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Jesus isn’t a Temple priest, busy about taking care of and promoting religion. Nor does anyone confuse him with a Teacher of the Law, dedicated to defend the Torah of Moses. The Galilean villagers see in his healing actions and in his words of fire the actions of a prophet moved by God’s Spirit.
Jesus knows that a difficult life of conflict awaits him. The religious leaders will confront him. It’s the destiny of every prophet. He doesn’t yet suspect that he will be rejected precisely by his own people, those who know him best from his childhood.
It seems that Jesus’ rejection in his village of Nazareth was often commented upon by early Christians. Three Gospel writers recount the episode in great detail. According to Mark, Jesus arrives at Nazareth accompanied by his disciples and with the reputation of being a prophetic healer. His neighbors don’t know what to think.
When the Sabbath arrives, Jesus enters into the small village synagogue and «begins to teach». His neighbors and relatives hardly listen to him. Within them all kinds of questions are arising. They know Jesus from childhood: he’s one more neighbor. Where has he learned that surprising message about God’s reign? From whom has he received that power to heal? Mark says that Jesus «had them upset». Why?
Those villagers believe that they know all about Jesus. They have an idea of him from his childhood. Instead of welcoming him as he presents himself before them, they get stuck by the image they have of him. That image keeps them from opening themselves up to the mystery that Jesus contains. They resist discovering that in him the saving God has drawn near.
But there’s something more. To receive him as a prophet means being ready to listen to the message he’s directing to them in God’s name. And this can lead to problems. They have their synagogue, their sacred books and their traditions. They live their religion in peace. Jesus’ prophetic presence can break the tranquility of their village.
We Christians have plenty of different images of Jesus. Not all of them coincide with the image of those who knew Jesus up close and followed him. Each one of us has our own idea of him. This image conditions our way of living our faith. If our image of Jesus is poor, partial or distorted, our faith will be poor, partial or distorted.
Why do we push ourselves so little to know Jesus?
Why does it scandalize us to recall his human features?
Why do we resist confessing that God has been made incarnate in a prophet?
Do we maybe sense that his prophetic life would oblige us to profoundly change our communities and our life?
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf