by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
July 4, 2012
Jesus isn't a temple priest who is busy taking care of and promoting the faith. Nor does anyone confuse Him with a master of the Law, devoted to defending the Torah of Moses. The peasants of Galilee see in His healing deeds and His fiery words the actions of a prophet moved by the Spirit of God.
Jesus knows that a hard and conflictive life awaits Him. The religious leaders will confront Him. It's the fate of all prophets. He still doesn't suspect that He will be rejected precisely by His own, those who have known Him best since He was a child.
Jesus' rejection by His people of Nazareth was discussed a lot among the early Christians. Three of the gospel writers pick up the episode in full detail. According to Mark, Jesus comes to Nazareth, accompanied by a group of disciples and with a reputation as a healing prophet. His neighbors don't know what to think.
When the sabbath comes, Jesus goes into the small synagogue of the town and "begins to teach." His neighbors and relatives barely listen to Him. All sorts of questions arise among them. They've known Jesus since childhood; He's just another neighbor. Where has He learned this surprising message about the Kingdom of God? From whom has He received this strength to heal? Mark says that "they were scandalized" by all of it. Why?
Those peasants thought they knew everything about Jesus. They had formed an idea of Him since they were children. Instead of accepting Him as He presented Himself to them, they remain blocked by the image they have of Him. This image keeps them from being open to the mystery within Jesus. They resist discovering the saving closeness of God in Him.
But there's something else. Accepting Him as a prophet means being willing to listen to the message He is addressing to them in the name of God. And that could bring them problems. They have their synagogue, their holy books, and their traditions. They live out their religion peacefully. The prophetic presence of Jesus might rupture the tranquility of the village.
We Christians have quite different images of Jesus. Not all of them are like the ones held by those who knew Him and followed Him closely. Each of us has our own concept of Him. That image conditions the way we live our faith. If our image of Jesus is poor, partial or distorted, our faith will be poor, partial, or distorted.
Why do we make so little effort to know Jesus? Why does remembering His human traits scandalize us? Why do we resist admitting that God has become incarnate in a Prophet? Do we perhaps sense that His prophetic life might force us to profoundly transform His Church?