew up with and a hero, they saw him as something else.
“How dare that snotty nose kid from Nazareth, Mary’s boy - you know she fell pregnant before she was married? – who does he think he is to tell us about our God?“
I don’t think it was familiarity or something in particular that Jesus said that was at the heart of their offense. I think it was shame.
Last night, Jesse (husband) and I started talking about a particular situation, and I said,
“I don’t care, I’ve had enough, I’m done with it.”
At the time, I was getting something out of the microwave; he was getting something out of the fridge, he looked across the appliances and said
“That is not true. You are not done. That is not who you are.”
He got me.
He saw me. The real me. Like a prophet, he saw through what I was saying and spoke to the heart of who I really am. In my kitchen, at the microwave. A holy moment in my ordinary home.
I had two responses: Fight or be vulnerable. Often, I choose to fight. "You better believe I’m done! No one treats me like that… blah, blah, yell, yell… Who do you think you are, Mr. Milani, to tell me what I really think?”
And that reaction comes from the shame of being caught out acting less than who I know I am and am called to be.
I can imagine Jesus crowd doing the same thing. Sometimes those we are closest to are the ones we are scared of being vulnerable with the most. The distant hero owes us nothing, and we owe them nothing back – there’s nothing to lose in those one-way relationships. But with those we love? The risk of vulnerability is much higher, and more real. When we fight back through our offense and close the door to vulnerability, the hero, the prophet, those who know us well, become our enemy.
The people of Nazareth couldn’t bear for Jesus to see their unbelief; they couldn’t watch his incredible transformation and reveal their lack of change. They used to be so similar and were now so different. Their pride held them back from engaging with Jesus’ transformation, caging them in with offense and indifference. Jesus didn’t perform many miracles among them, not because he couldn’t, but because they weren’t open to the miraculous. They shut down their vulnerability.
We easily recognize our heroes, but who are our prophets? Who are the ones who see us? Who sees our world for what it is and call it out for what it could be? For who we really are?
I think we need more hero-prophets. Those who inspire us, but who also challenge us, know us and love us. Those unafraid and gracious enough to speak truth to power. The reason they are so hard to find is not that they are few, but because we shut the prophet down within us and we don’t see our heroes, our community, our neighbors, friends, and family for who they really are.