A Memorable Visit
Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)
Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ
Sunday, May 27, 2018
by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter
“A Memorable Visit”
Next to baseball and Mom’s apple pie what could be more American than a good old fashion parade? Especially when paying respects to a hometown boy who made good.
I remember a time when crowds lined the streets, saluting our veterans as they passed by, marching in formation adorned in their uniforms with insignias from past wars. I remember a time when, at the sight of the American flag, tears of pride welled up inside of you. I remember a time when Lee Greenwood sang, “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free!” and people applauded.
As we commemorate this Memorial Day weekend, we honor our fallen soldiers who served our country with distinction. Signs saying, “All gave some; some gave all!” Yes, honor and duty are today’s theme.
This same theme was echoed on another occasion a long time ago when a Man was returning to his hometown. Neither bombs were dropping, nor bullets flying. No. This was another kind of war. A ‘war of words’ that filled the air with hostility. For not the slightest hint of hospitality was shown. Unlike parades of yesteryear, this passage speaks of a time when a hometown boy came to visit. His name was Jesus.
He was a Man from Nazareth. One who was greeted by a “mixed” crowd of on-lookers. It was a time when the Lord was greeted with CURIOSITY rather than applause.
It’s not uncommon for a person of stature to be besieged by ‘curiosity seekers’. People enjoy having their pictures taken alongside a celebrity. A kind of memento shown to one’s offspring.
By this time in His earthly ministry, Jesus had gained a lot of notoriety throughout Judea. Stories circulated about Jesus’ ability to: heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, and the lame walked, and demons were casted out. Wherever Jesus traveled there were throngs of people who gathered to hear Him preach. And Scripture tells us [that]: “They were amazed at His teaching …as one having authority; not as the scribes” [Matthew 7:28-29]. But such was not the case in His hometown of Nazareth. No such fanfare was shown by its citizens.
It was customary in those days for a visiting dignitary to read from the Torah which Jesus felt obliged to do in their local synagogue. And those present were astounded by what He had to say. Muttering amongst themselves they uttered: “Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and how can such miracles be performed by His hands?” Asking the obvious question, “Isn’t this the carpenter, Joseph’s son? And His brothers are they not James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? And His sisters don’t they live here as well?”
Soon, however, their curiosity turned to cynicism. They scoffed at the very idea that this Man could possibly be the Messiah. Why, He’s nothing special! Jesus may get a lot of headlines elsewhere, but here in Nazareth we know better. It reminds us when Nathaniel made a flippant remark to his friend, Philip, saying: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” According to local folklore it’s been rumored that Joseph and Mary had to get married!
To be sure, not much is known about Jesus’ childhood, except for what few lines Luke wrote: “And the Child continued to grow and to become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” [Luke 2:40]. Instinctively, questions arise: “What was Jesus like as a small boy?” “Did He play games with the other kids?” “Might He have pulled pranks on His younger brothers and sisters?” Or, did He wander off on His own?” “Was He what you’d call a ‘loner’?”
When I was growing up I never got away with anything! If something was broken, or missing, my parents confronted me first. On the other hand, my older brother could talk his way out of anything. I was what you’d call the ‘lap dog’ with humorous antidotes!
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jesus’ siblings were obviously: JEALOUS (repeat).
In the Book of James (3:14,16), it speaks about the pitfalls of: jealousy, envy, pride and arrogance. Such behavior will certainly cause strife among siblings. On another occasion, Jesus’ relatives tried to take custody of Him arguing that: “He had lost His senses” [Mark 3:21].
During His brief visit to Nazareth, Jesus remind them all [that]: “A prophet is not without honor except in his home town and among his own relatives and in his own household” [Mark 6:4].
I can only imagine how the Lord must have grieved for His half-brothers and sisters. As far as we know only two brothers, James and Jude, ever accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And then only after His bodily resurrection! Yes, those who lived under the same roof harbored doubts and untethered jealousy towards the very One who had come to earth to save them!
When you reach our age, nothing comes as a surprise. Not even here in the city of Surprise! As the old saying goes, “We’ve been around the block a few times.” We’ve seen it all. We’ve heard enough. We’ve experienced enough to write volumes. Or, as Solomon reminds us: “There’s nothing new under the sun.” There’s one thing you can say about us old folks…we are not naïve!
We know for a fact that jealousy, when born out of ignorance, ultimately will lead to: HOSTILITY (repeat).
What a nice homecoming this might have been. If only the people of Nazareth had greeted Jesus as warmly as they would a stranger. What wondrous works He could have bestowed. Instead, they gave Him the ‘stiff arm’. Their cold shoulder treatment mirrored their cold and callous hearts.
Along with Jesus’ disciples this could have been a memorable moment. But no bands were playing. No choirs were singing. There was no cordial greeting by the town’s mayor. Jesus was even given an honorary key to the city. Instead, all He was shown was an exit sign!
Perhaps the greatest indictment of all is found at the end of verse 3 where it says, “…they took offense at Him.” In biblical times, towns and villages acquired either a favorable, or unfavorable reputation based solely upon how they treated strangers; whether foreign or domestic.
We’re compelled to ask ourselves, “How would we have felt if we had been treated so rudely by people we used to know and love?” Why, we’d be devastated! Never minimize the fact that Jesus was fully human. He experienced firsthand every human emotion that we ourselves feel. Isaiah spoke of the Messiah in just these terms: “He was despised and rejected; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” [Isaiah 53:3].
Our passage points out that Jesus was, to some degree, negatively influenced by their lack of warmth and hospitality. It left a sour taste in His mouth. Like that sour vinegar offered while He hung on the cross at Calvary. Verse 5 tells us that Jesus was unable to perform any miracles there except for ‘the laying on of hands’ on a few of the sick and others who were healed.
Such rudeness was shown on yet another occasion when Jesus revisited the town of Capernaum. Scripture tells us that Jesus’ power to heal emanated from within Him. Those who believed in Him needed only to touch His garment for divine power to be released. But, on that occasion, too, no miracles occurred.
Our passage tells us that Jesus was “amazed at their unbelief.” Our English translation does a disservice to the original Greek text. A more accurate rendition would be to say that Jesus was mortified. He was applauded by their unbelief which echoed the hardness of their hearts. It was as if the air we breathe was sucked out of Him. Those who thought they knew Him; knew Him not!
Why is it that those closest to us are sometimes our harshest critics? In the depths of our despair we feel a sense of betrayal. Someone once said, “The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from our enemies.”
If you come away with nothing else this morning, perhaps it will suffice to know that our Lord had difficulties on the home front just like many of us do. In the final analysis, no one is exempt from pain and suffering.
It’s comforting to know that our Lord endured many of the same trials and tribulations that we do. He traveled the same road where we find ourselves. Yet, through it all, Jesus chose to venture onwards. And so, too, must we.
But, here’s the upside. On this Memorial Day weekend, let’s take time to pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many for the privileges which we often take for granted.
As we pause and give thanks for those who have gone before us, let us also remember give thanks to the one Man who died to set us free. But, not only did Jesus die for us. He arose victoriously from the dead! And because Jesus died and rose again; we, too, shall live unto eternal life!
Unlike mere mortals who left footprints on the sands of time, Jesus left His indelible footprints on blood-soaked soil. He did so as an everlasting reminder for us to know and to share. Pass it on!
Let us pray ...