My older brother was a golden boy — smart, good looking and exceptionally athletic.


 

My older brother was a golden boy — smart, good looking and exceptionally athletic. He was the go-to guy in every sport he ever played. Other students liked to be around him. His friends were always hanging out at our house. Even the adults in the neighborhood knew that he was going to be someone.


He was, but not in the way they expected. He died of leukemia while still a teenager.


In my class at school there was another guy who was the golden boy. He was a pitcher on the baseball team, quarterback of the football team and leading scorer on the basketball team. He was also the co-valedictorian of our class. On top of all that, he was a genuinely nice guy. Everyone knew he would go far.


Perhaps you knew a golden boy or girl in your school. Perhaps you were that golden boy or girl. I think there must be a sort of fraternity out there, comprised of all the golden people, the men and women who were voted most likely to succeed in high school.


Most of my readers would be excluded from that club. I certainly would be. But it might surprise you to learn that the golden boy fraternity would have turned Jesus down, too.


The evidence seems clear. The New Testament chronicles two visits Jesus made to his hometown. It is apparent in both texts that the people who knew him as a young person did not hold high expectations for him. His public success took them completely by surprise.


The Gospel of Mark tells us that once when Jesus went home for the weekend he was invited to read the Scripture in the synagogue and shares his thoughts about the text. People were impressed by his teaching. In fact, they were astonished.


Jesus’ teaching style was unlike anything those synagogue members had ever known. Traditionally, synagogue teachers (the so-called experts in the law) exposited a passage by referencing famous teachers of the past: “Rabbi Shammai said this, but Rabbi Hillel claims ... .”


But Jesus was different. He laid it on the line: “You have heard that it was said ... but I say to you.” Wherever he went, people were amazed at the authority with which he spoke.


His hometown was no exception. The people there were amazed, but they were not pleased. They looked at each other and said, “Where did this guy come up with all this stuff? He’s just a carpenter, for crying out loud. He’s not anybody special. His brothers and sisters still live here, and they are just regular people. So why is he going around acting like some big shot?”


The text says they were offended by him. Familiarity bred contempt. It still does. Nazareth is not the only place where people take Jesus for granted. It can happen just as easily in a church pew. Good theology offers some protection, but only those “growing in the knowledge of him” (to borrow the apostle Paul’s phrase) are truly safe.


What fascinates me is the idea that when God sent his Son into the world, he did not make him a golden boy. If you overheard someone in Nazareth saying, “That kid is going to make it big. Some day everyone will know his name,” you could be sure he wasn’t talking about Jesus. He was just the “carpenter’s son.”


Why would God set things up this way? Is there some reason he would not want his Son to be the golden boy?


Because most of us were not golden either. We weren’t born with silver spoons in our mouths. We had to work hard, suffer loss, know pain and experience rejection.


When God took human form “he was made like [us] in every way” (Hebrews 2:17). He didn’t come with nerves of steel or hands that turned everything to gold. But he knows how to help people be authentic, do the right thing even when it’s tough, and love God and other people.


The Daily Reporter of Coldwater, Mich.