53. And it happened, when Jesus had concluded these discourses, that he departed thence.54. And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were amazed, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom and these miracles? 55. Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brothers James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? 56. And his sisters, do not they all live amongst us? Whence then hath this man all these things? 57. And they were offended at him. But Jesus said to them, A prophet is not destitute of honor, except in his own country and in his own house.58. And he did not perform many miracles there on account of their unbelief.
1. And he departed thence, and came into his own country, and his disciples followed him.2. And when it was Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many hearing were amazed, saying, Whence hath this man these things? And what is the wisdom that hath been given to him, so that such miracles are done by his hands? 3. Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Are not his sisters also here with us? And they were offended at him.4. And Jesus said to them, A prophet is not devoid of honor, except in his own country, and among his relatives, and in his own family.5. And he could not perform any miracle there, except that he cured a few sick persons by laying his hands on them.6. And he wondered at their unbelief, and walked about through the surrounding villages teaching.
Matthew 13:53. When Jesus had concluded. Matthew does not mean, that immediately after delivering these discourses, he came into his own country; for it is evident from Mark, that some interval of time elapsed. But the meaning is, that after having taught for some time in Judea, he returned again to the Galileans, but did not receive from them kind treatment. A narrative which Luke gives (4:22) is nearly similar, but is not the same. Nor ought we to wonder that Christ's countrymen, when they perceived that his family was mean and despised, and that he had been poorly educated, were at first so much offended as to murmur at his doctrine, and afterwards persevered in the same malice to such an extent, that they did not cease to slander him, when he chose to discharge the office of a prophet amongst them. This second rejection of Christ shows that the space of time which had intervened had not effected a reformation on the inhabitants of Nazareth, but that the same contempt was constantly thrown as an obstacle in the way, to prevent them from hearing Christ.
54. So that they were amazed. They are struck with amazement at the novelty of the occurrence, that Christ, who had not learned letters, but had been employed from youth to manhood in a mechanical occupation, is so eminent a teacher, and is filled with divine wisdom. In this miracle they ought to have perceived the hand of God; but their ingratitude made them cover themselves with darkness. They are compelled to admire him, whether they will or not; and yet they treat him with contempt. And what is this but to reject a prophet whom God has taught, because he has not been educated by men? They cut their throat by means of their own acknowledgment, when they render so honorable a testimony to the doctrine of Christ, which after all has no influence on them, because it does not take its origin, in the usual way, from the earth. Why do they not rather lift their eyes to heaven, and learn that what exceeds human reason must have come from God?
Besides, the miracles, which were added to the doctrine, ought to have affected them the more powerfully, or at least to have aroused them from their excessive carelessness and stupidity to glorify God; for certainly, when God adopts unwonted methods of procedure, so much the more clearly does he display the power of his hand. And yet this was the very reason why the inhabitants of Nazareth maliciously drew a veil over their eyes. We see, then, that it is not mere ignorance that hinders men, but that, of their own accord, they search after grounds of offense, to prevent them from following the path to which God invites. We ought rather to argue in the opposite way, that, when human means fail, the power of God is clearly revealed to us, and ought to receive undivided praise.
55. Is not this the carpenter's son? It was, we are aware, by the wonderful purpose of God, that Christ remained in private life till he was thirty years of age. Most improperly and unjustly, therefore, were the inhabitants of Nazareth offended on this account; for they ought rather to have received him with reverence, as one who had suddenly come down from heaven. They see God working in Christ, and intentionally turn away their eyes from this sight, to behold Joseph, and Mary, and all his relatives; thus interposing a veil to shut out the clearest light. The word brothers, we have formerly mentioned, is employed, agreeably to the Hebrew idiom, to denote any relatives whatever; and, accordingly, Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ's brothers are sometimes mentioned.
57. A prophet is not devoid of honor. I have explained this statement at considerable length, where it occurs in the Gospel of John, (4:44.) It may, no doubt, be a general proverb, that those who are distinguished by eminent gifts are nowhere held in less estimation than in their own country; and this manifests the ingratitude of men, who, in proportion to the greater familiarity with which God exhibits himself to them, are the more bold to reject him in the influences of his Spirit. I readily agree, however, with Chrysostom, who thinks that this proverb was applied in a peculiar manner to the Jews. But what was usually spoken against the whole nation, Christ now asserts with special reference to his Galilean countrymen; for nowhere did he receive less honor than on his native soil. There were good grounds for the charge which he brings against them, that, instead of being the first to accept the grace offered to them, as they ought to have been, they drive him to a distance from them; for it is truly extraordinary that a prophet of God, whom others warmly receive as a newly-arrived stranger, should be despised in the place where he was born.
58. And he did not perform many miracles in that place. Mark states it more emphatically, that he could not perform any miracle. But they are perfectly agreed as to the substance of what is said, that it was the impiety of Christ's countrymen that closed the door against the performance of a greater number of miracles among them. He had already given them some taste of his power; but they willingly stupify themselves, so as to have no relish for it. Accordingly, Augustine justly compares faith to the open mouth of a vessel, while he speaks of faith as resembling a stopper, by which the vessel is closed, so as not to receive the liquor which God pours into it. And undoubtedly this is the case; for when the Lord perceives that his power is not accepted by us, he at length withdraws it; and yet we complain that we are deprived of his aid, which our unbelief rejects and drives far from us.
When Mark declares that Christ could not perform any miracles, he represents the aggravated guilt of those by whom his goodness was prevented; for certainly unbelievers, as far as lies in their power, bind up the hands of God by their obstinacy; not that God is overcome, as if he were an inferior, but because they do not permit him to display his power. We must observe, however, what Mark adds, that some sick people, notwithstanding, were cured; for hence we infer, that the goodness of Christ strove with their malice, and triumphed over every obstacle. We have experience of the same thing daily with respect to God; for, though he justly and reluctantly restrains his power, because the entrance to us is shut against him, yet we see that he opens up a path for himself where none exists, and ceases not to bestow favors upon us. What an amazing contest, that while we are endeavoring by every possible method to hinder the grace of God from coming to us, it rises victorious, and displays its efficacy in spite of all our exertions!