Matthew 13:53-58 (AD 28)
In Jesus’ home town of Nazareth, he was respected enough that he taught in the synagogue, and there was no argument that he possessed “wisdom and…miraculous powers” (v.54). And yet it wasn’t merely the leaders who had an issue with Jesus, we see plenty of ‘ordinary’ people whose rejection of Jesus came from their rebelliousness and prejudice rather than reason.
They weren’t even rebelling against Jesus’ divine claims, they merely resented his apparent talent for public speaking and his miraculous powers. That may explain why Jesus, in a way, dumbed-down their rejection of him by referring to their rejection of him being like the stereotypical rejection ‘a prophet’ in their home town.
The Greek word here translated “took offence”, is ‘skandalizō’, which carries the sense of an emotional aversion as well as a physical departure. Matthew uses the word thirteen times in his gospel, including:
“Then the disciples came to him and asked, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?’” (15:12, after Jesus accused them of being hypocrites re the law)
“And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away” (18:9, re: fighting temptation)
“This very night you will all fall away on account of me” (Jesus to the disciples in Gethsemane, 26:31)
After the people in his home town synagogue were ‘skandalizō’ by Jesus, we read of no further occurrence in Jesus’ ministry of him teaching in a synagogue. The crowds of miracle tourists plus the lack of faith among the synagogue attenders had prompted Jesus to take his ministry to less obviously religious public places.
A similar thing occurred in Paul’s ministry. He started his Christian life as a missionary to the Jews, and transitioned to being largely devoted to Gentile evangelisation after a group of Jews in Macedonia became abusive towards him (Acts 18:6).
The more we find out about Jesus, the more likely that at some point we will find out something about him that causes us skandalizō’. It’s not likely to be the same things as the ancient Jews in Nazareth – he’s not our local boy who used to play with his friends next door. Nor are we likely to be put off that he had half-a-dozen-or-more unexceptional siblings. But whether it’s because we want God to be distantly majestic, or just like us, or simply have him share all our opinions, something about him will offend us. Our tendency to do that should drive us back into the Word to make sure that the Jesus we worship really is Jesus, and not the man or woman in the mirror.
As we continue through the gospels, ask God to help you see what it is about Jesus that causes you skandalizō’, and ask him to help you become more like Jesus so that what once offended you or drove you away from a closer walk with him, will increasingly draw you in.