“Is he not the carpenter’s son?” (Matt 13:55).
After his baptism and time in the desert, Jesus began his ministry in Capernaum near the Sea of Galilee. After considerable public success as a preacher and miracle worker, Matthew tells us that he and his disciples visited Nazareth. There he was met with skepticism and disbelief. The people who had watched Jesus grow up could not understand how he had become such a celebrity. “Is he not (just) the carpenter’s son?” The scene ends with the important detail that Jesus “did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.”
We might ask why Jesus did not demonstrate his powers to win over the home town crowd. He had met skepticism before as well as the heavy scrutiny of his enemies, and he had never hesitated to dazzle his critics to advance the Kingdom of God. One answer is that this scene follows immediately upon Matthew’s lengthy display of the parables of Jesus and his explanation why Jesus spoke in parables. He was deliberately filtering out listeners who were not ready for faith but only wanted signs and wonders. The parables, to use a parable, were like seeds in search of fertile soil. Idle listeners did not have ears to hear or eyes to see. Only those moved to faith and ready to commit themselves to Jesus were ready to enter the Kingdom. Others, including the majority of his neighbors in Nazareth, saw only an upstart, the son of a local carpenter.
God’s Word comes to all of us. Perhaps the first obstacle to its effect is our own skepticism. If we do not believe that God can use someone as ordinary as you or me, there will be no miracles today. But if we do respond, if we hear the parables all around us, God’s Word will have found its welcome and come home.