You Can’t Go Home

Do you remember this Bon Jovi song?

Who says you can’t go home?
There’s only one place they call me one of their own
Just a hometown boy born a rolling stone
Who says you can’t go home?
Who says you can’t go back?
I been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There’s only one place left I wanna go
Who says you can’t go home?
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright

I don’t know that I agree with Jon. I think there comes a point when “home” doesn’t feel like home anymore. I moved to Columbia, TN, in 1998, when I was entering 5th grade. I went away to college at Harding University in 2007. It was my home for about 9 years. It hasn’t been my home for just as long now.
It’s weird going “home.” My parents still live there. A lot of my classmates are still there. My best friends from high school are still around there. But it’s not home.
I’ve always been able to relate to the story of Jesus in Mark 6:1-6 when he goes back to Nazareth, his hometown.

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus grew up in a small working-class town. He was the son of lower-middle-class, blue collar parents. He was trained as a carpenter / construction worker. He was the older brother to all these other siblings. This is how he was known by those people back home.

I can imagine that a lot of them still remember the scandal surrounding his conception and birth. These people back home remember seeing him grow up and learn the family trade. This was a time when there wasn’t a lot of “upward mobility” or changing occupations. You did what your father/family did. But at some point Jesus left home. He left his family, his business, and his town behind. I don’t know how long he was gone, where he went, or what he did. I wish we knew, but we aren’t told. But when Jesus came back to Nazareth, everything was different – and nothing had changed.

Most young adults experience this same feeling. You go off to college, meet new people and have new experiences. You begin to see the world in a whole new way and realize that it’s a LOT bigger than you ever could have imagined from your small town bubble. You’ve grown and changed, but the people back home haven’t.

You can still drive all the backroads without thinking about it. You still have all the memories and all the feels. But it’s not home anymore. Maybe you come home and want to hang out with all of your old friends and share your college experiences with them. They sound interested at first but then move on to the same old gossip about people you don’t really know anymore.

Notice again how the people of Nazareth reacted to Jesus. They started out amazed and impressed. But that soon evolved into belittling and patronizing. Isn’t this just the carpenter? Just Mary’s son? Just the brother of James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? Where did he learn all these things? Who does he think he is?

They still see him as he was in the past. Hometowns can be that way – always looking to the past and hardly ever looking toward the future, focusing on how things were, not on how things are or could be. To them, Jesus is still just a carpenter and the illegitimate child of a scandalous relationship.

But Jesus doesn’t get sucked into that sort of thinking. He refers to himself as a prophet. And Jesus realizes a great truth – prophets tend to be least effective among their own families and towns.

Because the people of Nazareth didn’t believe in him or take him seriously, Jesus couldn’t do the same type of miracles as he had been doing elsewhere in the region. Some of the teens in our Wednesday night class made a great point – maybe faith is not the product of miracles, but miracles are the product of faith. We often think that if we could just see a miracle for ourselves, then we would believe in God. But that’s not the way it works. Some people even saw the miracles and still didn’t believe. Faith is not the result of seeing miracles. Witnessing miracles is a result of faith in Christ. Not that you’re guaranteed to see miraculous healings at the hospital if you simply believe hard enough, but rather you begin to see the everyday miracles of life and love and beauty. You will begin to realize that every healing is miraculous, every person is a walking miracle of existence.

I think this story of Jesus’ hometown tells me something about spreading the gospel. I believe it’s important to begin with your friends and family, your neighbors and your hometown. But I also believe it’s really difficult to be a minister (evangelist, prophet, pastor, etc.) among your hometown crowd. Jesus and his disciples are constantly on the move. Very rarely will the gospel call you back to your comfort zone. The man with the legion of demons in Mark 5 is the only person I can think of who was tasked with taking the gospel message back to his friends and family. Everyone else is told to go – go out into the world, go outside your comfort zone, leave the nest, venture out into the unknown. Where your family is, there is your home. And we’ve got family all across the globe.

Follow God’s call wherever he takes you.

Holy Land Saga pt. 1

Day 1: Sun 11/16/08

Caesarea Maritime:

The first stop on our journey through the Holy Land was Caesarea Maritime, the famous port city established by King Herod the Great, as well as the location of Paul’s trial before being sent to Rome (Acts 25).

We learned a lot about Herod the Great. As far as his kingship goes, he was a very successful leader. He remodeled the Temple, he built great palaces and fortresses (e.g. Massada), and he also constructed the first and largest man-made port in ancient Rome in the city of Caesarea. Politically, he had a very successful run. Morally, however, he was a vicious man. After marrying his wife and bearing two sons with her, he decided that anyone in the bloodline of the previous royal family had to die because they were seen as threats to his throne. Thus, he had his wife and sons murdered. When Caesar Augustus heard this news, he is recorded as saying, “It is better to be one of Herod’s pigs than one of his sons.”

This is the same king, as you might recall, that had all the baby boys in the Bethlehem region killed when he heard that the new “King” of Israel had been born. He was both paranoid and power-hungry…not a good combination.

We also learned that he may have had leprosy (a conclusion reached based on the number of bathhouses in the areas he lived) and possibly even some sort of elephantitis (speculation drawn from the asymmetrical shape of his thrones).

Caesarea is a beautiful city located directly on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, it was the largest coastal city in the Roman Empire. There are still remains of a Roman hippodrome, a good size theater, Herod’s palace, a Byzantium church, and a mosque, just to name a few of the highlights.

We were able to stand in the place where Paul gave his defense in front of Governor Felix and Herod Agrippa, after which he made use of his Roman citizenship and appealed his case to Caesar in Rome. He didn’t have to do this. In fact, Governor Felix would have set him free. But by appealing to Caesar, Paul got a free trip to Rome, by way of shipwreck in Malta, and was able to plant seeds of the gospel in the very heart of the largest empire the world has ever known.


By the time we actually got to Nazareth, it was already dark, and we were very pressed for time. But we did have a chance to walk quickly through the Church of Annunciation, at least one of them. The Greek Orthodox have one and the Catholics have another in a different location. I believe the one through which we walked belonged to the Greek Orthodox. It is a massive, beautiful structure built on top of the ruins of the supposed home of Mary where the angel Gabriel announced to her that she would conceive and give birth to the Messiah.

We didn’t get a chance to see many of the ruins of the ancient town, but from what our guide told us, there isn’t a whole lot to see anyway. The main remnants of the town consist of cisterns, wells, and storage rooms dug into the ground and into caves. Archaeologists suspect that there would have been no more than about 800 citizens of Nazareth in Jesus’ day – talk about a town where everyone knows everyone. This is the town where Jesus lived, played, worked, and built his first relationships. It’s no surprise that when he came back after the start of his ministry that his own people had a hard time accepting what he had to say. He was nothing special, at least in their minds. He was the son of a carpenter and a woman who, to the best of their knowledge, had an affair before she was officially married. His family wouldn’t have been the most well-respected, and he was the laughingstock of the community when he came back and tried to preach to them.

One thing I find amazing, though, is the fact that Jesus is from the lineage of King David. When Philip asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he was unaware that the seed of King David had come from the small town in the middle of no where.

It’s not that Nazareth was a “bad” town, it just wasn’t strategically located, to say the least. There is no major trade route around, there is no great source of water nearby, and virtually none of the surrounding land is good, fertile soil for growing food. It couldn’t have supported a large population, and the only reason it has grown so much in recent years is due to the Christian influence in the city.

It was a great experience to be able to worship at the Church of Christ in Nazareth. The minister, Maurice, opened the building for us, prepared the Lord’s supper, gave a fifteen minute talk, and even had a Q&A session at the end. It was incredible to hear his testimony. When he converted from the Greek Orthodox Church, his entire family turned their backs on him. He lost his job, he was out on the streets, and the church took him in. He has a great passion for the scriptures, for God, and for Christ. It is his goal to reach out to his neighbors in the community, even in the face of persecution from many of the Muslims in Nazareth. (FYI: Nazareth has the largest Arab/Muslim population in the entire state of Israel)

As my friend, Jon, pointed out in his thoughts before the Lord’s Supper, it was incredible to be gathered in the very place where God became flesh and blood, and it is the very flesh and blood of which we partake that gives us spiritual life. Amazing.