A Prophet Without Honour
John 4:43-45 MKJV And after two days He departed from there and went into Galilee. (44) For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own native-place. (45) Then when He had come into Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did at Jerusalem at the feast; for they also went to the feast.
Jesus was originally unrecognized by how own family and His won hometown, in fact Matthew tells us that the people of Nazareth initially refused to believe:
Matthew 13:54-58 MKJV And when He had come into His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so much so that they were astonished and said, From where does this man have this wisdom and these mighty works? (55) Is not this, the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brothers, James and Joses and Simon and Judas, (56) and his sisters, are they not all with us? Then from where does this man have all these things? (57) And they were offended in Him. But Jesus said to them, A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country and in his own house. (58) And He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
John picks up on this using his literary technique of “juxtaposition” – that is putting tow highly contrasting things next to each other to bring out the contrast and the meaning of each. So the Samaritan harvest and belief in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of the world is quickly contrasted with the unbelief of the Galileans. It is as if John is saying “the heretical Samaritans believed in Him after a few days but Jesus’ own family and friends did not believe, even for a very long while”.
In fact this unbelief was so strong that Jesus passed judgment upon the cities of Galilee: Matthew 11:20-22 MKJV Then He began to upbraid the cities in which most of His mighty works were done, because they did not repent. (21) Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the powerful acts, which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes! (22) But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.
Thus it is often most difficult to convert our own families and own neighborhood, while we get to speak to large crowds elsewhere. In fact it is often only after we have received acclaim away from home that they even start to believe in us. This certainly was the case with Jesus – it was only after they saw Jesus doing miracles at the feast in the “big city” of Jerusalem that they started to believe in Him at Galilee. “Then when He had come into Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did at Jerusalem at the feast; for they also went to the feast.”
Any paradigm-changing ministry will meet much resistance and “unbelief” at first and most ministries take about twenty years or more to become “mainstream” – e.g., youth ministry, the charismatic movement, media ministry and short-term missions each of which faced considerable opposition at first (and still some opposition today). My own area of ministry – Internet evangelism and Cybermissions, is beginning to take off – after fourteen years of personal involvement and being thought of as quite strange. This is to be expected, it happened to Jesus and will happen to us also.
Generally speaking there are a small percentage of “visionaries” (less than 5%) followed by 10-15% of “early adopters”, then about 40% are “late adopters” and the rest are apathetic to the new movement or even hostile. Pareto’s principle of the 20% who do 80% of the work and 80% who do 20% of the work applies here as well.
In our work for the Lord we can become very hurt if we expect everyone to be as enthusiastic as we are, or if we demand that they to go along with the vision that God has given us. If Jesus could not get all His friends and family and nation to follow Him, even with his love, wisdom and miracle working powers, then we cannot expect to do any better.
Jesus simply led those who chose to follow Him. He moved with the movers, and taught the teachable and discipled the believers. This is a valuable principle. In every group there will be those that “get it” – work first with those, patiently explain yourself to the rest and let those who vehemently disagree go elsewhere – with your blessing. Someone said that: “Even the simplest thing needs to be explained at least six times before it registers with a group of people.” and I have found this to be very true in ministry. Complex truths – such as justification by faith take much more explaining than that!
Here is some good advice Paul gave to Timothy about pastoring under adverse conditions:
2 Timothy 2:23-26 But avoid foolish discussions with ignorant men, knowing--as you do--that these lead to quarrels; (24) and a bondservant of the Lord must not quarrel, but must be inoffensive towards all men, a skilful teacher, and patient under wrongs. (25) He must speak in a gentle tone when correcting the errors of opponents, in the hope that God will at last give them repentance, for them to come to a full knowledge of the truth (26) and recover sober-mindedness and freedom from the Devil's snare, though they are now entrapped by him to do his will.