20200629 The homie syndrome (A prophet is not without honor)

Monday Musings for June 29, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

It’s axiomatic among evangelical Christians that the closer you are to home, the harder it is to share the gospel. I suspect this is because the home crowd knows how flawed we are... and people love to store our flaws for future use. “Remember when he picked his nose and ate it in the second grade? Why should we listen to someone like that!”

Interestingly, if we took this same nasal enthusiast and sent him several states away to share the gospel, people would be more inclined to heed his preaching. Why? Because they don’t know his foibles. But have him start in with Uncle Fred at Thanksgiving dinner and the room tightens up. I call this the “homie syndrome” ... and you might recognize its biblical motif:

“And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.’” (Matthew 13:57, ESV) (c.f. Matthew 11:20-24; 13:53-58)

But why did Jesus’ homies rebuff him? Wasn’t Jesus without sin? (Hebrews 4:15).

Well... if he was a righteous child while growing up in his household — and that is my assumption — it’s plausible that his siblings would have resented him. They might have even punished him for perceived sins... sins he did not commit! This idea has biblical precedent. Cain did this to Abel (Genesis 4:8), and Jacob’s sons did this to their brother, Joseph (Genesis 37:18).

Here’s the thing about Jesus, though. Today we understand that Jesus was God. But centuries passed before there was consensus about this. As such, Jesus’ contemporaries had no idea that he was God incarnate — and who could blame them? He lived a decidedly pedestrian life. It didn’t matter that Jesus was running around healing people; the religious establishment still wanted to kill him (John 11:45-57)... and if he were overtly God, they would not have dared.

So, what use were signs and wonders? They showed that God was with Jesus (John 3:2) ... not that Jesus was God. God had been with some other prophets in the same way, but no one thinks that these were God (1 Kings 17:17-18; 2 Kings 6:6). So note this well: the fact that Jesus performed miracles is not a proof of Jesus’ deity. It was evidence of God’s favor... that’s all.

Now, Ezekiel preceded Jesus by six-hundred years, but he had that same type of difficulty. This, of course, did not surprise God. God knew what the attitudes of a home crowd would be towards a home-grown preacher like Zeke: they’d be negative and fixed. Nevertheless, he commanded Ezekiel to prophesy anyway... or Israel’s blood would be on his hands!

We, however, live in the Church Age where the Holy Spirit indwells all believers. So, while someone in America is being faithful in the church nursery, an intrepid soul is speaking about Jesus in Hong Kong, a high school student in Kenya is surrendering to missions and a physician in India is sharing the gospel.

We are like the yeast in the dough in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 13:33). We are fulfilling the Great Commission collectively as the Body of Christ. Now, the Spirit of God moves people in combinations of ways that are too complex for us to understand. But fortunately, we don't have to. All we can do is the work that’s in front of us. So let’s be faithful and do our jobs! It's on God to do the rest.

(Click here to read the article referenced above. For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)