Hometown Hero

I remember studying Greek tragedies and learning that the heroes always had a catastrophic flaw. I was thinking recently that perhaps we as humans prefer our heroes to have a weakness or flaws so that we can relate to them. In modern times, we expect heroes to win the day, but we also want to believe that we, too, could be heroic if the circumstance arose. On some level, we all realize that we aren’t perfect, and we like to see that other imperfect people can achieve great feats.

As a tennis fan, Roger Federer used to really annoy me. Sure, he played beautifully, but most of his matches were boring to watch for lack of competition. He always beat my favorite players, no matter how well they played. That is why I remember clearly the first time I watched Raphael Nadal play tennis. It was his first match against Federer at the French Open. Nadal blasted Federer’s first serve of the match back up the line to win the point. I was instantly a fan. I was tired of Mr. Perfection winning all of the time, and I was worn out of listening to the commentators talk about Federer as though he were a god. Raphael Nadal made him human again.

“But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Isaiah 8:13-15

After we discussed Mark 6:1-6 in my Life Group, I continued thinking about why Jesus’ hometown rejected Him when he tried to minister there. I can’t help but wonder if Jesus annoyed people in Nazareth because He seemed too perfect. Mark records that the people were on the one hand amazed, and on the other offended. Why did they take offense? We discussed that it may have been people’s familiarity with Him that dictated their response. Perhaps they thought that He was being pretentious.

We know that He was sinless, and He had lived among these particular people for most of His life. There must have been people who noticed that He was a bit too perfect, and let’s face it, no one likes a ‘goody two-shoes.’ Then, after some time away, He strolled back into town with an entourage, and He spoke in the synagogue with authority. It really seems to have rubbed people the wrong way. I look into my own heart and I know I, too, would have been aggravated. “Who does this guy think he is?” Isn’t that what the people of Nazareth were really saying?

For years, I have felt like my love for Jesus was cold. I never enjoyed reading the gospels as much as I did reading Paul’s letters. If I am honest, there was something about Jesus and His manner that I didn’t really like. It was something I felt, that I could never put my finger on, and I tried hard to ignore it. I am realizing that perhaps my problem was seeing Him too much as a person and not enough as God. The Bible instructs us that Jesus was fully man and fully God. It is difficult to understand, but we must try. If we err on one side or the other, we miss who He really is. We stumble and fall into the same trap as Nazareth.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:7-10

In Philippians 3:8, Paul refers to “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” To know Him requires studying Scripture. For too long, I read the narrative of the gospels and didn’t look deeper. My heart has changed, over the past several years, as I have studied the gospel accounts in a purposeful way and received instruction on them in church. I have a clearer picture of who Jesus was and is and why He did and said certain things. Jesus is more real to me, and I am more emotionally invested in Him.

The people of His hometown saw Jesus as human, and they were offended when He claimed to be God, as Luke 4:16-30 records. Because they thought that they knew Him, they refused to believe in Him and even wanted to kill Him. We cannot truly love Jesus unless we know Him and understand the incredible price He paid for us. I fear there are still many who think they know Jesus, but who do not have an accurate picture of who He is or what He did. Even Jesus’ disciples at first struggled to understand Him. Believers need to engage in this struggle and put in the necessary work to really know Jesus Christ for themselves. Paul was right; it’s worth it.

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