Prostituting Jesus

A decent man would never use a woman for satisfaction and never care to know her. The modern-day sex trade is based on the willingness of one person to use another for his or her pleasure but never caring to know that other person. Many people do this with Jesus. They desire the benefits of Christ without knowing Christ.

Last week, we saw that the first-fruit of the kingdom is discipleship. We gather together with Christ’s true church so that we may know Christ more. There are many people who discount the importance of discipleship in Christian community. Yet, they desire to have every work of Christ in salvation, sanctification, and in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Many people are so quick to prostitute Christ, wanting Him to satisfy them without their knowing Him more—sitting at His feet and learning from Him with other disciples (Cf. 11:28-30).

Matthew 13:53-58

When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

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.”

And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

The Nazarene response (v. 53-57)

When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

Jesus finished the kingdom of Heaven parables and traveled to Nazareth in Galilee. The Nazarenes are astonished at Jesus’s teaching and miracles. They know Jesus’s human family. They wonder where Jesus got His knowledge, wisdom, and power.

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.”

Instead of appreciating that one of their own could have such great knowledge, wisdom, and power, the Nazarenes are offended at Jesus. Matthew does not reveal precisely why the Nazarenes are offended at Jesus. They could be jealous of Jesus’s celebrity status. They could have not believed Him to be God because they knew His family. They could simply be offended because Jesus’s teachings are hard. We don’t know why the Nazarenes are offended at Jesus; We simply know that they are. We also know that the Nazarenes don’t disbelieve in Jesus’s wisdom and power. They hear Jesus’s teaching and see His miracles and are astonished by them. 

At their offense, Jesus says, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” To claim that Jesus says this because people knew His background and apply it in such a way that we say people who know our histories and mistakes are less likely to accept us, is to read into the text what isn’t there and apply it wrongly. It’s a fine example of narcigesis (reading ourselves into the text). Jesus’s statement simply means that He is treated better by those outside Nazareth than He is even by the members of His own household. Jesus never sinned. He also always had God’s knowledge because He is God. So, the most common reading of this verse is actually nonsensical. The prophets through the Old Testament were also without this type of honor according to Jesus later in Matthew’s Gospel (23:37). We do see, then, a principle that applies to prophets, those who profess God’s unadulterated word: They often go without honor in their hometowns and families. More important that this realization is the realization that by quoting Jesus’s response, Matthew shows that Jesus receives the same treatment as the Old Testament prophets—who were, themselves, a pictorial prophecy of the Messiah’s coming. Jesus came to His own, the Jews, and His own did not receive Him (John 1:11). Jesus’s reply is a Messianic statement more than anything else. It makes sense for Matthew to include this detail. He is writing to Jews to prove Jesus is the Messiah. The Nazarene rejection is evidence as Matthew presents it here. 

Miracles and unbelief (v. 58)

And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

Notice, Matthew does not claim that Jesus did not do any miracles because the people did not believe He could. In fact, Jesus’s doing miracles did not depend at all upon whether or not people believed He would. Jesus did miracles. The people saw His miracles and were astonished. Yet, they were offended at Jesus and did not honor Him as Messiah. Their unbelief concerns the person and work of Jesus, not the plausibility of miracles. Stephen Furtick was absolutely wrong when he claimed that Jesus could not do miracles because He was trapped in their unbelief. Jesus did do miracles. He chose not to do many.

Why? He did not do many miracles because of their unbelief. What does this mean? They do not believe Jesus is the Messiah. What was the purpose of Jesus’s miracles? Matthew revealed the answer in Chapter 8, verse 17; Jesus did miracles in order to fulfill Old Testament prophecy and prove He was the Messiah. He did miracles. The people did not believe. So, Jesus did not continue doing miracles. He validated His claim and the Nazarenes still did not believe.

Today, God’s work does not depend upon whether or not we believe He can or will. Our belief is not strong enough to move or stop God. God is sovereign, not us. God works, people either recognize His work and believe Him or not. Jesus’s ministry was never about the signs but about the Gospel. The Nazarenes did not believe His Gospel. They did not have ears to hear; It was not given to them to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven (Cf. 13:1-52).

There are some who want all the benefits of Christ without knowing Christ, but sound doctrine (knowing Christ according to His word) precedes God’s benefits. If we don’t believe Jesus is who He says He is, we show that we are not His chosen people—those who have been given ears to hear, the good soil, or the good seed. Christ’s work is effective only for His disciples. What follows from our participation as part Christ’s church in discipleship? As we know Jesus more, we get to witness more of His work. That’s simply a matter of common sense. If we are following Christ, we are watching Him and seeing Him work. If we are not, we cannot watch Him or see His work. We don’t receive the benefits of Christ without His knowing us and us knowing Him. Do we prostitute Christ, or are we married to Him? In a marriage, one is devoted and always knowing his or her spouse more. Our marriages are not built upon our pleasure but our sacrifice because we love our spouses. If we are concerned about what we gain from Christ, the benefits, we have not loved Christ but ourselves. May we learn from Christ as disciples together and believe what He has revealed about Himself.

Questions:

  1. How do people often misapply this passage?
  2. Why is it important that the Nazarenes did not believe in Jesus?
  3. Why was the Nazarenes’ unbelief a factor when Jesus did not do many miracles?
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