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Familiarity and Contempt

Are we in danger of treating Jesus with Familiarity and Contempt?  Now for most of us I'm not talking about an overt or strident contempt or a healthy familiarity.  Rather I am pointing to a potential danger that those who grew up around Jesus were susceptible to.

When Jesus launched his public ministry in Nazareth, his home town, as recorded in Luke 4 these are seen.  He speaks from the scroll and says 'today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing'.  Then it records that all spoke well of him because of his gracious words but asked 'Isn't this Joseph's son' (Luke 4:22).  Jesus was familiar to them, but it was the sort of familiarity where they thought they knew what he was about.  When Jesus went on to say he wouldn't do the same signs in Nazareth as Capernaum and that a prophet isn't accepted in his hometown this surface familiarity exploded into furious contempt and they tried to throw Jesus over a cliff.

Similarly in Mark 6:1-6 they were amazed at Jesus, but his wisdom and words didn't fit with what they thought they knew about him (familiarity) and they 'took offense at him' (contempt).  The result was that Jesus could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands and heal a few sick people.  Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.

Our culture here in Australia is one that has some familiarity with Jesus - even the non religious are exposed to some things about Him at Christmas and Easter.  While there may be some understanding I would suggest that it many ways it is misunderstanding.  It is the sort of familiarity that can lead to contempt.  Our culture is certainly full of contempt for Jesus - witness the way His name is used as a swear word.  I wonder if these are some reasons why we don't see as much of the miraculous as Christians in other parts of the world?

But do I as a Christian, particularly when I come to read the gospels come with a familiarity that can blind me to what Jesus is saying.  Do I have a picture in my mind of what Jesus is about that I unconsciously use to filter out all the things he said and did that might not fit into that picture?  The challenge for me is to prayerfully let the gospels surprise and challenge me.  And then when I am challenged or surprised not to gloss over it with a contempt that masks any discomfort or discounts the challenge.

When was the last time that you were surprised and challenged by Jesus?

David Wanstall, 04/03/2009