'Cut Christ Down To Size?'
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary? (St Mark 6: 3)
That, I suppose, is the feminine equivalent of the more common, 'I kent his faither'. It's often a derogatory phrase, used to remind those who have achieved success that they are no better than anyone else. Jesus had been achieving spectacular success with his miracles in Galilee, but now he was in his own country, among his own people, and they sadly seemed to lose little time in cutting him down to size. 'Isn't he Mary's son, the carpenter', they said, 'the odd-job man who used to live along the road?' It wasn't much of a welcome home for Jesus - so dismissive, so disdainful, so disparaging.
Before we condemn these people from Nazareth, what about us? Have we never done the same thing? When we see someone we know shining at work or growing in reputation, there's a temptation to slip into the culture of 'I kent his faither: he or she can't be that good'. We write their achievement down and belittle their success.
Letting familiarity breed contempt is always a graceless thing. Instead of shrugging our shoulders in disdain at the successes of others we should congratulate them; instead of disparaging, we should compliment them. Jesus' neighbours, with their petty and niggardly attitude, challenge us to stop talking people down and start talking them up. Let's give people a lift by recognising their worth and rewarding their merit. After all, we ourselves respond better to appreciation and applause than we do to sneering and scorn, and we will find that other people do so too.
The disappointing reception Jesus met from his ain folk in Nazareth wasn't the whole story. They couldn't deny he had done splendid things and said undeniably wise things, but neither could they bring themselves to accord him the recognition and title of Messiah. After all, how could he be Messiah? He was just an ordinary working-man, a man just like themselves, and there was no way such an ordinary man could possibly be Messiah, so they rejected him.
But by their refusal to recognize him and to receive him as Messiah, they made it impossible for him to do the things he desperately wanted to do for them. In the absence of their faith, miracles were not possible.
That is always the way: without faith, miracles have no meaning, or rather, they have the wrong meaning, they seem no different from magic. But Jesus was no magician - a miracle-and-wonder-worker, yes, but a wizard and conjuror, no. Miracles are meant to further the purpose and will of God, and where that will and purpose are being frustrated, as they were being frustrated in the passage from Mark's Gospel (above), miracles lose their point. So there were no miracles, no mighty works in Nazareth: unbelief and contempt had stopped the flow of the current of Christ's wisdom and power and love.
The reception Jesus met in his home town poses a challenge for us. How do we receive him, what do we think of him, what is he to us? Perhaps we don't think much at all about him, he rarely enters our minds. Our lives run on without any reference to him - as if he had never been, as if the shadow of his Cross did not lie broad across the world, as if the resurrection had never happened and he no longer existed.
Or perhaps we do occasionally brush up against him, but we just push past him and never turn our heads for a further look.
Or perhaps we do think of him think of him often and admire him sincerely; we respect him as a teacher so that he stirs our mind, we try to follow him as a leader so that he wins our heart, we revere him as a holy man so that he thrills our soul. These are all positive views of Jesus, and are no doubt welcome to him as far as they go. But frankly, if that is all we think of him, he will still be disappointed. For it is not enough to see him as the greatest teacher, or the bravest leader, or the holiest man who ever lived. He came to be all in all to us, to be Saviour and Lord to us, to be Redeemer and Friend to us, and unless he is all that to us, then our view of him is inadequate: we have effectively cut him down to size.
But if we have the right view of Christ, if we do think of him as our Saviour and Lord, our Redeemer and Friend, then whenever our minds turn to him, it will be like the sun breaking through the haar on a cold grey day, or spring flaming out again in its yearly miracle, or the placid waters of a highland loch sparkling with the twinklings of the sky and dazzling our eyes. If we turn lovingly and trustingly to Christ and see his glorious eyes gazing down into ours, our eyes will be dazzled as we drink in the beams from his eyes as if they meant life to us, and our hearts will cry out in wonder and joy,
Thou, O Christ, art all I want:
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