Exposing Unbelief: Matthew 13:53-58
“53) When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. 54)° 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? 55) Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56) And His sisters, are they not all 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 miracles there because of their unbelief.” Matthew‬ ‭13‬:‭53‬-‭58‬
Home sweet home! Well, not always. Jesus now returns to His home town of Nazareth for a brief visit. As was His custom, He went into the synagogue and began to teach. This may have been His home synagogue where He grew up.
Rather than celebrating His home coming, the people took offense at Him. They questioned both His teachings and His miraculous powers. He had grown and stepped into His office of Messiah. They wanted to force Him back into His former role as the carpenter’s son.
The reference to His mother Mary and His step brothers of James, Joseph, Simon and Judas and His sisters is very telling. His step father, Joseph, had kept Mary a virgin until after Jesus was born. (See Matthew 1:24-25) Then they started their own family.
This text in Matthew 13:53-58 is both ignored and scorned by the Catholic Church. They maintain that His mother is still “the blessed Virgin Mary.” But the biblical text says otherwise.
The teaching of His extended family appears throughout the four gospels and the New Testament. Compare these verses with Matthew 12:46-50, John 7:3-10 and Jude 1:1. Church history teaches that the author or the book of James and Jude were indeed half brothers of Jesus who became leaders in the early church.
So why the backlash in Nazareth? It appears that they wanted to force Him back into His previous role as family provider in the absence of His step father Joseph. As the eldest son, the duty fell on Him to support His family until His siblings were raised and then to care for His widowed mother throughout her senior years. He inherited the family business and was expected to run the carpenters shop.
This text hints heavily that the people of Nazareth were pressuring Him to drop His ridiculous itinerant travels and become a responsible elder son. They wanted Him to reopen the carpenters shop and resume His traditional family duty. Their image of Him was “The Carpenters Son” and not “The Lamb of God” or “The Messiah.” They were trying to force Him back into His former life.
Every new Christian faces this same pressure from former friends and family. Initially they reject the change Jesus produces in you. They want you back at the parties and former festivities.
Some pull anchor and give way to this pressure. They “backslide” into their former life. Those who hold fast to their new life “in Christ” often face scorn. Notice verse 57 says, “They took offense at Him.” The pressure is real and it can be overwhelming for some new believers.
How did Jesus respond? He simply noted that “A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, and his own household.” Friends and family are often the most difficult to reach. Be patent with them, but by all means forge ahead in your walk with God.
On an encouraging note, His mother Mary and His brothers all participated in the prayer meeting recorded in Acts 1:14 that ushered in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Jesus won them over! He built bridges and not walls with His family.
But the text in Matthew 13 does not end with His family. Verse 58 says; “He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” There is a mystery in the Gospels and the New Testament that is difficult to grasp. There seems to be a direct connection between miracles and sincere faith or unbelief.
Jesus often made sincere faith the condition of His miraculous works. See Mark 9:20-24. Jesus made it clear that “all things are possible to Him who believes.”
I confess, I am the byproduct of the agnostic Western Church. After nearly fifty years of walking with Jesus, my prayer is often like the father of the helpless son; “I do believe, help my unbelief.” (Vs 24)
Many people ask why we seldom see miracles in the western church today. I am persuaded that we are like the people of Nazareth. We suffer from a condition of unbelief. Western theology as a whole has been watered down with the philosophy of naturalism. We have been taught that “God does not do miracles today”… and we sincerely believe it!
Instead of praying in faith for healing, we pray for God to comfort the afflicted. The western church has far more faith in doctors than in the Great Physician. We pray as a last resort as we plan the funeral for our loved ones.
Honestly, we have a crisis of unbelief when it comes to the power of God. We strongly believe in the existence of God and the power of the gospel to save people, but we are agnostics when it comes to believing that God does miracles today. Verse 53 clearly explains the problem with Western Christianity; “53) And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.”
This is precisely where the Holy Spirit is wrestling in my life in recent years. He is confronting me with my crisis of unbelief when it comes to the power of God in my everyday life. I am starting to confess and repent of my theologically conditioned unbelief. I am asking God for the grace to pray with unwavering faith!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global