And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.
And they took offense at him.
They were offended by Him (by His teachings, by who He was).
-Matthew 13:57 CEB, NLT, ESV, VOICE
Why would anyone get offended at Jesus? Why would someone flip out in a bad way, after hearing Jesus teach and seeing Jesus minister to people in miraculous power? Why would people reject someone who is good and who is teaching good things and doing good?
The one word answer is: prejudice. Antisemitism is not what I am talking about, nor racism. Prejudice is when we judge before we have the relevant facts. Prejudice is when we have things figured out in boxes and when someone comes along that challenges our judgements, we focus our ire on the person rather than humbling ourselves and taking in new information and changing our minds.
The last thing the people did before taking offense at Jesus was to say, "Where did this man get all this?” The implication is that he did not get it from God, because their reaction is to be repulsed. Imagine a man in his thirties coming back to the town he grew up in. He goes to church and offers to give a message. The people are surprised, amazed, or astonished at the wisdom he speaks and the miracles he does or works.
But their surprise is an unpleasant one. They are outraged, shocked, and scandalized. Why? Prejudice. They prejudged Jesus and they prejudged how someone could or would bring wise teaching. They saw the miracles and still took offense. They reacted badly to good deeds. Why?
Their surprise or astonishment at Jesus was not linked to faith. Later, Matthew writes that they had unbelief. Their surprise or astonishment or amazement turned to outrage, shock, and offense. Jesus was scandalous to them. Why or how could they possibly be like that? Prejudice, unbelief, envy, and pride.
Sometimes people are surprised or astonished or amazed at your good news. You got a job, you got engaged, you are pregnant, or you got a big gift. But the ugly side is when that surprise, astonishment, or amazement is not about being happy for you or celebrating with you. It is really about jealousy and envy.
I can remember examples of when I had good fortune and another person expressed surprise. By their actions and words, I realized that they were not happy for me, but were jealous and even offended by my good fortune. This is sad and it happens from Christians to Christians.
The point of this story in Matthew 13, of Jesus offending his own hometown, by doing good things; is two things. If it can happen to Jesus, it can happen to you, and when Jesus gives you good words to say and good ministry to do (even miracles), people might get offended because of their unbelief, which is rooted in prejudice, pride, and envy.
For some reason, the people of Nazareth were not open to Jesus giving them wisdom or miraculous ministry. Their prejudice, pride, and envy put Jesus in a box. They had Jesus pegged as perhaps a nice guy. but not a prophetic wisdom teacher and worker of miracles. In their minds, Jesus' promotion, in God, to being that was not possible. Why? Prejudice, envy, and pride. In a word, unbelief.
We might also be carrying unbelief, which is expressed in prejudice, envy, and pride. Sectarianism and elitism are two dangerous sins for Christians in the church world today. James Fenimore Cooper wrote:
In America the taint of sectarianism lies broad upon the land. Not content with acknowledging the supremacy of the Deity . . . the pride and vanity of human reason enter into and pollute our worship, and the houses that should be of God and for God, alone, where he is to be honored with submissive faith, are too often merely schools of metaphysical and useless distinctions. The nation is sectarian, rather than Christian.
Religion's first lesson is humility; it's fruit, charity. In the great and sublime ends of Providence, little things are lost, and least of all is he imbued with a right spirit who believes that insignificant observances, subtleties of doctrine, and minor distinctions, enter into the great essentials of the Christian character. The wisest thing for him who is disposed to cavil at the immaterial habits of his neighbor, to split straws on doctrine, to fancy trifles of importance, and to place the man before principles, would be to distrust himself. The spirit of peace is not with him.This was written in 1838, when there were about 500 denominations. In 2007, there were over 40,000. If current trends continue, we will have 260,000 by 2100.
Sectarianism is when we major on the minors and it is rooted in unbelief, which is paradoxical, because the sectarian person believes they have strong faith; but it is actually rigid pride. Diversity and unity are both rooted in God. We can be diverse, but unified in God.
Jesus says to the person who is already set in there ways of worship and practice: religious activities, to combine the new with the old. The saying of Jesus, recorded by Matthew, just before the scene in the synagogue where the people take offense at Jesus is this:
Then he said to them, “Therefore, every legal expert who has been trained as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings old and new things out of their treasure chest.” -Matthew 13:52
"Legal expert" means "Scribe" or "Teacher of the Law". In other words, Jesus is remarking that those who lead in or have knowledge of faith and practice, who then become disciples of the kingdom of heaven; are like a head of a household that has old and new treasure. The point being, that there is new treasure for 'religious experts' to find. The humble person, with faith, is open to the new.
Pride and unbelief say, "I know all there is to know". What if Jesus is in the business of widening our horizons, helping us realize that the more we know, the less we realize we know. That is faith. That is humility. That is the opposite of prejudice. It is deliberation. It is thought-full-ness.
What if Jesus offends us today, in order to help us be more like him, whole and holy? He offends the parts of us or throws them for a loop, that need upgrades, that need sanctification. Does how you think need to change? That is what Jesus is about, through the Holy Spirit.
The real Jesus is outrageous, scandalous, and shocking. He is always going outside the camp, outside the box, and off the map. If you are troubled about him doing this to you, hear him say, "I am the way". In other words, he is our map, he is our destination, and he is our dwelling place.
If you put things, ways, concepts, or thoughts; even ones about him, before him; you are in trouble. Salvation is a process called sanctification. To become humble, we have to humble ourselves or be humiliated. The former is easier.