Lesson Thirty Seven
THE HEALER REJECTED
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Dr. Ben Carson, the renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, former candidate for President of the United States, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in former President Trump’s cabinet, is a member of my church. He attended long before he became famous. We knew him as Ben. In fact, my Sabbath School class at that time had three Bens and he wasn’t even known as Ben 1. We knew his wife and children. They were just another family in the church. Then Ben separated conjoined twins successfully. Then he wrote a book. And that’s when suddenly we had visitors in our Sabbath School class who sat patiently until the end when they’d pull his book out of a bag and ask for an autograph. People lined up to take pictures with him. If they came to church on Sabbath and he wasn’t there, there was profound disappointment. The rest of us would watch with some amusement, because, well, he was just Ben.
Perhaps this is what those who lived in Nazareth were thinking when Jesus came home. He’d grown up there, worked in His father’s carpenter shop, made deliveries, maybe played games, or had a best friend. They’d heard all the hoopla about Him healing people, preaching to great crowds, making a ruckus at the temple, and now Jesus, their Jesus, was back in the synagogue with them. He was asked to read the scroll and say a few words. Why not? They’d heard Jesus read before. To them, well, He was just Jesus.
To them, well, He was just Jesus.
When He read from Isaiah a familiar passage about the Messiah, and then claimed to be the Messiah, it went a little too far. And what was a friendly hometown church service quickly escalated into an angry mob set on murder. For those who lived in Nazareth, they couldn’t see past what was familiar and common. It seemed impossible for them to get a glimpse of Immanuel—God with us—because all they could see was what they knew before.
Distinguishing between the sacred and the common can be challenging. We like to talk and sing about Jesus our Friend. We like to pray in familiar tones with casual postures. We like to think of Jesus who is just like us. And while He did come to earth and live a life like ours, we must be careful to remember that He is Lord.
We must be careful to remember that He is Lord.
Similarly, we can get caught up in the celebratory status of people—those who appear on television or in movies, well-known authors, or even preachers. All one has to do at a General Conference Session, a gathering of thousands of international delegates of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is take a walk with a “famous” Adventist preacher or leader and one discovers it takes hours to get anywhere because they are stopped continually for a picture or a comment. When we elevate men (or women) to what might be considered a “sacred” status, we’ve placed our worship in the wrong place. Likewise, when we lower God to be like us, we’ve made a serious mistake.
Let us remember to distinguish between the sacred and the common. Let us open our eyes and minds to who Jesus is—yes, our Friend, but even greater still, our Savior. When we do, we will be renewed.
- For context, Jesus arrives in Nazareth probably in the Spring of A.D. 29. He had left His father’s carpenter shop to answer His call to ministry in the Fall of A.D. 27. It had been about a year and a half since He had returned. Much had happened in that time, so one can imagine those in Nazareth watched and listened intently to see how He might have changed and whether He would do what He’d done elsewhere for them.
- We know from Ellen White that Jesus had read from the scrolls in the synagogue as a young man. At that time, those in Nazareth always enjoyed what He revealed from the scriptures, so most probably attended in hopes of a great sermon.
- Not unlike today, when our pastors select scripture and then preach on the Word, the same would have been expected of Jesus. He would stand for the reading and when He sat down, it was not because He was finished, but because this was the posture for preaching.
- What caused their anger was Jesus’ reference to Elijah who sustained the Gentile Widow of Zarephath, and Elisha who healed the Gentile, Naaman. Those in Nazareth immediately understood the message and their national pride coupled with their common view of Jesus escalated their passions enough to move toward killing Jesus.
- It was angels who protected Jesus, so He was able to pass through them unharmed.
Making it Real
Ezekiel 44:23 calls for us to discern between the holy and the common or the holy and the unholy or the clean and the unclean depending on the version you read. Mixing or blurring the two is extremely easy to do. We may do it without realizing it. Think this week about the following several areas in your life and ask if you are able to discern between the two. How do we make them holy? In what ways might we be doing the opposite?
God’s house (the church sanctuary)
How one speaks of God—references to His name, His role in your life, etc.
Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being a grandmother to two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus, and a granddaughter, born in 2023. She is blessed to have all three living close by, continually bringing joy and delight.