Too Close To See – 7-1-24

You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday’s gospel reading is here

The stories we’ve read the past few weeks show a very busy Jesus, preaching to massive crowds, stilling a storm, healing many, restoring a young girl to life. Maybe he needed a break? A little of Mom’s home cooking? We don’t know why, but Mark tells us that his next move was to go home.

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 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 Joss and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Whoever said familiarity breeds contempt was on to something. When people have known you for a long time, or before you became successful, they often feel they know the “real you” better than anyone else. They’re too close to see you clearly. The people of Nazareth may have been proud to hear of Jesus’ exploits, but when he’s right there, teaching in their synagogue, they don’t seem able to celebrate his wisdom or his power. It makes them too uncomfortable to see him break out of the box they built for him.

Our viewpoint can be similar to that of Jesus’ neighbors – after all, many of us have known him all our lives, or at least known about him. We know his bio – his wondrous birth, horrific death, miraculous resurrection – even if we might be a bit muddy on what happens in between. Whatever our level of engagement with Jesus, it’s easy to put him in a box along with a lot of other preconceived notions we cling to.

But Jesus is ever breaking out of the boxes we build for him. As we begin to know the Jesus of the Gospels (not always the same as the culturally laden Jesus of the Church …), to hear for ourselves his often sardonic wisdom, to encounter the uncontainable power he brings even from beyond the grave, to recognize the claims he makes on us as people of faith who are to be seekers of justice… we might react like those townsfolk. “Who is this guy? I thought he was all about being a good person. You mean he’s really about undoing structures that hold back the less privileged? You mean he really asks me to lay down my prerogatives in the cause of peace? He’s really about healing my wounds, not just some lepers back then? Maybe I don’t want him near my wounds. Maybe I don’t want to tear down injustices when they benefit me or my people.”

If we have grown up with Jesus, the gentle shepherd in children’s bibles (as though shepherds don’t have to be fierce!), we might have to let a lot go and start fresh, seeking to know him in our lives now. We can start with our bibles – but that is not the end. To know him, we need to spend time in his presence, in prayer. If you’re not already in that habit, simply sit in a room with some quiet and say, “Come, Lord Jesus. What do you want for me today?” And do that again the next day, maybe write down what comes to you in that time of quiet encounter.

I have a feeling we’ll get an answer, and that can be the beginning, or the continuation, of an acquaintance that always breaks out of the box – and maybe even breaks us out of our own boxes.

© Kate Heichler, 2024. To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe hereHere are the bible readings for next Sunday. Water Daily is also a podcast – subscribe to it here on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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