In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says “...no prophet is accepted in his native place.” Some translations read “no prophet is without honor, save in his own country.” Jesus says these words after He read from the prophet Isaiah in the Nazareth synagogue. No doubt people would have been surprised. This was the same boy they say grow up into a man, the [adopted] son of Joseph and son of Mary. Most of the people there probably knew Mary and Joseph well. And now here was Jesus attributing a great prophetic verse to Himself! Sometimes it is hard to change our minds. How often do we readily accept information that goes against the narrative we hold dear?
We do not know exactly how much time transpired, but the people in the Nazareth synagogue that day seemed to steel their minds, reject, and turn negative to Jesus’ message as He then goes on to quote from the book of Kings about the ministries of Elijah and Elisha. Famously, both of these prophets were not particularly well-liked by the people in their time. Elijah was constantly on the run, and Elisha faced staunch opposition as well. Jesus touches on a tender nerve for the Israelite people that stings the Nazareth audience, which is the strong tendency to only realize after the fact that a prophet of God was in their midst and was ignored and treated poorly.One particularly instructive theme in this passage is that we must be constantly open to God’s work in our lives. We can and should expect God to work in and through us if we are obedient. However, we should not set up false expectations or create our own narratives about exactly how this should be. The childlike faith Jesus speaks about is helpful here. Children are often filled with wonder. Each day for them is like a blank slate upon which something will be drawn. There’s a certain openness to what will come. We might ask ourselves if we are truly open to God working this way in our own lives. You know, the whole “thy will be done” aspect of Christianity. If we start to close off our minds to the infinite ways God can bring things about, then we start to fall into the trap of many ancient Israelites. We start to “put God in a box”, as it were. Jesus wants to free us from that trap. The very mind-boggling fact of the Incarnation is a constant reminder of how God flips our expectations upside down and turns our paradigms inside out. Let us pray that our hearts and minds remain open to the Lord’s work in our lives and the world. The one thing we can expect is amazement and joy.