A Prophet in His Own Country

Mark 1:14-15

AFTER John was cast into prison, our Lord came and dwelt in Capernaum, thus fulfilling Isaiah 9:1-2 and 42:6-7. Mark tells us (1:14-15) that He came into Galilee saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye and believe the gospel.” Luke tells us that He came to Galilee “in the power of the spirit.” At Nazareth, His own hometown, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day “as His custom was.” It reminds us of Paul entering the synagogue of the Jews in Thessalonica “as his manner was.” It is not the custom or manner of many nowadays, even many Christians, to follow this example.

Anyone might address the congregation, so our Lord stood up to read. He took His text from Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” It is significant that He did not read the next statement from Isaiah: “and the day of vengeance of our God.” This has to do with judgment, and that will follow when Messiah comes again. His message then was one of grace. Following this reading, our Lord made a clear claim of Messiahship: “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” But He knew they would not receive Him, and He declared that truth—proven so many times since—that no prophet is accepted in his own country.

No doubt they were saying to Him, in thought at least, “Why don’t you do the wonders here you did at Capernaum?” Our Lord then refers to Elijah and Elisha who had the same experience—were not appreciated at home, but did their greatest work among strangers. Here is a truth seldom mentioned today except to emphasize its exceptions. One hears occasionally, “So-and-so has proven an exception to the proverb about a prophet in his own country.” But there is no doubt that preachers will fare better if they go to new fields rather than settle where all the neighbors know them by their first name. Familiarity does breed contempt, and a stranger from somewhere else with a poorer message will be received far better than home-talent with much to say. Perhaps it ought not be so, but it is.

It would seem to follow as an inevitable corollary that even after he has settled in a new field, it is not well for the average minister, at least, to be a “hail-fellow-well-met” on too many fish-frys and parlor get-togethers. People either look up to a preacher or down on him, and too much backslapping and “regular-fellow” tactics add little to his power on Sunday. He will be called cranky anyway by some people, no matter what he does; so it is well to stay apart—even too much—and have the respect of those who might pick weak spots in his armor in too much gadding around.

The Lord Jesus Christ found He could do no mighty works where He had grown up. The applications of the proverb which He stated should be more thoughtfully pondered today. None knew men so well as He, and any principle He proved true can scarcely be overruled by you and me.

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