The figure of the rejected prophet recurs in the Hebrew scriptures. Those who turn against God’s prophet have turned against God. Whether the people listen or not, they will find out the hard way that ‘there is a prophet in their midst’. We reject the prophets at our peril.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
There is much speculation as to the nature of Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’. Whatever his suffering, it brought him to recognise the power of God’s grace at work in his life.
The gospel takes up the theme of the rejected prophet. Earlier in Mark’s gospel, Jesus is misunderstood by his family who, along with the Jerusalem leaders, think he is out of his mind. They try to control him, to take hold of him and save him from himself, not to mention his crazy lifestyle.
In today’s gospel, we find the neighbours and friends of Jesus’ family having trouble coping with him. They concede that his teaching demonstrates considerable wisdom. They also acknowledge his extraordinary power to heal. From their perspective, however, something doesn’t add up. After all, he is basically just one of them. They don’t simply puzzle over his extraordinary powers. They are actually ‘scandalised’ by him. He experiences their response as rejection and tells them how he feels. In so doing, he identifies himself with the rejected prophets of old.
The townspeople’s lack of faith renders the prophet Jesus powerless: he is simply unable to perform any mighty deeds among them. There is a hint in the text, however, that a few do have faith: ‘he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them’.
Mark’s gospel shows again and again that it is always possible to stand out from the crowd ‘‚Ä¢ for better or for worse. At times, we may be like Jesus, bringing the wisdom and power of God to ‘friends’ who refuse to listen. Sometimes, we may be like the few who come in faith and experience the healing power of Jesus. At other times, we may replicate the behaviour of the opponents of Jesus. We are said to be adept at putting the tall poppies down, discounting their achievements. We probably should all look into ourselves from time to time in order to check whether or not we are mirroring the behaviour of the people of Jesus’ home town. To refuse to see the goodness in another may have something to do with a lack of faith and may actually stymie the power of God at work in their lives and ours.