Mundane Suffering

A prophet is not without dishonor except in his own hometown.

editingIf I ever get put in charge of making editorial changes in the bible, you can bet that the first story that would hit the cutting room floor is the story of Jesus’ rejection in his hometown. The story is a serious downer. And honestly, I’ve been wrestling for the past week or so trying to figure out why it is there in the first place.

Picture yourself in Matthew’s shoes. It is your job to relate the story about God becoming man, dwelling amongst his people, teaching them like Moses did, and being rejected in Jerusalem, one more in line with a long line of prophets whose message went unheeded. Now ask yourself this question: with all that drama, do you include a footnote about how nobody took him seriously in his hometown?

Seriously, who among us do not know what it is like to be disregarded in his own hometown? It’s a common human conundrum that even Bon Jovi has touched upon. Who says you can’t go home! Well, apparently everybody but Bon Jovi himself. They love that guy in Jersey apparently! {SIDENOTE: They also apparently love him in Tokyo because he’s playing there December 4!} But for the rest of us, we know what it feels like to go home and have nobody take you seriously.

In a roundabout way, Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth reminds me of a conversation I had with a professor in college. At the time, I was really in to the theme of suffering and my eyes had recently been opened to by organization called Voice of the Martyrs, which is dedicated to publicizing the violence being done to Christians all over the world. So when our professor asked the class what were examples of suffering we’d seen, my mind immediately went to the myriad of beaten and battered men and women all over the globe. I had to speak up for them, mainly because I had a big mouth, so I said:

“I have heard people claim that their jobs cause them suffering, but that’s not real suffering. Real suffering is having your life at stake because of your gospel witness.”

I can still see the look of compassion on my professor’s face. He was around 60 and he’d been around the proverbial block a few times. He knew that I would have to learn this lesson through my own experience, and damned if I haven’t learned those lessons through the years. Only somebody who hasn’t lived can deny that there is suffering in varying degrees throughout all of life.

Getting back to Jesus, maybe Matthew’s footnote about rejection makes a bit more sense than it did at first. Sure the cross was coming. Even his most adamant believers would turn their backs on him. His closest friends would sell him out. His people would murder him after a sham of a trial. His Father would turn his face away from him. More dramatic pain awaited Jesus. More intense suffering was around the corner.

But all the same, Matthew felt it was important enough to mention that he was rejected in his own hometown. That had to hurt. And in giving voice to Jesus’ mundane suffering, maybe Matthew is giving us space to name our own.

So its a lucky thing that nobody has asked me to make biblical edits. I would have missed out on the solidarity that God offers in every part of life, whether my suffering seems light and incidental or seems heavy and immovable.

There are no truly insignificant moments in our lives.
What parts of your own story are you hesitant in giving voice to?

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