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When Kindness Meets Unkindness

Scripture Reference: Matthew 9:27–34; 13:54–58; Mark 6:1–6

Jesus’ earthly ministry reveals His person and His character. It also reveals important—and sometimes very difficult—lessons for all who follow Him.


Good deeds are not guaranteed to bring about good responses. You might have done something nice for somebody who did not even stop to say “Thank you.” I read about a young man who held the door open for a young lady, and she said, “You don’t have to hold the door open for me just because I’m a woman.” He replied, “Well, no, actually I’m holding the door open for you because I’m a gentleman.”

In real life, good deeds do not always bring about thankful responses. Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus experienced this very thing time and time again?

Following the raising of Jairus’s daughter, Matthew’s Gospel tells us in chapter 9 that two very persistent blind men begin following Jesus and His disciples. Verse 27 describes the situation: “Two blind men followed him, crying aloud, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David.’”

This expression “Son of David” was a messianic title. It comes from 2 Samuel chapter 7, where David is promised a son who will sit on his throne forever. These blind men have better insight and spiritual vision than the religious leaders in that day.

Eventually, Jesus turns to them and says in verse 28, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Jesus is not just interested in giving these men their sight; he is probing their hearts for true faith.

And that is exactly how they respond as they answer Jesus with a clear, “Yes, Lord!” Jesus responds to their faith in verse 29: “Then he touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith be it done to you.’ And their eyes were opened” (verse 30).

We are not told why Jesus touched their eyes. He certainly did not need to; He could have simply spoken the word and healed them. Perhaps it was because He wanted to clearly and undeniably connect their faith with His power.

But this was a very compassionate way to treat these men. In these days, eye diseases of any sort—especially blindness—were often considered a divine punishment for sin.[1] Blindness was superstitiously considered the hand of God’s judgment.

Well, look at what the hand of God the Son is doing—touching them and healing them. I cannot imagine how long it had been since these men had felt the kindness of someone’s touch.

Jesus warns them in verse 30 not to tell anybody what He had done, but these two men cannot keep it to themselves. And because they fail to honor Him with their obedience, huge crowds begin following Jesus.

As these two men rush out of the house, another demonstration of power is about to take place.

As they [the two men] were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” (verses 32-34)

That ought to sound familiar to you because the same accusation was leveled at Jesus a short time earlier in Mark 3:22-27. Jesus had revealed how foolish the accusation was—if Satan cast out his own demons, he would be fighting against himself.

Now, as we study the Gospels chronologically—in the order these events unfolded—Matthew records the next encounter in chapter 13, while Mark’s Gospel records it in chapter 6. Mark’s account gives us the most details, so we will pick it up there at chapter 6 and verse 1: “He went away from there and came to his hometown and his disciples followed him.”

Apparently, Jesus and His disciples arrive in Nazareth sometime earlier in the week. Then, verse 2 says, “On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue.”

By the way, this is the second time Jesus has come to His hometown of Nazareth since His public ministry began. You might remember the first sermon he preached in this synagogue, back in Luke 4. It did not go very well at all. In fact, after He finished preaching, the people rose up in anger and tried to throw Jesus off a nearby cliff for claiming to be the Messiah.

I have had some pretty upset people after a sermon or two of my own, but nobody has tried to push me over a cliff afterward—at least not yet.

I suspect that Jesus’ disciples were a little surprised He would even want to go back to Nazareth, and certainly not to that synagogue. But this reveals His faithful compassion, even for those who rejected Him the first time.

As far as we know, this is Jesus’ last visit to His hometown, but what an act of grace it is. Earlier, His good deeds were not met with thankful hearts; He was effectively opening the door for them to walk through, but they snarled at Him instead.

Frankly, I am also rather surprised that the leader of the synagogue would invite Jesus to teach again, after what happened the last time Jesus preached there. It is possible that Jesus’ growing reputation as a healer and miracle worker had softened their hearts a bit.

In fact, after Jesus finished teaching, Mark records in verse 2 that they were “astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him?”

In Jesus’ day, rabbis taught by simply quoting each other. Their sermons basically consisted of a string of quotations. But Jesus would often begin a sermon by stating, “You have heard it said, but I say unto you.” In other words, Jesus was not preaching rabbinical traditions or delivering religious quotations. He was speaking from His own authority—He was the Word of God.

The crowd also says, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” (verse 3). We can be certain that by this time Joseph was not alive. Had he been living, normal Jewish custom would have called Jesus “the son of Joseph.” But it is also possible that by calling Him the “son of Mary” they are subtly repeating the slander and gossip of earlier days when Mary had become pregnant out of wedlock. The assumption was that Jesus was the result of Mary’s immorality. In fact, later on the religious leaders will accuse Jesus of having been conceived as a result of fornication (John 8:41).

Referring to Jesus as “the carpenter” and pointing out that His half brothers and half sisters are still in the village proves in their minds that Jesus is nothing more than a normal peasant like the rest of them. His teaching is impressive, but they refuse to believe He is any different from them.

As a result, Mark says, “They took offense at him.” The Greek word means they were “scandalized” by the whole thing. “Who does He think He is?” Then in verse 4 Jesus delivers a proverb: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown.”

The result is one of the saddest outcomes recorded in the Bible:

And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. (verses 5-6)

Maybe you have experienced the same thing in a way: everybody seems to appreciate your testimony except the people in your own hometown, maybe even in your own family. Your good deeds do not bring thankful responses from people you know.

Let me urge you to keep doing those good deeds. Jesus promises that by our good works people will glorify our Father who is in heaven. You never know who those people will be, but as the world watches you, God will use your life to bring glory to His name.

[1] See John 9:1-2 and Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1971), 477-78.

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