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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
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St Paul's, Efford
Tony's Reflection 55
Have you ever heard of Framlingham? You probably need Google Maps before you can even tell me where it is.
Framlingham is in East Suffolk. A pretty little place, but not one that would stand out among the dozens of similarly idyllic little Home Counties market towns, apart from one thing. To be more accurate, one person…
International superstar singer, Ed Sheeran has lived there ever since 1995. The local charity shop has a life-size cutout of him and sells Ed Sheeran memorabilia. You could pick up a well-worn grey jumper of his, with a stain on the front for a mere snip at £90. There is an Ed Sheeran museum featuring his first Lego set and some of his school reports. Framlingham is justifiably proud of its most famous young son.
Nazareth was an even smaller “nowhere place” tucked away in the hills of Galilee. It was tiny, covering barely 0.1 square mile. About 500 people lived there in Jesus’ day. Everyone knew everyone else.
Jesus wasn’t as “big” as Ed Sheeran, but he had still created quite a stir. He was a celebrity, mobbed by crowds wherever he went. No one from Nazareth had ever been famous. What would Jesus’ hometown make of him, when he came back? Did they hang out the flags?
Mark tells us exactly what happened when Jesus came home (
We’ll use an imaginary character who was there and saw the events relayed by Mark. Meet Ben. He had grown up in Nazareth at the same time as Jesus. He’ll tell us the story in his own words…
“Nothing ever happens here in Nazareth. Dotty old Rachel down the road lost her goat last month and that was the most excitement we’d had in years. Until last week that is. That was when Jesus the carpenter came back to town.
"We’d all heard the rumours about him. He’d been creating quite a stir, upsetting all those stuck up religious types. They say down in Capernaum he’s supposed to have brought a little girl back from the dead. Well, if he can do that, you can count me in. This whole place is pretty dead and we could do with some of that “bringing back to life” around here.
"I’ve heard he’s speaking at the synagogue down the road. I think I’ll go and check him out for myself.”
Ben made his way to the synagogue that Saturday. Him and the rest of the town. The synagogue had never been so packed. By the time Ben arrived, it was standing room only.
“It was crowded out. I had to stand right at the back. I could only just see him in between the people in front of me. There was no problem hearing him, though. When he spoke, you could hear a pin drop. We were hanging on every word.
"He wasn’t like the normal speakers we get there, laying down the law about religion and quoting the hotshot rabbis from Jerusalem. When he spoke, it was like he knew God personally, like God was his dad. It was as if God spoke to him and he was passing on what he heard directly to us. I was totally taken in …
"Then he started telling us how God was so powerful, even death was nothing to him. Being dead was just like being asleep. People started nodding and whispering to each other. I could hear them mentioning that name “Jairus”. That was the guy whose daughter Jesus brought back to life, wasn’t it? He really had brought that little girl back again. I couldn’t believe my ears.
"Then I got back into the real world. I looked at Jesus and the memories came flooding back. I used to play with his little brother James. Jesus was normally around, too. But I couldn’t remember anything particular about him. That was it, though. He was just so… ordinary.
"Then there was his mum. My Dad always said she was no good. There was something not quite right between her and her husband, that Joseph the carpenter from down the street. People said she’d had an affair, got pregnant. That was where Jesus came from. No smoke without a fire, I say… and now he’s come here, like the great I am, giving us a lecture about God? He didn’t have any airs and graces like that when we were just kids.
"I wasn’t the only one. I could hear plenty of others muttering much the same…
"If he was such a big shot and his God was so wonderful, why doesn’t he go visit old Miriam around the corner and bring her son back from the dead, too?
"Jesus picked up what we were saying. Said something about prophets being heroes everywhere but at home and “if only we would believe in him …”. You’d think it was our fault that he wasn’t going down the road to old Miriam and her son. That was when I realised enough was enough… I just walked out.”
Mark tells us that back in Nazareth people started off amazed at the way Jesus spoke and the miracles he had done, but astonishment quickly turned to offence at his ordinariness. That solidified into unbelief and Jesus could do next to nothing in their midst.
Mark has just shown us a string of amazing miracles. The storm calmed. The demoniac healed. A little girl raised. A hopeless sick woman cured.
The Jesus juggernaut had huge momentum. What could stop it? Lack of faith. People who focus on the ordinary about Jesus and fail to see who he really is.
Nowadays, Jesus usually comes to us in the disguise of the ordinary. We hear a message about Jesus from a preacher. He’s just an ordinary man. We read the Bible and think perhaps God is speaking to us. But is he really? It’s just an ordinary book. We turn to pray. We are just ordinary people. If there is a God, would he ever listen to us?
Will we let the ordinariness of the Christian faith stop us seeing who Jesus really is?