By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Surprises in unlikely places

"When Jesus came to his hometown, he taught the people in their synagogue. They were surprised and said, “Where did he get this wisdom? Where did he get the power to work miracles? Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary? Aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers?"
—Matthew 13:53-55
(Common English Bible)

In Israel, the scenery varies from north to south, and sometimes those variations tend to blend together as the terrain changes. This was apparent as we moved around in the region around the Sea of Galilee. The dry and hot sandy plains grow beautiful cactus plants in many varieties against the backdrop of the mountains of the Golan Heights. In the hills, green fields are home to farms while the sandy terrain makes the neighboring territory look scrubby like a desert. On the mountains, the temperatures can be chilly, while on the sandy desert-like mounds, the sun blazes down, leaving one feel sweaty, parched and thirsty.

In society, we see similar juxtapositions of people. Some are rough around the edges and have a dry personality while others seem to exude sweetness like a fresh peach orchard. We grow accustomed to those that live near us, forgetting that as people grow older, they change. The little freckle-faced kid who used to live next door and taunt our cat may grow up to be a businessman, a community leader well-educated in finance as an adult. Isn’t it funny how we never tend to let go of those “old days” and the images that they conjure up in our memories? Little Ronnie will always be the boy next door, not the Mayor of the Town.

One day, Jesus was in the local synagogue, the first century version of the local church, and he read scripture and spoke with authority and wisdom. Yet, interestingly, the comments included by Matthew and Mark in their telling of the stories of Jesus were from the people who couldn’t believe this healer, miracle worker and teacher of God was the same little snotty-nosed boy that used to run up and down the dusty paths of Nazareth.

Now, before we get too proud of ourselves for recognizing that this special healer/teacher was God’s Son and was no ordinary man, let’s remember that we live in a post-resurrection world 20-plus centuries after the days when Jesus walked the earth as a man. And likely, when we go somewhere (like a funeral) where we see lots of people who knew us when we were growing up, they remind us of the time that they remember us as the little snotty-nosed kid running up and down the dusty roads.

But like the cactus and the nearby orchards, the world is chock full of people who vary and change as much as the landscape of Israel. And we will always run into people who are amazed that we ever grew up and amounted to much. And if we are honest, we will admit to having made those same comments about other young kids growing up.

So keep going to weddings and funerals, keep loving the folks around you, and keep making those comments like, “My, how you’ve grown!” But don’t be shocked when those little snotty-nosed kids turn out to be the neighborhood banker, or the mayor, or even the preacher at the little church on the corner.

Rev. Jan McCoy is the Associate Pastor of Covington First United Methodist Church in downtown Covington. She may be reached at or at