posted on Mar, 6 2015 @ 05:03 PM
“A prophet is not without honour, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house” (Mark ch6 v4).
Obviously the statement is meant ironically.
Taken literally, it would mean that a prophet invariably finds honour everywhere else, and that is certainly not the case.
So it tends to be quoted, as a proverb, in the stronger form “A prophet is ALWAYS without honour in his own country”; which is not quite what
Jesus said, but probably what he meant.
In fact the saying is already being remembered in the stronger form in both Luke and John.
“Truly I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country” (Luke ch3 v24).
“For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honour in his own country” (John ch4 v44).
This was an observation based on his own experience in Nazareth.
The people who heard him teaching in the synagogue “were astonished” by him and “stumbled” at him; they said “Is this not the carpenter, the
son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?”
As a result, he could not do any “mighty work” there, and he “marvelled because of their unbelief”.
So why did that happen?
I once heard the British comedian, Arthur Askey, on a chat-show, telling a story which may throw some light on the psychology of the problem.
I should explain that Arthur Askey was very popular, bespectacled, energetic, and very short.
In other words (and this is the point) he was instantly recognisable.
The story was about an incident which occurred in one of his hotel stays.
A man joined him in the lift and greeted him with “Hello, Arthur!”
Arthur greeted him back.
The man grinned at him and said “I suppose everybody calls you that!”
Arthur agreed that they did.
“Well, you do look like him, you know!”
He met the man again the next day.
The same greeting; “Hello, Arthur!”
Then the man added “Have you heard? They tell me the real Arthur Askey is staying in this hotel.”
Arthur confessed that he was the real Arthur Askey.
The man dug him in the ribs and said “I bet you wish you were!”
[See next post. I discovered a video of Arthur telling the story himself, in a much fuller version than I’ve remembered it]
So that’s the puzzle. This man saw someone standing next to him who had exactly the same face, shape, and voice that he would have known from
television, and he had just been told that the real Arthur Askey was somewhere in the vicinity.
So what was blocking him from accepting the idea that this person was “the real Arthur Askey”?
I think it was the very fact that Arthur was standing next to him.
There must have been the unconscious assumption in his mind that famous people dwell in a different, exotic world, and don’t stand next to ordinary
people in lifts.
Therefore the man standing next to him could not be one of them, whatever he looked like.
The perception of the good people of Nazareth seems to have been hampered by exactly the same kind of mental block.
“Men of God come from other places, not from familiar places.
This man is well-known to us, which makes it impossible for him to be a man of God”.
It would have been worse, for some of them, because they had known him as a child, making it even more difficult to take him seriously.
Like the women in the Monty Python sketch, incapable of recognising John Cleese as a grown-up man and a Cabinet Minister.
The same stumbling-block is enough to account for Nathanael’s reaction;
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John ch1 v46)
We don’t have to assume (as commentators like to do) any rivalry between two villages. The fact that Nazareth was “local” was enough to rule it
out of contention.
You can get the same reaction yourself by taking the phrase “prophet of Nazareth” and substituting the name of some local township or suburb. The
phrase will immediately begin to sound absurd, the potential title of a comic film.
“Familiarity breeds contempt”.
The moral of the story is that people may be led astray by this kind of reaction.
The hotel man was wrong to assume that a famous person could not be standing next to him.
And the people of Nazareth were wrong to assume that God could not work through a local man.
In fact anywhere on earth that Jesus could have been born would have been “local” to one place or another.
If God could not work through the familiar, he would not be able to work at all.
This is exactly what is happening in the Incarnation.
The fact that Christ is born as man makes him “local” to the human race at large.
It shows that God is not just “other”, a transcendent and distant God, but also one who comes close to us in the familiar.