After performing the initial miracle of turning water into wine in Cana in Galilee, Jesus goes to Jerusalem for a Passover celebration. While there, he performed some miraculous “signs” (John 2:23), and, having accomplished his purposes in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, he returns to Galilee for the first time since he left for the Passover. John tells us that Jesus testified that “a prophet has no honor in his own country” and then John says that the Galileans received Jesus, “having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast” (John 4:44-45). Presumably John is implying that the Galileans received him for his miracles but not for his previous teaching and the wisdom it contained.
Why does a prophet not have honor in his own country? Two thinkers have, in their own way, explored the dynamic within human nature that underlies this phenomenon: Friedrich Nietzsche and Alexis de Tocqueville. Nietzsche explored the dynamic by which the “herd” seeks to protect itself from anyone who would rise above it in strength, excellence, or stature. The “herd” collaborates to shame (or guilt) the would-be superior into conforming to the norms of the herd. De Tocqueville, in his examination of young America’s democracy, speaks of some dangers inherent within democracy. Given a natural impulse within human beings, people will be very reluctant to allow anyone of their own to excel in any way. A significant danger of democracy, therefore, is the breeding of mediocrity.
What is the means by which the “herd” exercises control and keeps people from rising above and being distinctive? The “herd,” with one voice, attaches to the non-conformist some name of contempt: “nut,” “fanatic,” “hate-monger,” “freak”—the list goes on. This is the most powerful weapon that worldly culture turns against belief in Jesus. One cannot be a disciple of Jesus without having the “herd” call you names. The herd hates Jesus—just like he told us they would. In fact, the herd often hates the truth itself.
There is no way to be an authentic follower of Jesus today without declaring independence from the herd which believes that no intelligent human being actually takes belief in Jesus seriously. One is a nut to believe in the biblical claims about Jesus. May God give me the strength and the dignity to stand outside the herd. May God give me the strength to be a nut by believing in his Son.