“He went away from there and came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished. “Where did this man get these things? ” they said. “What is this wisdom given to Him, and how are these miracles performed by His hands? Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t His sisters here with us? ” So they were offended by Him. Then Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his household.” So He was not able to do any miracles there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He was amazed at their unbelief.” (Mark 6:1-6 HCSB)
Rejection. It’s such an ugly word. Deep inside me there’s a 14 year old boy who knows and still feels the sting of rejection. Isn’t that the fear of almost every middle school age child? In fact, it is that fear of rejection that almost kept me from finding and experiencing one of the greatest joys of my life, my lovely wife. Out of fear that she might turn away, I nearly turned away from her obvious love. I was smitten by her beauty, but the truth is that she pursued me until I caught her. While my fear of rejection almost kept me from finding one of life’s greatest joys, in this week’s passage the people of Nazareth are rejecting Jesus. Unfortunately, doing so will cause them to lose THE greatest joy in life, finding and experiencing God’s love and mercy through faith in Jesus.
Not rejection BY God but rejection OF God. That’s an odd and dangerous thing to do. Yet, rejecting God seems to be something we are really good at. When God made us in His image, one of the most beautiful but dangerous things He did was to make us “in His own image.” While we don’t fully know or understand what all it means to be made in His image, it certainly carries with it a strong tendency to reject God’s authority over our lives so that we can exercise authority over our own lives. In other words, we often reject God’s authority because we want control over our own lives and, in doing so, we also reject Him. Let me be very clear on this point, Jesus is not fearful of being rejected because of some deep-seated emotional issues. He is simply fully aware of what rejection of God will mean to our lives and our eternal destiny.
Our focal passage begins by telling us that Jesus left Capernaum and has now come to His hometown of Nazareth. When the Sabbath came, He attended synagogue along with His disciples and, at least, some of His family. It would seem that word had even reached this small village regarding His miracles and popularity among the people and He was invited to speak. As He began to teach, many of the people who heard HIm were astonished at His teaching. While this could be understood in a good, positive way it can also mean that they were overwhelmed by His teaching in a negative way. With the negative comments and questions that follow, I think it seems likely that it carries more of a negative connotation than a positive one. Listen to their comments:
Where did this man get these things? What is this wisdom, this teaching that has been given to Him – and the miracles performed by His hands?
You could take their questions in a positive way but given the context and their response, it would seem that they are being expressed in a very negative way. Jesus is obviously teaching them and calling on them to see and understand the Old Testament in a way they had never heard or considered before. Where is He getting this? Where is this coming from? This isn’t anything like what rabbi has taught us. And the miracles, what about the miracles! How is that even possible? Can you hear the astonishment in their voices? Questions and doubts begin to rapidly flood their thoughts and spill out in their words. But watch what happens next…
Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t His sisters here with us, among us? Once they hear Him speak with authority and teach in a way they’ve never heard before, they immediately begin to call into question His credentials. The statement, “isn’t this the carpenter” is not just for clarification and identification. It is a charge against His authority to teach and speak in such a way. In essence, this man is just a carpenter and has never been trained in the law or scriptures. Just who does this guy think he is? We know where he came from. We know his family, his mother and brothers and his family background. Aren’t his sisters standing among us?
Maybe you didn’t see it, but it’s right there staring us in the face. They hear His powerful words. They are astounded by the depth of knowledge and the Godly wisdom in what He says. They are even in awe of the miracles they’ve seen and heard about. “Miracles performed by His very own hands! But, come on. These are the words of just a carpenter, these are the rough, calloused hands of the carpenter who has worked among us. Not just among us, this man who has worked for us. He built the plow I use and the door on the front of your house.” But they dismiss it all because of their preconceptions and deep-seated expectations.
Still not see it? They didn’t just reject what He said and taught. They didn’t just question His power and authority and the miracles were’t enough to sway them over. They did reject all those things but it was because they rejected Him as the Son of God. Isn’t this the carpenter, Mary’s son and James, Joses, Judas and Simon’s brother? Aren’t His sisters standing among us? Their familiarity with Jesus and His family made it difficult for faith to take root, to develop and grow. They rejected what He said, what He taught, what He did and what He commanded and demanded because they rejected who He was. This can’t be the Messiah, it’s not possible.
They couldn’t see His divinity because they were so familiar with His humanity. Mark paints another very stark contrast between Jairus (see last week’s notes) and the people of Jesus own hometown synagogue. Jairus heard Him teach, saw the miracles and was drawn into life-transforming faith. They heard Him teach and were repelled because of their inability to see God in the boy they watched grow up. Is it possible [probable?] that Jairus sent word to his friends at the synagogue in Nazareth that they should ask Jesus to teach hoping they would see what he saw? Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing I do know, one synagogue ruler was transformed by Jesus power and another has stumbled over it and taken others with him.
Stumbled? Yes, that’s what the phrase “so they were offended by Him” means. He is an offense or something that caused them to trip and stumble. Years later, Simon Peter would remind us: “So honor will come to you who believe, but for the unbelieving, The stone that the builders rejected — this One has become the cornerstone, and A stone to stumble over, and a rock to trip over. They stumble because they disobey the message; they were destined for this.” (1 Peter 2:7-8 HCSB) But they aren’t the only ones who have stumbled over His words, His teaching, His power and authority and His claim to be God’s promised One, God’s own Son. Maybe you’ve also stumbled over that, too. Surely Jesus only taught love and forgiveness, right? Well, not exactly:
“Then He [Jesus] said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and that of the Father and the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26 HCSB)
The real question of faith in this story is not about whether Jesus can heal and perform miracles, that’s not in doubt. The real question of weak or no faith in this story is not at all about what Jesus can do [deeds of power, miraculous healings, etc.] but WHO Jesus is and what authority He has. Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon? Familiarity with the person of Jesus and the stories about Him do not necessarily result in life transforming faith in Him as the Son of God. If you are going to “come with” Him then you must deny yourself, take up your cross [willingness to die, sacrifice yourself and your desires for God’s glory] daily, and follow Him.
They were astonished [or stumbled] at His words and wisdom related to God and He was amazed [dumbfounded, speechless] at their unbelief. They are astonished that He could point them to God and He’s astonished when they refuse to take that step towards faith in Him. “So they were offended [they stumbled] because of Him [how they saw/perceived Him].” Their understanding and expectations of God and how He would redeem them made them blind to the truth of God and restricted what God could do in their midst. What? Their lack of faith limited God? That’s what Mark says, “He was not able to do any miracle there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He was amazed at their unbelief.”
He was only able to heal a few sick but not able to do any miracle there. Mark doesn’t see the healing of a few sick as the real miracle that Jesus performs in people’s lives. What is the REAL miracle? Jesus put it like this, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance [full, overflowing, eternal].” (Jn. 10:10b) A full life, an abundant life, a life abundantly full of God and fellowship with Him. What is often overlooked in the idea of eternal life is the quality of life. We think of eternal as a concept of time, it lasts forever. That’s an aspect of what is meant by eternal life, but certainly not all of it and not its focus. Eternal life is just as much or more about the quality of life as it is about the longevity of life. What good is a life that lasts forever but is devoid of the things that we really long for and deeply need? That’s the kind of life God wants to give us. That’s how He intends to rescue us.
Would life be complete and fulfilled if Jesus healed you of some disease or restored what you lost due to some tragic accident but left you in your current state of spiritual emptiness or moral and relational brokenness? We look around at life and recognize that “this isn’t how things are supposed to be.” Children shouldn’t be hungry, homeless, abused, and neglected. Marriages and families shouldn’t be broken due to selfishness, lust, lies, or abuse. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to let their children play outside, ride a bike down the road, or go with friends to the local playground. We shouldn’t have to check the sex offender web site before we buy a home anywhere or run background checks on VBS and Sunday School volunteers. We shouldn’t be afraid that another mass shooting might occur at our school, our move theater or our grocery story. Racism, income disparity, politics and weapons of mass destruction shouldn’t divide us.
So, let’s bring this home and see how it relates to you and me. How we perceive God and expect Him to act in our lives often blinds us to the truth of God as revealed and demonstrated in Jesus and it hinders His ability to work in our lives. Just like the people of Nazareth, we often struggle to recognize God at work in our lives because of our own questions about Jesus authority and teachings. When He says, “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you,” we try and explain away why that doesn’t apply to our enemy or persecutor.
Sometimes we’ve become so familiar with the stories we’ve read about Him that we no longer see Him at work in the situations that surround us. Perhaps you’ve looked at those in the church and you see nothing but hypocrisy and it causes you to question your faith and His divinity. That’s like looking at Jesus and saying, He can’t be the answer God sent because we know where He came from. We know His mother, we know His brothers and don’t His sisters live among us? When we begin to doubt Him, question Him, ignore Him and His Word then He is unable to transform us through faith. Why? Because faith means to trust Him, trust His Word, obey His commands and follow Him faithfully even as we deny self. You might need to sacrifice a few of your misperceptions and misunderstandings so that you can get a fresh perspective on the Son of God. Faith in Jesus matters…
This isn’t life as it’s meant to be and don’t settle for a simple miracle. Why? Because God HAS sent His Son to rescue you and give you life as it was meant to be. Believe!