When Jesus finished teaching the parables we have in Matthew 13, Matthew tells us that Jesus went to his hometown of Nazareth and taught in the synagogue. However, unlike Jesus' disciples, the people in the synagogue did not welcome Jesus’ teaching. “How could this hometown boy have anything to teach us?” they asked. Because of their lack of faith Jesus could not do many miracles there."Nazareth" by William Holman Hunt
Jesus came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?" And they took offence at him. But Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house." And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.
The people in the synagogue in Nazareth did not respond to Jesus’ teaching as though it was a hidden treasure or a pearl of great price. They didn’t receive it with joy; they did not give everything they had to be part of Jesus’ kingdom movement. As a result, they lost out. Jesus did not do many miracles there.
The people in the synagogue appeared to be part of the kingdom; they were caught in the net after all; they were faithful attendees, listening to the word of God every Sabbath. But I think Jesus’ parables would suggest that is not enough. There are many people now, many faithful church attendees who would seem to be part of Jesus’ kingdom, but in the end it may be revealed that they have not responded to Jesus’ message with joy; they have not given all they have to possess the kingdom of heaven.
Many people say they wish they could go back and live in the time of Jesus. If they could just have met him personally (they think) then they would believe. But the people of Nazareth, those with the greatest access to Jesus, they did not believe.
Can you imagine being there in the synagogue in Nazareth and missing it—missing the joy of discovering who Jesus really was?
At this pivotal point in his Gospel Matthew is once again asking us: what is our response to Jesus? And Matthew seems to be suggesting that our eternal destiny depends upon that response.
The really good news is that the kingdom of heaven isn’t just something to be sought after. Rather, the King of heaven has sought and found us. It is interesting to me that in Jesus’ second parable he compares the kingdom of heaven to a merchant, not to the pearl of great price itself. God, in Christ, is like the merchant; he has gone on an all-out search for the best pearl in the world. And having found that pearl of great price in us, he has given all to buy it; he has given his own life.
As C. S. Lewis once wrote in his book, Miracles,
In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, if embryologists are right, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature he has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders. Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour too.”I believe that we are the pearl of great price Jesus came to recover. How can we not respond with joy to such a Savior and give all that we have in response to such a love?
Skye Jethani tells the following story,
My daughter, Zoe, is two-and-a-half and loves to play hide-and-seek. Sometimes she hides, but usually the game involves hiding my cell phone. Unfortunately she doesn't yet understand the object of the game. She makes me close my eyes—that much she gets. But it's downhill from there. First of all, she always hides my phone in the same place: on the stairs, in plain sight. No matter how many times we play, she always puts my phone on the stairs. When I open my eyes, I know my phone is on the stairs, but I'll pretend like I don't see it. I'll look on the sofa, or under the table. It's my way of trying to teach her what the point of the game really is. What I've ended up teaching Zoe is that her father is a complete idiot, because the moment I look somewhere else for the phone she says, "No, Daddy. The phone isn't there. It's on the stairs, silly goose." And then she rolls her big brown eyes at me. There's nothing like having your intelligence insulted by a two-year-old.
I've been trying to show Zoe that the fun of hide-and-seek is the seeking. But for Zoe, no matter what I try, the fun part is always the finding.
God wants us to seek him. But, like Zoe, he understands that the real joy is not in seeking, but in finding. He wants to be found. He has not intended the Christian life to be an impossible hunt for an elusive God that requires enormous faith. Quite the contrary. The Christian life is a simple walk to a welcoming God that requires only child-like faith....
This is the image Jesus presents to us of our heavenly father's love. It is the image of a God who wants to be found, the God James says will draw near to us if we draw near to him. He is the God who stands at the door and knocks, and is prepared to come in and eat with anyone who opens the door. We are called to seek the God who wants to be found. This should be our goal . . . to intentionally seek the God who is passionately seeking us.