Saturday, February 20, 2010

No Honor in His Own Country

No Honor in His Own Country
Matthew 13:53-58


The hometown boy does good. That seems to be the people’s immediate response to Jesus’ return home. Verse 54 says the people were "amazed" at his teaching.

As a preacher, I would love such a response from an audience! I’m often tickled if the audience is tolerant. These people listening to Jesus are amazed!

The home town people ask questions that indicate they are amazed. "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?" They are obviously impressed. People in other places have been amazed at Jesus all along. They marvel that he teaches as one who has "authority, and not as their teachers of the law" (Matt. 7:29). They bring their sick and ailing to him to be healed. The people of Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth, have heard of these stories, and they are amazed.

Amazement can be good. It means we are positively impacted by something, and hopefully that something is a good thing. If I am amazed by the cover of a book, I will likely buy the book. If I am amazed by the look and smell of a chicken leg, I’ll likely sink my teeth into it. That, of course, is if the chicken leg has been fried or barbequed. So, hopefully the people of Nazareth are amazed at Jesus in the sense that they are ready to buy into his ministry, they are ready to sink their teeth into the lifestyle he is calling them to.

But, they ask some other questions in verse 55. "Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Marry and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?" Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?"

Amazement can be felt in a positive way, where we are immensely impressed and want to share in the experience of that which amazes us. But it can also be experienced in a negative sense, where we are repulsed by what we see. Verse 57 indicates that may be the sense in which the people in Nazareth are amazed at Jesus: "And they took offense at him."


The Greek word behind offense is skandalizo. From this word we get our word scandalize. It is translated as offense or stumble in the N.T., meaning the people take offense at Jesus, or they can’t see him as he is really so they stumble over him. Jesus knows this is a possibility for many people, so he warns against allowing it to happen.

"Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." Matt. 11:6

"This very night you will fall away (stumble) on account of me." Matt. 26:31

The Bible allows only two responses to Jesus: faith and obedience or unbelief and rejection. Everyone is confronted with these two options. To delay a decision is a mild form of rejection. To take Jesus lightly is a form of rejection. Jesus came to make war on the power of darkness and hell. We are either in his camp, or we not.

Stumbling Over Jesus

Skandalizo means to take offense or stumble. People stumble over Jesus for several reasons.
One, they simply don’t know who he is. Jesus is the son of God come in the flesh. He is the savior of mankind. He taught great lessons and performed miracles. But behind this public persona is more than a miracle worker. There is the light of heaven.

Two, they are looking for someone else. Many of the first century Jews were looking for a political leader, not a spiritual savior, so they stumbled over the real Jesus. Some people today make the same mistake. They look to Jesus to teach principles of success or give them better self-esteem. They don’t want to hear him say, "You will die in your sins."

Three, some hate him. Many of the leaders of Israel did. "They hated both me and my Father" (John 15:24). "They hated me without reason" (John 15:25). Jesus makes demands of our lives: that we renounce sin and follow him, that we love others and serve their needs. The leaders of Israel liked position and prominence. They were not ready to confess sin and serve the downtrodden, so they responded to Jesus with hatred.

Four, they don’t know the seriousness of sin "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). The second death is eternal separation from God (Rev. 21:8). Jesus’ mission is to save the world from that eternal separation. He came to redeem us. If we fail to realize the seriousness of sin we will never take Jesus seriously.
Why did the people of Nazareth stumble over Jesus? Why did they take offense at him? Maybe a combination of factors. They knew Jesus as the carpenter’s son. They may have had different expectations of a messiah. They may not have been serious about sin. Either way, they weren’t ready for the savior when he came back to their village. And they stumbled.

Jesus then said, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." (V.57).

Will Jesus Find Honor Today?

Jesus did not find honor among his own people in Nazareth. Because of that, "He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith" (v.58). Did the people of Nazareth have people who were hurting? Sick? Demon possessed? Lost? They lost out on the redeeming ministry of Jesus because they would not honor him. They wouldn’t recognize Jesus for who he was and follow him, and they lost out.

Will Jesus find honor among his people today? Will we continue to seek him through scripture? Worship his Father? Will we pick up a towel and serve the needs of others? Will we seek him for salvation?


In the book of Revelation Jesus visits another hometown - his churches in Asia. Jesus visits seven churches. To some of them he announces benedictions - he blesses them for their faithfulness and righteousness. To some he delivers a message of stern judgment. Here is part of his message to one church, Ephesus:

"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." (Rev. 2:4-5).

This church lost its first love. Some think the "first love" is their love for the other brothers in Christ. Actually, I think that is the "second love." The first love must be for God and Christ who bestow life upon us. These Christians are still functioning as a church: they are meeting, singing, opening the Word, and enjoying potluck dinners. But their activity is not centered on Jesus Christ. Somehow they have moved away from Christ, and even though they are saying and doing things that look and sound very Christian, the have actually lost their love for Christ.

Karl and Maxine could boast 41 years of marriage together. Unless you knew them well. They lived in the same house for 41 years and shared the same last name, but that was the extent of the marriage. Karl was an alcoholic and refused to quit drinking. Maxine didn’t believe in divorce, so she stayed with him. But they lived in separate rooms in the same house. She fixed his meals, but they ate at different tables. They rarely even spoke to each other. Maxine’s sister told me, "They don’t really have a marriage."

On paper they are still husband and wife; in reality, they are as far apart as if one lived in New York and the other in L.A.

On paper, we may be united to Christ, we may be part of a church, we may count ourselves among the redeemed. But have we lost our love for Christ, as Karl and Maxine lost their love for each other? Do we think we live in a relationship with him that is really only a shell? To the church that lost its love for Christ Jesus told them, "Repent and do the things you did at first, or I will remove your lampstand from its place." He would remove them from his community.

What did the church in Ephesus do at first? Verse 2 says they worked hard and persevered; they did not tolerate wickedness and they tested the sermons of even the most respected preachers; and they endured persecution without growing weary. Jesus calls them to return to this faithfulness.

Three Thoughts

1) We honor Jesus by acknowledging his grandeur as the Son of God. There is no one beside him. So we listen to him, obey him, abide in him.

2) We honor Jesus by remaining faithful to our calling. We labor in his name, serve others, worship faithfully, study the Word and teach it to others. When trials and hardships come, even in the church, we hang in there and don’t grow weary.

3) We honor Jesus by staying together. We are the church, and that means we are a body or family, and we don’t allow anything to fracture the body. We are Jesus’ neighborhood, his community, his hometown. And even with the faults and problems we can find in it, it is still home.

N.T. Wright wrote, "It is within the church, even when the church isn’t getting everything quite right, that the Christian faith ... is nourished and grows to maturity. As with any family, the members discover who they are in relationship with one another." (Simply Christian, p.213)

We honor Jesus together, by staying together, worshiping together, working together. But first, we honor him by recognizing him as the son of God, confessing him, and being washed in his name.

Warren Baldwin

Tuesday, February 2, 2010



Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. Proverbs 16:20

Faith in God was birthed in my family. My parents took us to Bible classes and worship. They believed in God and taught and modeled faith for us. Faith was so natural and simple for me I couldn’t understand how anyone couldn’t believe in God.

My faith was buttressed in college where I studied Bible and theology. One class in particular, Christian Evidences, gave further information and support to faith. We studied some of the great thinkers in apologetics (the defense of faith) and classical arguments for believing in God.

We also learned sophisticated terms and concepts that have been used by Christian philosophers to defend the existence of God and give Christians confidence in their faith. One of these concepts is known as the Teleological Argument. The Teleological Argument is based on observation of the world, where we can see design, such as order and purpose. From this design we can reasonably conclude that a great designer planned the order and purpose in the universe. God is the great designer.

The Ontological Argument asserts that reason rather than observation is the basis for determining that God exists. The classic statement was made by St. Anselm in the 11th century. He wrote, "God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived." I first studied that concept when I was about 19 years old, and remember having such a difficult time trying to grasp it that I figured it had to be right, so God must exist!

The Cosmological Argument is also known at the First Cause or Uncaused Cause argument. It posits that nothing can cause itself. We can’t cause ourselves, we can’t make ourselves. So, our existence must be explained on the basis of something greater than us causing our existence. That something greater than us is God, also called the unmoved mover in this argument.

I don’t know how thoroughly I processed these thoughts and concepts, but they did give me some confidence that belief was reasonable. Men a whole lot smarter than me conceived these complex arguments, and if they believed in God, then it was reasonable for me to believe, too. I was comfortable with my faith.

That comfort was shattered in my mid-twenties when I read about a man’s explanation for not believing in God and I couldn’t successfully counter his reasons. Does God exist? Is he the creator? Is faith reasonable? These questions and more overwhelmed me through the day and late into the night. My study, sleep and calm were wracked by these disturbing questions that robbed me of peace. I dug out my old texts and studied the great philosophical arguments from my evidences class. These classic arguments satisfied the intellectual questions I had, but they couldn’t quiet the doubts I felt at an emotional and spiritual level.

These kinds of questions are tough when you are a preacher! I turned to a respected professor and explained my dilemma. He gave me a list of books and articles to read, and encouraged me to stay in the struggle. Faith was reasonable, he assured me.

With his encouragement I began a long study and search for myself. I am happy to say that the search and struggle were worth the effort. I do believe and am confident that faith in God and his redemptive plan in Jesus are reasonable. This belief forms the basis for my life, my family and my work. I am still a minister of the Gospel and believe this work has eternal value.

What confirmed the value of faith for me? It wasn’t the complicated and sometimes confusing teleological, ontological and cosmological arguments. No, it was something that went beyond the intellect to the heart. While a number of factors confirmed the value of faith for me, one of the most convincing was the presence of good people in my life who faithfully modeled faith in their daily lives. Those who heed the instruction of God prosper, not necessarily in worldly terms, but in the quality of their personal lives and their relationships. Good people who love God encourage my faith more than anything else, and because of them, I have been one of the blessed because of trust in the Lord.

Warren Baldwin