It seems to us very strange and sad that the King was rejected by the citizens of his own kingdom. But so it was. Among the enemies of our Lord there was not one who had ever been in jail. On the contrary, those who were the most bitter against him were generally thought to be uncommonly good people. Twice every week they fasted. Out of every hundred dollars which they earned, they gave ten to the church. Some of them were ministers; some—as we would say—were wardens and vestrymen. They were all church-members. It is true that our Lord said that they were hypocrites; which means that they were not so good as they seemed to be, and that their religion was in their lips rather than in their hearts. But even their badness was the badness of good people.
One reason why they hated our Lord was that they were very formal and precise persons, while he was always perfectly natural, direct, and simple. Many of the things which he said and did shocked them greatly. For example, the name by which they thought of God was Jehovah, but they felt that that name was so sacred that they ought never to speak it nor write it. On the other hand, our Lord, who was in God and God in him, and to whom praying was as natural as breathing, spoke of God as one whom he knew very well, calling him Father, even using the name Abba by which the little Hebrew boys and girls addressed their fathers. So they said that our Lord was a blasphemer: that is, one who speaks disrespectfully of God.
Another reason why they hated our Lord was that he paid so little attention to some of their customs. They had a great many ways of doing things, which to us seem strange and even foolish, but which they considered so important that they felt that anybody who did differently was bad. Some of these customs were connected with the keeping of the sabbath, some with the washing of hands, some with the treatment of outsiders.
Thus, they had a good law that men should not work in the fields on the sabbath: nobody should cut grain or thresh it. The purpose was to give all laboring folk a day off every week for rest. But they were so afraid that the law might be broken, that they said that if any one even picked a single head of wheat and rubbed it in his hands to get a kernel from the husk, he was cutting grain and threshing it. One day, our Lord and his disciples went across a field of wheat, and the disciples began, as they went, to pluck the spears of grain. And the scribes said, "Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day." But our Lord paid no heed to their complaint.
They had another law that all persons should wash their hands before they sat down to dinner: an excellent habit, if one's hands need washing. But their idea was that a great many things in the world are unclean, or, as we might say, unlucky. If anybody touched these things, God did not like him till he had washed off the unlucky touch. But our Lord knew better. The things, he said, which God does not like are bad works and bad actions. And he told his disciples that they did not need to wash their hands in order to keep the favor of God.
They were also very careful about associating with outsiders, who did not belong to the church. Some of these were Gentiles, that is, heathen people; some were Samaritans, who were part Jews and part heathen; some were publicans, who were in the employ of the heathen; some were plain sinners. The Jews would not eat with such persons, nor would they willingly have any dealings with them. They despised and hated them. But our Lord felt that people who were living in ignorance and sin should be helped to be better, and he knew that in order to help anybody one must first make friends with him. Sometimes he said that he was like a shepherd who goes in search of a sheep which is lost. Sometimes he said that he was like a physician whose business is to care for those who are sick. He was going through Samaria, one time, and being thirsty and tired he sat down on a stone by a well, and a Samaritan woman came to draw water. She was a Samaritan, and, besides that, a person of bad character; but our Lord spoke to her kindly. Sometimes, when the scribes wished to call him by a bad name, they said that he was a Samaritan himself, and that he was a friend of publicans and sinners. They felt towards publicans and Samaritans as people in some southern towns feel towards negroes.
jesus and the woman of samaria
It was for these, reasons that when the King came unto his own, his own received him not. They were interested in little things: he was interested in great things. They were busy with seeds and herbs,—mint, anise, and cumin,—tying them up in ten bundles, to give one bundle to the church. He was intent on justice, mercy, and truth. They were thinking about their customs; he was thinking about God and man. And they hated him. They saw that he was a prophet, and that the people crowded about him: they could not help seeing that he was preaching truth and goodness; but he was unlike them, and they hated him. It has happened many times since then. That was all that they had against him: that his custom of keeping the sabbath, and of washing his hands, and of dealing with outsiders was different from theirs. But that was enough. They went to church, and said their prayers, and read their Bibles, and fasted twice in the week,—and hated the King of Glory.
The result was that it was no longer safe for him to live in his own country. He had never spent much time in Judea, except to go to Jerusalem for the great church festivals. Galilee had been the place of his ministry, and especially that portion of it which lies about the northern part of the lake. But after the scribes came up from Jerusalem and attacked him in Capernaum, he could not stay in Galilee. The great people turned against him, and the common people—disappointed because he would not be their king—followed their example. He was no longer surrounded by enthusiastic crowds. Men and women looked at him with eyes of suspicion and dislike. They spoke one to another as he passed by, saying, "There goes the prophet of Nazareth. Have you heard how the scribes from Jerusalem reproved him and disowned him? He is a sabbath breaker, and a despiser of our holy customs, and associates with low people. There is Matthew, the publican, speaking to him this moment." And there were threats against his life.
So he took his twelve friends, and they went away together. He never stood again on the hills of Nazareth. He never spoke again to the people on the shore of the lake, nor sat in a fisherman's boat. He walked no more between the pleasant fields. As they went they looked back for a last sight of the place where they had lived. They saw the white houses of Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum shining against the blue line of the water. And our Lord took his leave, with great grief. "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. And thou, Capernaum! high and lifted up, thou shalt be brought low." Then he turned about and set his face towards Tyre and Sidon, cities of the heathen.