(Adults, you could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child. Alternatively, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
For several Sundays, we have heard about Jesus and his friends travelling about the land of Israel. Jesus has taught in parables and many people have gathered to listen. Jesus has calmed the wind and sea when his disciples were afraid. Jesus has healed the sick and raised to life a girl who was dead. He has spoken and acted with great power. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus and his friends return to Jesus' hometown of Nazareth. What power will he show here?
On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?”
On Saturday, the holy day of the week for the Jewish people--the Sabbath--people gather in the synagogue, a place of prayer. It is normal to invite a Jewish man to read scripture and to teach. Since Jesus has returned after being away for so long, it is sign of their affection and respect to invite him to teach on this Sabbath. We wonder what they expect to hear.
Their affection and respect seems to disappear quickly, doesn't it? Instead, when Jesus teaches, they are astounded. This means they are greatly surprised. We wonder what is in their hearts.
They hear him speak with wisdom. This means that Jesus sees life the way God sees life. Perhaps he speaks about the mustard seed, so impossibly small that it cannot possibly grow, yet it opens itself to be filled with the grace and strength of God. It becomes something so great. Many people, astounded by this wisdom, have followed Jesus. What will the people of Nazareth do?
The people hear about "deeds of power" that Jesus has done. Perhaps they hear about the wind and the water that are still when Jesus speaks. Perhaps they hear about the twelve year old girl who is raised to new life when Jesus speaks. On the day of Pentecost, when 3000 people hear about God's deeds of power, they are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit. What will the people of Nazareth do?
What do the people of Nazareth do?
they took offence at him.
What does this mean? "To take offence" means to become angry and upset by what someone has said or done. They are angry and upset by Jesus' wisdom telling what the Kingdom of God is like. They are angry and upset by Jesus' miracles showing what the Kingdom of God is like. They are angry and upset by the Kingdom of God??? This is what is in their hearts?
We wonder how this can be so. With affection and respect they asked him to teach, but his teaching has made them angry and upset. Other people, who never knew Jesus when he was little, have followed him because of his teaching. These people, who have known Jesus since he was a little child, take offence because of this same teaching. It cannot be, then, that the Kingdom of God makes them angry and upset. They take offence because they knew Jesus when he was little.
They thought they knew Jesus. They thought they knew what to expect. When Jesus does not meet their expectations, they take offence. They do not enjoy being surprised by him.
And he could do no deed of power there
Whoa. Jesus has done so many deeds of power--speaking and acting with authority. Now, though, in Nazareth, he can do no deeds of power. When he does not meet their expectations, he can do no deeds of power. Why? Is Jesus weak?
except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.
He is still healing people who need him. He is not weak. Perhaps, then, Jesus cannot do deeds of power with people who do not like to be surprised by God. Perhaps it is his choice not to act when he does not meet their expectations, when he is not who they think he should be. They cannot work together.
And he was amazed at their unbelief.
What could be done if they only believe? What could be done if they only open themselves up to the grace and strength of God? Could they work together with Jesus to build the Kingdom of God?
We do not know because the people of Nazareth take offence. But what if we make a change to the Gospel? What if we plant ourselves among the people, and instead of taking offence, we show them how to take delight? "To take delight" means to take great pleasure, to enjoy. What if we enjoy it when Jesus speaks? What if we enjoy his Word and Works? What if we enjoy the surprise of God? Could we then work together with Jesus to build the Kingdom of God?
We could re-write this Gospel. We could draw a picture of this change.