Jesus (Rejected) of Nazareth
Almost seven years ago when Bethany and I moved back from Kentucky to pastor at Christ Community Church the people in the small rural church that I was pastoring were shocked. They could not understand why we were moving back to metro Detroit, Michigan. There were two stumbling blocks they just couldn’t move past: (1) in their mind metro Detroit is like the post-apocalyptic scene from Back to the Future II. They think it’s like a destitute third world country up here. But (2) people kept saying to me, “a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown.”
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not calling myself a prophet or comparing myself to Jesus Christ. I did a doctorate in preaching and one of the cardinal rules of preaching or teaching is never use yourself as a hero in an illustration. But the people in that church were alluding to this narrative right here in Mark 6. Their point was that a man wouldn’t be able to pastor a church he grew up in, which is silly. But the point Mark is making is much more serious.
When we read a Gospel like Mark, we’re reading about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But these narratives don’t tell us everything Jesus ever said and did. So we must ask ourselves, why is this pericope included? Why did the Holy Spirit include this event in the eternal Word of God? This story serves as a warning to us. Just because you’re in Jesus’ family, don’t let Jesus become merely familiar.
How the People Responded to Jesus
After the tempests of chapters 4-5 we now find ourselves in the calm of home. Jesus calmed the storm, he exorcised a legion of demons, he healed the woman who had a discharge of blood for 12 years, and then he resurrected Jairus’ dead daughter. These past few days have been a whirlwind display of Jesus’ sovereign authority over the natural and the supernatural, over disease, and death. And now in his humanity he goes home to rest. As we’ve seen him do before, Jesus stands up on the Sabbath to teach in the Synagogue.
We see again in verse 6 that Jesus goes out teaching among the villages. We’re reminded that from the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel that while Jesus does some mighty works, a majority of his time is spent teaching. What an encouragement to those of you who teach kids. What a blessing to those of you who teach adult classes, and for those of us who sit under the preaching of God’s Word every week. The Son of God only ministered for three years and most of that time he spent teaching and preaching. Why? Because he loves his people. He wants us to understand. He does not call us to blind faith, but to renewing our minds.
The scandal in this text isn’t that Jesus is teaching; the scandal is the reaction of his neighbors. The congregation is astonished by Jesus’ sermon. They ask, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?” The people aren’t offended because a man has wisdom. Many men in the history of Israel have been wise. King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. They weren't offended that a man could do mighty works by his hands. In the synagogue they often told the stories of the mighty works done by the hands of Moses and Elijah.
No. What offended this crowd was that this man spoke such wisdom and that this man did mighty works. They knew this man. Isn’t this the carpenter? The Greek word is τέκτων, which actually means a builder, one who uses wood or stone. It’s where we get the word “architect;” arch – first, tect – builder; primary/first builder. Isn’t this Mary’s son? No one in the 1st century would’ve been referred to as his or her mother’s son. They were saying, “isn’t this the guy who was born out of wedlock, you know the “virgin’s” son? We know all of his brothers and sisters. Who does he think he is? Where does he get the prerogative to stand in front of us? Remember verse one says that Jesus is in his hometown. These are his family, friends, and neighbors. And Mark says that they’re offended by him. The Greek word translated “took offense” is σκανδαλίζω; literally, they were scandalized by him!
The real Jesus is incredibly offensive. Protestant liberalism has tried to fabricate a non-offensive Jesus, but that is not the Jesus presented by the Bible. Keller reminds us that if we remove the biblical witness about Jesus, history reveals two things for sure: (1) Jesus was crucified. Jesus got himself killed. He offended so many people that he was executed. And (2) his Jewish followers – the people least likely in the ancient world to worship a man as God – began to worship him as God. They wouldn’t have done that had he merely been a teacher of kindness. No, Jesus made radical and exclusive claims. His life, teaching, and mission are scandalous to the flesh, the world, and the devil. And those who knew him best were scandalized by him.
How Jesus Responded to the People
Jesus’ response has become a cliché. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” Think about the response we’ve seen Jesus elicit thus far in Mark’s Gospel. There has been such a massive crowd that at times he’s nearly been crushed, but not here; not in his hometown. Jesus has been honored, to a degree, by Israel at large. A gentile has honored him, the one healed of the demons. In fact, even the demons recognized the divine kingship of Jesus, but not here.
Verse 5 says that he healed a few sick people, but otherwise he could do no mighty work. What does that mean? It certainly doesn’t mean that Jesus’ authority and power are contingent upon the faith of humanity. But we must consider the purpose of Jesus’ miracles. In John’s Gospel they’re called signs. What is the purpose of a sign? It is to point to something greater. Jesus’ healing, exorcisms, and miracles are an announcement that the kingdom of God has arrived. They are signs pointing to the eternal healing that Jesus is bringing through his death and resurrection. This is what Jesus has been teaching – the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.
But these people are rejecting the gospel. The teaching of Jesus scandalizes them and so he will do no mighty work. We cannot divorce the mighty works of God from the teaching of the gospel. That is a false dichotomy. The mighty work of salvation is always accompanied by the preaching of the gospel, whether it’s in a sermon (or many sermons), or a conversation (or many conversations) at a coffee shop. Whether it’s through teaching your kids a catechism question, or through reading the Bible. This is the God-ordained mode of conversion and discipleship. That’s why when Jesus leaves, what does he do? He went about teaching.
You’re in one of two spots today. If you’re not a Christian you need the mighty work of salvation. The Gospel of Mark is about how the eternal Son of God became human so that he can save you from your sins. The call of God’s Word is to repent and believe in Christ. Turn from your sin and trust in the finished work of Jesus on your behalf. If you are a Christian, like me, then the warning for us is just because you’re Jesus’ family don’t let Jesus become merely familiar.
Luke gives us more specifics about what happened on this day. One thing he tells us about is Jesus’ sermon. Luke says that Jesus got up and read from Isaiah. It seems that Jesus was living out his sermons even as he preached it. Listen to what Isaiah says about Jesus Christ:
13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.
53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
Jesus was rejected by humanity, and not just humanity in general, but by his family and friends. But this was only a foreshadow. You see, on the cross Jesus was rejected by the Father. He bore the wrath of God for our sin in our place so that God could accept us. The builder himself has become the rejected stone, so that he could become the cornerstone. My prayer is not that Christ does not scandalize you this morning. If he does not scandalize you, you’re not listening. My prayer is that you’ll use his offensive message as an opportunity to repent and believe. Just because you’re Jesus’ family, don’t become merely familiar with Jesus.