“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”


Saturday (August 25): Scripture: 

1 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. 4 They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Meditation: Does your practice match your talk? Jesus scolds the scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of the Jews, for their showy practices. In a way they wanted to be good models of observant Jews. See how well we observe all the ritual rules and regulations of our religion! In their misguided zeal for religion they sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for his word. They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and rulers. They, unfortunately, made the practice of their faith a burden rather than a joy for the people they were supposed to serve.

Was Jesus against calling anyone rabbi or father? Or was he just directing this sharp rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees? Jesus seemed to be warning both his disciples and the religious leaders about the temptation to seek titles and honors to increase one’s personal reputation and admiration by others. The scriptures give ample warning about the danger of self-seeking pride: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbes 16:18)  “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:24)

Jerome, an early church father (347-420 AD) and bible scholar who translated the bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the common Latin tongue, comments on this passage:

“No one should be called teacher or father except God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the Father, because all things are from him. He alone is the teacher, because through him are made all things and through him all things are reconciled to God. But one might ask, ‘Is it against this precept when the apostle calls himself the teacher of the Gentiles? Or when, as in colloquial speech widely found in the monasteries of Egypt and Palestine, they call each other Father?’ Remember this distinction. It is one thing to be a father or a teacher by nature, another to be so by generosity. For when we call a man father and reserve the honor of his age, we may thereby be failing to honor the Author of our own lives. One is rightly called a teacher only from his association with the true Teacher. I repeat: The fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as sons of God by adoption. Similarly this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father.” [Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew]

Respect for God and his ways inclines us to Godly humility and simplicity of heart. The word disciple means one who listens in order to learn. Jesus shows us the way to the Father – the way of peace, joy, righteousness, holiness, and true happiness. He showed us the way by lowering himself as a servant for our sake. He humbled himself, even to death on a cross, that we might be raised up and exalted at the Father’s right hand in heaven (Philippians 2:1-11). What is true Christ-like humility? Humility is true self-knowledge – regarding oneself as God sees each of us. The humble do not rely on themselves, but trust in God and in the power of his love and saving grace. True humility is a servant-like quality which enables us to place our life at the service of God and the service of our neighbor. Do you know the joy of Christ-like humility and simplicity of heart?

“Lord Jesus, teach me your way of humility and servanthood that I may walk in love as you have loved me. Fill me with the joy of servanthood that I may know the true freedom of  selfless love and generous service for my neighbor.”

Psalm 85:8-13

8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12 Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him, and make his footsteps a way.

“If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever”


Sunday (August 12): Scripture: John 6:41-51

41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, `I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Meditation: Do you receive the word of God with trust and submission? A number of Jesus’ contemporaries, including most of the religious authorities, rejected his authority to speak in the name of God. They despised him because they thought they knew who he was – supposing him to be an uneducated laborer from an out-of-the-way town called Nazareth. They regarded Mary, his mother, and Joseph, his foster father, as ordinary people with no particular distinction to their name. How could such a common man claim to be God’s spokesman? They were even more offended when Jesus claimed something which only God could claim. He claimed to be the very source of life which comes from God and which lasts forever (John 6:51). Don’t we make the same mistake when we refuse to listen to others because we think they are inferior to us? We can miss what God may wish to speak to us through others, especially if we despise the instrument which God chooses to work through. John states that the Jews murmured at Jesus. They listened to him, but with a critcal heart rather than with an open ear and an earnest desire to learn what God wanted to speak to them through his Son Jesus. There are many different ways that people can choose to listen to others: with an atitude of superiority, with indifference, or with a teachable spirit that wishes to learn, grow, and be transformed. How do you listen to God’s word?

God offers his people abundant life, but we can miss it. What is the bread of life which Jesus offers? It is first of all the life of God himself – life which sustains us not only now in this present age but also in the age to come. The Rabbis said that the generation in the wilderness have no part in the life to come. In the Book of Numbers it is recorded that the people who refused to brave the dangers of the promised land were condemned to wander in the wilderness until they died. The Rabbis believed that the father who missed the promised land also missed the life to come. When Jesus offers us real life he brings us into a new relationship with God, a relationship of trust, love, and obedience. And he offers us real, abundant, sustaining life which last forever  – a life of enduring love, fellowship, communion, and union with the One who made us in love to be united with him forever. To refuse Jesus is to refuse eternal life, unending life with the Heavenly Father. To accept Jesus as the bread of heaven is not only life and spiritual nourishment for this world but glory in the world to come. Do you accept the Lord Jesus as the bread of life?

“Lord Jesus, you are the living bread which sustains me in this life and for all eternity as well. May I always hunger for the true and sustaining bread which comes from heaven and find in it the nourishment and strength I need to love and serve you all the days of my life.”

Psalm 34:1-9
1 I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 O fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no want!

“If the grain of wheat dies, it bears much fruit”


Friday (August 10): Scripture: John 12:24-26   (alternate reading: Matthew 17:14-20)

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  25  He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  26 If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.

Meditation: What can a grain of wheat tell us about life and the kingdom of God?  Jesus drew his parables from the common everyday circumstances of life. His audience, mostly rural folk in Palestine, could easily understand the principle of new life produced by dead seeds sown into the earth. What is the spiritual analogy which Jesus alludes to? Is this, perhaps, a veiled reference to his own impending death on the cross and his resurrection on the third day? Or does he have another kind of “death and rebirth” in mind for his disciples? Jesus, no doubt, had both meanings in mind for his disciples. The image of the grain of wheat dying in the earth in order to grow and bear a harvest can be seen as a metaphor of Jesus’ own death and burial in the tomb and his resurrection. Jesus knew that the only way to victory over the power of sin and death was through the cross. Jesus reversed the curse of our first parents’ [Adam and Eve] disobedience through his obedience to the Father’s will – his willingness to go to the cross to pay the just penalty for our sins and to defeat death once and for all. His obedience and death on the cross obtain for us freedom and new life in the Holy Spirit. His cross frees us from the tyranny of sin and death and shows us the way of perfect love. There is a great paradox here. Death leads to life. When we “die” to our selves, we “rise” to new life in Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to “die” to oneself? It certainly means that what is contrary to God’s will must be “crucified” or “put to death”. God gives us grace to say “yes” to his will and to reject whatever is contrary to his loving plan for our lives. Jesus also promises that we will bear much “fruit” for him, if we choose to deny ourselves for his sake. Jesus used forceful language to describe the kind of self-denial he had in mind for his disciples. What did he mean when he said that one must hate himself?  The expression to hate something often meant to prefer less. Jesus says that nothing should get in the way of our preferring him and the will of our Father in heaven.  Our hope is in Paul’s reminder that “What is sown in the earth is subject to decay, what rises is incorruptible” (1 Corinthians 15:42). Do you hope in the Lord and follow joyfully the path he has chosen for you?

“Lord Jesus, let me be wheat sown in the earth, to be harvested for you. I want to follow wherever you lead me. Give me fresh hope and joy in serving you all the days of my life.”

Psalm 112:1-2,5-9

1 Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!
2 His descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
5 It is well with the man who deals generously and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice.
6 For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered for ever.
7 He is not afraid of evil tidings; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
8 His heart is steady, he will not be afraid, until he sees his desire on his adversaries.
9 He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever;  his horn is exalted in honor.

“Great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire”


Wednesday (August 8): Scripture: Matthew 15:21-28

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Meditation: Do you ever feel “put-off” or ignored by the Lord? This passage describes the only occasion in which Jesus ministered outside of Jewish territory. (Tyre and Sidon were fifty miles north of Israel and still exist today in modern Lebanon.) A Gentile woman, a foreigner who was not a member of the Jewish people, puts Jesus on the spot by pleading for his help. She addressed Jesus as Lord and Son of David. She recognized that Jesus was God’s annoined one who would bring healing and salvation, not only to the people of Israel, but to the Gentiles as well. She asks Jesus to show mercy and compassion to her tormented daughter. At first Jesus seemed to pay no attention to her, and this made his disciples feel embarrassed. Jesus does this to test the woman to awaken faith in her.

When she persisted in asking Jesus to heal her daughter, Jesus answered by saying one shouldn’t take food prepared for their children and throw it to the dogs. What did Jesus mean by this expression? The Jews often spoke of the Gentiles as “unclean dogs” since they worshipped idols, offered sacrifices to demons, and rejected the true God. For the Greeks the “dog” was a symbol of dishonor and was used to describe a shameless and audacious woman. Matthew 7:6 records the expression: do not give dogs what is holy. Jesus was sent from the Father in heaven to first feed the children of Israel with the true bread of life that would bring healing, reconciliation, and lasting union with God. This humble Canaanite woman was not put-off by Jesus’ refusal to give her what she asked for. In desparation and hope for her tormented child, she pleads with Jesus to give some of the “crumbs that fall from the table” to the “little dogs”.

John Chrysostom (349-407 AD), in his sermon on this passage, remarks how this woman approached Jesus with great humility, wisdom, and faith:

“See her humility as well as her faith! For he had called the Jews ‘children,’ but she was not satisfied with this. She even called them ‘masters,’ so far was she from grieving at the praises of others. She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’ Behold the woman’s wisdom! She did not venture so much as to say a word against anyone else. She was not stung to see others praised, nor was she indignant to be reproached. Behold her constancy. When he answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,’ she said, ‘Yes, Lord.’ He called them ‘children,’ but she called them ‘masters.’ He used the name of a dog, but she described the action of a dog. Do you see the woman’s humility? …Do you see how this woman, too, contributed not a little to the healing of her daughter? For note that Christ did not say, ‘Let your little daughter be made whole,’ but ‘Great is your faith, be it done for you as you desire.’ These words were not uttered at random, nor were they flattering words, but great was the power of her faith, and for our learning. He left the certain test and demonstration, however, to the issue of events. Her daughter accordingly was immediately healed.” [The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 52.3]

Jesus praised this woman for her faith and for her love because she made the misery of her child her own. She was willing to suffer rejection in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus. She began with a request and she ended on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with faith – whether Jew or Gentile – was refused his help. Do you seek Jesus with expectant faith?

“Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May I trust you always and pursue you with indomitable persistence as this woman did. Increase my faith in your saving power and deliver me for all evil and harm. ”

Psalm 67:1-7

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, [Selah]
2 that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. [Selah]
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.
7 God has blessed us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

“Jesus was transfigured before them”


Monday (August 6):  Scripture:  

2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, 3 and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Eli’jah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli’jah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only. 9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of man should have risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.

Meditation: Are you prepared to see God’s glory? God is eager to share his glory with us! We get a glimpse of this when some of the disciples see Jesus transfigured in glory on a high mountain. [In the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican churches, this event is celebrated as a major feast on August 6.] Jesus often went to a lonely place to pray – to seek solitude and sanctuary away from the crowds. But on this occasion, the Gospel of Mark tells us thatJesus was transfigured ..and his garments became glistening, intensely white (Mark 9:2,3).

When Moses met with God on Mount Sinai the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God (see Exodus 34:29). Paul says that the Israelites could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness (2 Corinthians 3:7). In the Gospel account Jesus appeared in glory with Moses, the great lawgiver of Israel, and with Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, in the presence of three of his beloved apostles – Peter, James, and John.

What is the significance of this mysterious appearance? Jesus went to the mountain knowing full well what awaited him in Jerusalem – his betrayal, rejection and crucifixion. Jesus very likely discussed this momentous decision to go to the cross with Moses and Elijah. God the Father also spoke with Jesus and gave his approval: This is my beloved Son; listen to him. The Father glorified his son because he obeyed. The cloud which overshadowed Jesus and his apostles fulfilled the dream of the Jews that when the Messiah came the cloud of God’s presence would fill the temple again (see Exodus 16:10, 19:9, 33:9; 1 Kings 8:10; 2 Maccabees 2:8).

The Lord Jesus not only wants us to see his glory – he wants to share this glory with us. And Jesus shows us the way to the Father’s glory: follow me – obey my words – take the path I have chosen for you and you will receive the blessings of my Father’s kingdom – your name will be written in heaven. Jesus succeeded in his mission because he went to Calvary so that Paradise would be restored to us once again. He embraced the cross to obtain the crown of glory that awaits each one of us, if we will follow in his footsteps.

Origen, the great 3rd century bible scholar, shows us how the transfiguration can change our lives: “When he is transfigured, his face also shines as the sun that he may be manifested to the children of light who have put off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, and are no longer the children of darkness or night but have become the sons of day, and walk honestly as in the day. Being manifest, he will shine unto them not simply as the sun, but as demonstrated to be the sun of righteousness.”

Luke’s gospel tells us that while Jesus was transfigured, Peter, James, and John were asleep (Luke 9:32)! Upon awakening they discovered Jesus in glory along with Moses and Elijah. How much do we miss of God’s glory and action because we are asleep spiritually?  There are many things which can keep our minds asleep to the things of God: Mental lethargy and the “unexamined life” can keep us from thinking things through and facing our doubts and questions. The life of ease can also hinder us from considering the challenging or disturbing demands of Christ.  Prejudice can make us blind to something new the Lord may have for us. Even sorrow can be a block until we can see past it to the glory of God. Are you spiritually awake? Peter, James, and John were privileged witnesses of the glory of Christ. We, too, as disciples of Christ are called to be witnesses of his glory. We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Lord wants to reveal his glory to us, his beloved disciples. Do you seek his presence with faith and reverence?

“Lord Jesus, keep me always alert and awake to you, to your word, your action, and your daily presence in my life. Let me see your glory.”

Psalm 97:1-9

1 The LORD reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!
2 Clouds and thick darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him, and burns up his adversaries round about.
4 His lightnings lighten the world; the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.
7 All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; all gods bow down before him.
8 Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O God.
9 For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you art exalted far above all gods.

“Lord, give us this bread always”


Sunday (August 5): Scripture: 

24 So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Caper’na-um, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.

Meditation: What do you most hunger and thirst for in life? Jesus addressed this issue with those who sought him after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. Where they simply hungry for things which satisfy the body or for that which satisfies the heart and soul? Jesus echoes the question posed by the prophet Isaiah: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy” (Isaiah 55:2)? Only God can satisfy the spiritual hunger in our heart and soul – the hunger for truth, for life, and for companionsip and love.

Jesus makes a claim which only God can make: He is the true bread of heaven that can satisfy the deepest hunger, thirst, and longing which every human being experiences in life. When the Israelites journeyed in the desert wildnerness they could find no food to keep themselves alive. They complained that God had left them there to perish. God tested them to see if they would trust in his personal care and provision for them. He gave them sufficient manna each day to sustain them on their journey to the promised land. This daily provision of manna in the wilderness could not produce long lasting satisfaction nor eteral life for the Israelites. It did however prefigure and point to the superabundance of the unique bread of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper which Jesus gave to his disciples on the eve of his sacrifice. The bread which Jesus offers his disciples sustains us not only on our journey to the heavenly paradise, it gives us the abundant supernatural life of God which sustains us now and for all eternity. When we receive from the Lord’s table we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ, who makes us sharers in his body and blood and partakers of his divine life. Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 A.D.) calls it the “one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ” (Ad Eph. 20,2). This supernatural food is healing for both body and soul and strength for our journey heavenward.

Jesus also spoke about the works of God and what we must do to be doing the works of God, namely to believe in God’s Son whom he has sent into the world. Jesus offers a new relationship with God which issues in a new kind of life: a life of sacrificial love, selfless service, and the forgiveness of others which corresponds to God’s mercy, goodness and loving kindness; a life of holiness, purity, and truth which corresponds to God’s holiness; and a life of obedience and trust which corresponds to God’s offer of abundant life, peace, and happiness. This is the work which Jesus directs us to and enables us to perform in the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you hunger for the bread which comes down from heaven and thirst for the words of everlasting life?

“Lord Jesus, you are the true Bread of Heaven. Only you alone can truly satisfy the deepest longing and hunger of my heart. Nourish me with the bread of life that I may be truly satisfied in you alone as the giver of life.”

Psalm 78:3-4,23-25,54

3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought.
23 Yet he commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven;
24 and he rained down upon them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance.
54 And he brought them to his holy land, to the mountain which his right hand had won.

“They took offense at Jesus”


Friday (August 3): Scripture:  

54 and coming to his own country he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

Meditation: Are you critical towards others, especially those who are close to you? The most severe critics are often people very familiar to us, a member of our family, a relative, neighbor, student, or worker we rub shoulders with on a regular basis. Jesus faced a severe testing when he returned to his home town, not simply as the carpenter’s son, but now as a rabbi with disciples. It would have been customary for Jesus to go to the synagogue each week during the Sabbath, and when his turn came, to read from the scriptures during the Sabbath service. His hometown folks listened with rapt attention on this occasion because they had heard about the miracles he had performed in other towns. What sign would he do in his hometown? Jesus startled them with a seeming rebuke that no prophet or servant of God can receive honor among his own people. The people of Nazareth took offense at him and refused to listen to what he had to say. They despised his preaching because he was a carpenter from the working class, and a mere layman untrained by religious scholars. They also despised him because of his family background. After all, Joseph was a tradesman as well and Mary had no special social distinctions.

How easily familiarity breeds contempt. Jesus could do no mighty works in his hometown because the people who were familiar with him were closed-minded and despised his claim to speak and act in the name of God. If people come together to hate and refuse to understand others different than themselves, then they will see no other point of view than their own and they will refuse to love and accept others. How do you view those who are familiar to you? With kindness and respect or with a critical and judgmental spirit?

The Lord Jesus offers us freedom from sin, prejudice, contempt, and fear. His love and grace sets us free to love others with the same grace and mercy which he has shown to us. Only Jesus can truly set us free from the worst tyranny possible — slavery to sin and the fear of death. His victory on the cross brings us pardon and healing, and the grace to live holy lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you know the joy and freedom which Christ’s love brings to our hearts?

“Lord Jesus, your love conquers every fear and breaks the power of hatred and prejudice. Flood my heart with your mercy and compassion, that I may treat my neighbor with the same favor and kindness which you have shown to me.”

Psalm 69:4-9, 13

4 More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause;  mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies.  What I did not steal must I now restore?
7 For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face.
8 I have become a stranger to my brethren, an alien to my mother’s sons.
9 For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me.