DAILY DEVOTIONAL – April 20, 2021
“The Cross or the Crab?”
Prayer: Jesus, as You have taught us in Your Scriptures, it is in You that we “live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) Lord, in Your mercy, help us not to seek life from anyone or anyone else, but wholly trust in Your resurrection that alone brings the approval of God upon us. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 13:53-58
53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown 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 these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
Devotional – “The Cross or the Crab?”
Just over a year ago, Jesus left His hometown of Nazareth and began His ministry. It didn’t take long for Jesus to gain a significant following. Jesus taught with words and with an authority that was felt in the soul. His ability to outwit and outsmart the most renowned religious leaders who opposed Him caused His fame to spread rapidly. Add on top of this the multitudes of sick and lame people He continued to heal, the demons He cast out, and even raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead, by the time Jesus made His trip back to Nazareth in our text for today, you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the region of Galilee that didn’t know who Jesus was.
So you would think that when Jesus decided to come back to His hometown, that His friends and family and neighbors would have been overjoyed at His arrival. But as we read, Jesus was not received well at all. When they heard Jesus teaching powerfully in his own hometown synagogue (a church He no doubt attended all the time growing up), the response of those who knew Him best as a young boy was to take offense at him.
Luke tells us even more disturbing details in his Gospel. Luke tells us (4:28-30) that, “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.”
What caused these neighbors, friends, and even family of Jesus to become so crazed that they wanted to kill him?
As the saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Many of these people watched Jesus grow up as a boy, and there were no doubt people there who probably helped Mary and Joseph take care of Jesus. Now He was presuming to not only teach them, but also be their Lord and Savior. They wouldn’t have it. After all, Jesus was a carpenter! Back in those days, carpenters did work with wood and other materials to build things, but more specifically in those times a carpenter was a man who worked generally with His hands; a general craftsman and kind of like a “Jack of all trades.”
To cut right to the heart of the matter, Jesus received no honor in His hometown because for His friends and family and neighbors to honor Him would be a blow to their ego. He was just a regular guy at best to them, if not less than that by way of His occupation. What did it say about them that this common seemingly insignificant boy Jesus was now a Rabbi who taught the Rabbis and fulfilled God’s Prophecy and performed miracles and had His own following?!
Whenever we search for our significance by looking for praises from other sinful people, or by putting any value in the virtues of a wicked world, or when we estimate our own self-esteem and self-worth by what we accomplish in comparison to the person next to us, the result is always disappointment and death. I think if we are honest, we have all at one time or another been guilty of treating others poorly for the sake of saving face or winning over someone else, whether that be in our workplace, social circles, or in the church.
This account of Jesus’ rejection in His hometown reminds me of something fascinating I once learned about crabs. Any experienced crab fisherman knows and will tell you that there is no need to put a lid on their crab buckets out of fear that they might escape. Here is why: if one crab tries to climb out, the others will instinctively pull it back down. The crab mentality says “if I can’t have it, neither can you.” Crabby people seek to pull other people down in an effort to lift themselves up. The people of Nazareth were crabby people. Whether it be because of jealousy alone, or because Jesus’ teachings and His holiness made them self-conscious and more aware of their own failure and lack of faith in God, they were blinded by the truth and led into sin by their own pride, jealousy, and insistence that anyone of us other than Jesus, the perfect Son of God Himself, could ever somehow claw our way into heaven on the backs of others.
Jesus came home not to wow and amaze friends and family and neighbors as if He needed their approval. He came wanting to continue His miraculous ministry of grace, healing, and salvation, and reveal to them the Truth of who He was. What the Nazarenes should have seen, what Jesus wanted them to see was the incredible glory of God. The incredible love and mercy of God who has come to earth not as some upper class and esteemed member of society, but as a common man, a working man – an average, everyday person like you and me.
Friends, it’s too easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others and thinking that our worth is found in how we measure up to everyone else. It’s far too easy in our sinful nature to view someone else’s success as somehow threatening our own worth or value. We have no worth or value except that which God gives us, and the incredible Good News of the Gospel is that God has credited any and all who believe in Jesus with Jesus’ worth, with Jesus’ work, and with Jesus’ life and resurrection from the dead. In the eyes of God there is no common man. Each and every one of us regardless of our station in life stand shoulder to shoulder in our sinfulness and need for forgiveness, and it is only by grace of God through faith in Jesus’ worth and righteousness, that we have the hope of all falling on our knees together before the throne of our Risen King Jesus for all eternity.
To live in worship of earthly accomplishments and to live lusting for the praises of others rather than living a life praising Jesus Christ alone for His greatness, is to live enslaving ourselves to the very disappointment and death of sin that Jesus died and rose again to free us from. Know this for certain my friends: the only opinion, the only smile, and the only approval you need to live in joy and freedom regardless of what you can or cannot do, regardless of what you have or have not done, comes from God alone when we put all of our hope and faith and trust in the worth and glory of Christ Jesus our Lord. Only by finding our eternal life and worth in Him do we have the hope of hearing from our Lord, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” – Matthew 25:23
Thanks for joining me for another daily devotion in the Word of our Lord, and remember, that God has forgiven yesterday, is with you today, and has already taken care of tomorrow. Amen.