Why Were People Offended by Jesus? – Matthew 13:57-58

After teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth, the people were offended by Jesus. Jesus is teaching like the great teachers of the Jewish world and he has done miracles which demonstrate he is a prophet. But they do not know the source of his authority and power and are therefore offended by him.

Jesus in the Synagogue of Nazareth

The verb “took offense” (σκανδαλίζω) often has the sense of “to cause to sin,” but the meaning here is “to shock, cause to be angry” (BDAG), or even “be outraged” (BrillDAG).  Jesus caused this extended to be shocked and angry by teaching with wisdom and having power (doing miracles). In Luke 4:28-30 we are told that the offense led the people to want to throw Jesus from a cliff for blasphemy.

“A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown” (Matthew 13:57)

In Luke’s Gospel is appears people are offended by Jesus because he has not done miracles in their town. In Luke 4:23-24 Jesus says, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well” before saying “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.”

There are no other examples of this proverb, and it is the only time Jesus ever calls himself a prophet (although the proverbial use may not be a claim to be a prophet). Possibly Testament of Judah 18:5 “he does not obey the prophet when he speaks, and he is offended by a pious word.” The proverb also appears in John 4:44 and GThomas 31.  In response to questions from disciples of John the Baptist, Jesus said “blessed is the one who is not offended on account of me” (Matt 11:6).

The people of village of Nazareth reject Jesus, and in Luke’s version they try to attack him! “The failure to understand leads not to indifference but to hostility” (Davies and Allison, Matthew, 2:455).

Jesus did not do many mighty works in Nazareth (Matthew 13:58)

Mark says Jesus “could not do miracles” except to lay his hands on a few people. Matthew has reworded this slightly to avoid the implication Jesus requires people to have faith to be healed. Matthew made this point in 9:1-8. The paralyzed man does not demonstrate faith, yet his sins are forgiven, and he is healed. “Inability has become refusal; Jesus is indisputably in charge” (Davies and Allison, Matthew, 2:460).

By the end of this section, Jesus arrives at Gennesaret. People recognize Jesus and many people gather hoping to just touch the hem of Jesus’s garment to be healed (14:34-36). This is a considerably different response than his own hometown!  But the fact is he did some miracles in Nazareth, yet the people remain unconvinced the source of Jesus’s power is nothing other than the devil!

The Parable of the Sower (13:1-23) demonstrated that not everyone who hears the word of the God from Jesus will accept that word and produce fruit. Only those who have been prepared by God to hear will receive the word and produce fruit. Even among those who appear to have heard the word and accept it are some who are not genuine disciples, they are the weeds among the wheat (13:24-30; 36-43; 13:47-50). Only those who are ultimately committed to seeking the mysteries of the kingdom of God will find it (13:31-35; 44-46) and pass it on to others (13:52). The Pharisees, some of the villages of Galilee including his hometown and even Jesus’s family have rejected the word that Jesus is the Messiah. Yet there are many who continue to follow Jesus, eventually as many as 5000 will gather to hear Jesus (14:13-21).

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