We have here Christ in his own country. He went about doing good, yet left not any place till he had finished his testimony there at that time. His own countrymen had rejected him once, yet he came to them again. Note, Christ does not take refusers at their first word, but repeats his offers to those who have often repulsed them. In this, as in other things, Christ was like his brethren; he had a natural affection to his own country; Patriam quisque amat, non quia pulchram, sed quia suam—Every one loves his country, not because it is beautiful, but because it is his own. Seneca. His treatment this time was much the same as before, scornful and spiteful. Observe,
I. How they expressed their contempt of him. When he taught them in their synagogue, they were astonished; not that they were taken with his preaching, or admired his doctrine in itself, but only that it should be his; looking upon him as unlikely to be such a teacher. Two things they upbraided him with.
1. His want of academical education. They owned that he had wisdom, and did mighty works; but the question was, Whence he had them: for they knew that he was not brought up at the feet of the rabbin: he had never been at the university, nor taken his degree, nor was called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. Note, Mean and prejudiced spirits are apt to judge of men by their education, and to enquire more into their rise than into their reasons. “Whence has this man these mighty works? Did he come honestly by them? Has he not been studying the black art?” Thus they turned that against him which was really for him; for if they had not been wilfully blind, they must have concluded him to be divinely assisted and commissioned, who without the help of education gave such proofs of extraordinary wisdom and power.
2. The meanness and poverty of his relations, Matt. 13:55, 56.
(1.) They upbraid him with his father. Isa. not this the carpenter’s son? Yes, it is true he was reputed so: and what harm in that? No disparagement to him to be the son of an honest tradesman. They remember not (though they might have known it) that this carpenter was of the house of David (Luke 1:27), a son of David (Matt. 1:20); though a carpenter, yet a person of honour. Those who are willing to pick quarrels will overlook that which is worthy and deserving, and fasten upon that only which seems mean. Some sordid spirits regard no branch, no not the Branch from the stem of Jesse (Isa. 11:1), if it be not the top branch.
(2.) They upbraid him with his mother; and what quarrel have they with her? Why, truly, his mother is called Mary, and that was a very common name, and they all knew her, and knew her to be an ordinary person; she was called Mary, not Queen Mary, nor Lady Mary, nor so much as Mistress Mary, but plain Mary; and this is turned to his reproach, as if men had nothing to be valued by but foreign extraction, noble birth, or splendid titles; poor things to measure worth by.
(3.) They upbraid him with his brethren, whose names they knew, and had them ready enough to serve this turn; James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas, good men but poor men, and therefore despised; and Christ for their sakes. These brethren, it is probable, were Joseph’s children by a former wife; or whatever their relation was to him, they seem to have been brought up with him in the same family. And therefore of the calling of three of these, who were of the twelve, to that honour (James, Simon, and Jude, the same with Thaddeus), we read not particularly, because they needed not such an express call into acquaintance with Christ who had been the companions of his youth.
(4.) His sisters too are all with us; they should therefore have loved him and respected him the more, because he was one of themselves, but therefore they despised him. They were offended in him: they stumbled at these stumbling-stones, for he was set for a sign that should be spoken against, Luke 2:34; Isa. 8:14.
II. See how he resented this contempt, Matt. 13:57, 58.
1. It did not trouble his heart. It appears he was not much concerned at it; he despised the shame, Heb. 12:2. Instead of aggravating the affront, or expressing an offence at it, or returning such an answer to their foolish suggestions as they deserved, he mildly imputes it to the common humour of the children of men, to undervalue excellences that are cheap, and common, and home-bred. It is usually so. A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country. Note, (1.) Prophets should have honour paid them, and commonly have; men of God are great men, and men of honour, and challenge respect. It is strange indeed if prophets have not honour. (2.) Notwithstanding this, they are commonly least regarded and reverenced in their own country, nay, and sometimes are most envied. Familiarity breeds contempt.
2. It did for the present (to speak with reverence), in effect, tie his hands: He did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Note, Unbelief is the great obstruction to Christ’s favours. All things are in general possible to God (Matt. 19:26), but then it is to him that believes as to the particulars, Mark 9:23. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, but then it is to every one that believes, Rom. 1:16. So that if mighty works be not wrought in us, it is not for want of power or grace in Christ, but for want of faith in us. By grace ye are saved, and that is a mighty work, but it is through faith, Eph. 2:8.