Scripture: Matthew 13:53-58
Key verse: (57) And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.”
Reflection: This passage made me think of Tupac Shakur’s album and title track, “The Rose that Grew from Concrete.” The song is a poetic representation of the life struggles of Tupac, acknowledging the harsh conditions he (and many other individuals in the black community) was raised in and the miracle that was his escape. Tupac says, “You try and plant something in concrete… If it grows and the rose petals have scratches, you are not gon’ say, ‘Look at all those scratches on the rose that grew from concrete.’ No! You gon’ say, ‘Wow! A rose grew from concrete!?!’” Tupac continues, “Same thing with me… I grew out of all this. Don’t say, ‘He did this.’ Instead say, ‘Wow! He grew out of that? He came out of that?’”
Jesus just finished teaching many through parables, explaining them to his disciples, and asking if they understood all he had taught (13:1-52). Once Jesus finished this teaching episode, he left that place and made his way to his hometown (v.53).
Upon arriving, Jesus began to teach the people in their synagogue, reading from Isaiah and offering an interpretation (as Luke 4:16-21 tells us). The people were astonished at the wise teachings of Jesus, the hometown boy who returned. They heard his teachings, and they saw him. Jesus pointed to himself as the fulfillment of prophesy, but their amazement and astonishment did not equal belief.
First they saw, then they speculated. They replied, “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is his mother not called Mary? We know his whole family, his brothers and sisters. Where did he get all this wisdom and power?” The people couldn’t understand that one of their own would be able to do such miraculous things, to teach with such wisdom, and be the One.
They saw, they speculated, and then they stumbled and suffered. Verse 57 says “they took offense at him.” I see this as an unwillingness to believe that Jesus, a carpenter’s son from their own town, could be the Messiah. It was partly because of this familiarity with Jesus and his commonness that caused them to take offense and stumble, making it difficult for them to believe he was a great teacher, much less the long awaited Messiah. So, in response, Jesus did not bless them with powerful deeds.
Their familiarity should have made them pay even more attention to what Jesus was teaching. They heard, but did not believe. They saw, but they stumbled. Their familiarity should have made them even more thoughtful of his miracles. They knew who Jesus was, but they suffered due to their inability to understand who he has always been.
The townspeople looked at Jesus as a rose that grew from concrete: “Who does he think he is? He was born of us; he grew up here with us. Nobody amounts to anything from here.” Tupac would reply, “You wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would celebrate its tenacity. We would love its will to reach the sun!”
Prayer: The rose that grows from concrete is a blessing from your hands, O Lord. I am a rose, growing from my past mistakes, striving to reach the sun. Grant me the tenacity to grow in the promises your Spirit. Gracious God, help me see myself as the beautiful rose I am, and help me see others as the rose they truly are. I pray this in the name of Jesus, the rose of redemption. Amen.
Author: Ben Brannan
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].