THE NAZARETH SYNDROME
Read Mark 6:1-7
Jesus and His disciples were back after a series of successful experiences—from the disciples’ viewpoint, as Jesus didn’t believe such things the way our words describe them.
The reading of the context in Mark—even with the order of events in Matthew and Luke being different—reveals us a grand soundtrack playing as a background for the action. A symphony could have been heard in each of those peak moments.
Behind them was a trail of facts of God’s Grace like wonderful Parables, the Galilean Sea calmed down as a humble servant, the Gergesene man as free as freedom can be, the synagogue ruler surrendered before the need and the certainty that God was in Jesus, an awfully hurting woman healed of her incurable blood flow that eventually became the most famous menstruation in history, and the daughter of Jairus—the synagogue ruler—resurrected from her deadly sleep.
Such a series of events could have driven anyone mad with any “success syndrome”. In that case it could have been called “the Nazareth Syndrome”.
Then the Gospel says that Jesus went to Nazareth with His disciples and a large crowd. It seems that Jesus, right after being the subject of all positive perceptions, now purposely exposes Himself, in the sight of the disciples, as little more than a thirty-year-old young adult back to the village where He was born.e HHHmmvbwor vV
He speaks at the synagogue and His Word “astonishes” them. However, it astonishes to the same extent it “offends” them. “No good thing can come out of Nazareth!”, said the Nazarenes, not judging Jesus, but themselves.
Actually they didn’t speak it out, but their questions and attitudes expressed exactly that.
“From where does this man have all these things? How does this man know letters, not being taught? How does he have this wisdom? Wasn’t he born here? Don’t his parents live among us? Isn’t he the carpenter’s son?”
In fact, they’re wondering, “How come he has what we don’t, he knows what we don’t, and he is more wonderful than anyone else?”
So, unable to admit the free manifestation of God’s Grace, they end up excluding themselves from it through an inverse logic: “If what he has comes from God, then why doesn’t anybody else here show the same grace?”
If we don’t look at God’s Grace with an eye of Grace, it will astonish and fascinate us as well as it will offend us.
Perceiving God’s Grace without seeing it through Grace’s own eyes brings about envy!
Ironically, Jesus was coming from one pole: The woman with the chronic menstruation just wanted to touch the hem of His garment because she knew God has no back. She was healed and was rid of her illness.
In Nazareth, however, it’s the opposite pole: There was a crust over them.
Nowadays the excess of perception of Jesus’ divinity blots out our understanding of His humanity. In those days it was the opposite: The excess of humanity and historicity of Jesus gave them a pretext to blind their hearts to the presence of the Divine One.
Any of the poles corrupt the perception of who Jesus is. In Nazareth, He was a man only. Among us, He is God only. He, however, repeatedly calls Himself the Son of Man.
If Jesus isn’t perceived in the balance of His symbiotic natures, there’ll always be a distortion in the understanding of who He is and in the way we live in relation to Him and our neighbor.
In this way Jesus gives His disciples the chance to get real and come down to earth, where familiarity always tries to relativize the Word that comes as revelation from the Man’s mouth of which many know the smile and even the beard hairs.
“A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country and in his own house...”
Unlike what had happened before—when people approached Him from behind knowing that they would be face to face with His Grace—, in Nazareth even Jesus’ decision to heal was limited to a few, and it only happened because He laid His hands on them.
What a difference! It’s much easier for God to operate anywhere else than through us in our own homes.
The tragic thing about the Nazareth Syndrome is that it reduces God to the size of our projection of Him. He will still be God over our sickness, but we won’t receive His healing—after all, our hearts are so closed up by prejudice that miracles won’t happen even if He lays his hands!
The point is:
From a psychological-historical point of view, where does generally faith life begin and where does it end?
Does it begin in Nazareth and end in Capernaum?
Or does it begin in Capernaum and end in Nazareth?
In Capernaum, the woman with the blood flow who was healed is representative of the spiritual feeling of those reached out by the Word, who have no questions beyond their deepest need. They are saved, healed, and go in peace.
On the other hand, the people of Nazareth are representative of our cynical spiritual maturity, full of arguments, diplomas, well-grounded opinions, doctrines, and possessed by such a familiarity with Jesus that the miracle is thwarted.
“And He marveled because of their unbelief...”
In Capernaum, Jesus marveled—in a positive way—at the Roman centurion’s faith. To the same extent, He marveled—in a negative way—at His fellow citizens of Nazareth.
Where do you think Jesus has been finding faith on the Earth?
At a bar on the corner, the readiness for a faith like that of the woman with the blood flow is found much more often than in our “Nazareths”.
Today it’s scary that we find Nazareth settled down as a spiritual state among the “learned and mature in faith”. And it’s even more shocking that we find that state set in as an attitude among theologians, pastors and seminary students.
Can there be any good thing come out of Nazareth?
I mean, if we let it!
From the original “A SÍNDROME DE NAZARÉ”
Translated by F. R. Castelo Branco :: July 2007
Scripture citations (whether or not in quotes) are taken from the MKJV