When I was a young girl my mom was the dental hygienist at our county health department (back when health departments included things like dental health for children). She worked exclusively with children, providing cleanings and x-rays for children under 12.
I had visited her work plenty of times but not once did she ever clean my teeth. We always saw a dentist in another town. People joked all the time that she must save so much money on dental cleanings because she could just clean our teeth herself. “No way,” she said. “No one listens to their mother when she tells them to brush their teeth.” It’s true. Not only were we much better behaved for our dentist, we also took him seriously when he told us to brush or floss more.
The rejection of Jesus by his hometown neighbors is such a beautiful reminder that Jesus was really human. His friends and neighbors had a hard time reconciling Jesus’s teachings with the Jesus they knew once as a baby or goofy toddler or as an awkward tween or rebellious teenager, as a tradesman and family guy.
In my daily work, we are reminded to avoid “dual relationships.” These are relationships where people have multiple roles. My mother knew she could be my mom or my dental hygienist but not both. To be both would be a dual relationship. These types of relationships get confusing very quickly. We’re not sure how to behave, what to take seriously, or when some boundary has been crossed.
Jesus found out quickly in his ministry that dual relationships really muddy the waters. It is easy to pity the townsfolk for not recognizing Jesus’s teaching for what it was, but I think that places blame where none is to be found. They were reacting to a dual relationship in a perfectly normal way, and the gospel would not be lost on them. Jesus had twelve disciples who could teach and preach when he could not. These folks would need to hear Good News from someone else, that’s all.
Not every telling of the Good News will fall on your ears like seeds on fertile soil, and that is okay. Sometimes we need to hear in particular ways from particular people in order to understand. There is no wrong way to hear Good News.