Mark’s gospel chapter 6. Knowing you, knowing me.

Then Jesus said to them, Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house. (verse 4)

Jesus is back where he grew up. ‘Ah! Jesus! Yes. I remember him. Carpenter, isn’t he? Mary’s son. Wandered off on some crazy tour leaving his brothers and sisters to do all the work back here.’

We like to know where someone is ‘coming from’, as the saying goes. We like to pin people down: slot them into categories so that we know how to react to them. We keep a whole database of categories in our heads for this very purpose: young, sexy, drunken layabout, dynamic, intelligent, posh, doddery to name a few. Our brains are lightening quick at choosing a slot for the person we have just met. What’s more, our database includes stuff we’ve stored away about people we know well. I say, ‘know well’ but that is often the problem. People in Jesus home town were sure they knew him well but, clearly, their knowledge was getting in the way.

There are at least two kinds of ‘knowing’ about people. The first is mostly to do with the roles they play: business person, parent, husband, wife, doctor, patient, victim, persecutor; the list is endless and often quite useful. We ‘know where we are’ when we play a role. We don’t expect the doctor to have a long chat with us about the party she enjoyed last night and the doctor can rightly expect us to get to the point quickly about the symptoms we’ve got. A child has a right to be nurtured. In exceptional circumstances children are brilliant at nurturing a parent who needs it, but we all recognise that these are exceptional circumstances and that an immature adult who expects to be nurtured by a child is damaging the relationship.

The message of Jesus focuses on the second kind of knowing. This is not knowing about someone. It is entering into a relationship with them, without foresight, without prejudice, without forethought, without demands or expectations but simply in open, hopeful trust. Such encounters make us vulnerable and of course, sometimes we can be hurt. If someone produces a knife, it’s probably time to leave, quickly! But at least let’s start our encounters (perhaps especially with those we think we know well) in open trust.

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