(Written by Pastor Tim Redfield)
Mark 6:1-6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.
When Jesus came to Nazareth he was already very famous. In the first five chapters of Mark there are many examples of his divine power and his wise teachings. By this point in his ministry Jesus had already appointed his 12 apostles and performed numerous miracles including calming the storm on the sea of Galilee, driving out demons, and raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He had given important messages about faith using parables such as the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. The people realized that Jesus was special. On many occasions the crowds were so large that it was difficult for Jesus to move from place to place.
Even though many people had faith in Jesus, there were still many who did not believe in him as their Savior. Some people thought of him as a miracle worker and nothing more. They did not understand his teachings. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law grew angry at his teachings. These religious leaders of the Jews started to make plans for how they might kill Jesus. They rejected Jesus because he taught the true message of salvation. This message was contrary to the teaching of salvation through obedience to the law which many of the Jews had been teaching.
After experiencing both joys and frustrations in his ministry, Jesus returned to his hometown. Following his normal custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and began to preach. The people who were there were amazed at what he said, yet some still turned against him. They said, “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:3). The people could not get past the fact that they knew Jesus’ family. They knew the house he grew up in. They remembered conversations that they had with his parents. Perhaps they remembered some of the sins that Jesus’ family members had committed and this clouded their hearts. They let their personal opinions about Jesus’ family become a stumbling block for them.
“They took offense at him” (Mark 6:3). Many people rejected Jesus. Perhaps his preaching of the law was not what they wanted to hear. It could be that they did not want to give up their sinful lifestyle. Maybe it was his preaching of the gospel that they disagreed with. They could not wrap their hearts and minds around the fact that he was their Savior. They couldn’t understand the fact that Mary’s son, the son of a carpenter, was the Messiah who had been foretold. None of them could remember him ever committing a sin in his youth because he never did. Yet the devil used whatever he could to make sure these people did not trust in Jesus.
The attitude displayed by the people of Nazareth is the same attitude that many have today. Many people are offended at Jesus and they reject him as their Savior. There are many religions that want to say that Jesus was a great teacher who showed people how to live their lives. While it is true that Jesus is a good example of morality, this is not the main point of his message. When people make Jesus only a teacher of the law, then they fall into the same trap as the Jewish religious leaders. They try to earn their salvation through obedience to the law.
There are many people who have been given the gospel message and even belong to a church and yet they are offended by Jesus. Many people do not like it when Jesus confronts them with the fact that they are living in sin without being repentant. Many people who belong to a church still want to hold onto their sins. A few common examples include: loving money more than God, sexual immorality, not regularly gathering for worship, and we could list many others. Sometimes these people are offended by a Jesus who holds out forgiveness for sins that they feel they don’t need forgiveness for.
These worldly attitudes probably are not our attitudes. Many times we commit other sins. For the most part, we are repentant for our sins. However, we still have a sinful nature which is offended every time it is confronted with sin. Think about that voice inside you which makes excuses for sins. This is the sinful nature trying to fight back against what God’s Word says. When we are confronted with sins, the devil wants to lead us into despair. He wants us to feel like we are so terrible that God could not really love us.
Another way the devil tries to make us fall into despair is when others reject us for proclaiming the Word of God. The devil wants us to give up and not tell anyone about Jesus. Think about times that you may have not said anything about your faith because you were afraid of what others might think. The devil convinces us that we should not confront our family and friends about their sins. He makes us think that it will cause strife and hardship between us. Why would we want to create a fractured relationship? Shouldn’t we just ignore the sin?
Those are the lies of the devil. Indeed Jesus does cause our sinful nature to be offended. The sinful natures of others may cause them to be offended at us. However that should not be a reason to stop proclaiming God’s Word. Our Lord Jesus comes to us and works in our faithful hearts to remind us that he has forgiven us. He wants others to know this forgiveness as well. That is why he gives us his Word which is full of wisdom.
Even though many people in Nazareth rejected Jesus, they also realized his wisdom. The first thing they said was, “Where did this man get these things? What’s this wisdom that has been given to him, that he even does miracles?” (Mark 6:2). Jesus spoke with the wisdom that comes only from the Word of God. Since Jesus is God’s Son, the Word made flesh, he could do nothing but speak the Word of God. The message he taught contained both Law and Gospel. He told everyone that he was the Savior who would suffer and die for the sins of the World, the only source of forgiveness and eternal life.
Jesus shows us how he is our perfect substitute. He never fell into the sin of despair when people rejected him. Verse 5 says, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” Yet Jesus continued to go about his work after he was rejected. He did not feel sorry for himself. He did not think that there was something wrong with himself or his message. He confidently proclaimed the truth in spite of opposition. He continued to heal those who had faith. The fact that Jesus never fell into despair is his act of obedience to the law. He forgives us for times that we might despair when people reject our sharing of the Word.
Many of God’s prophets and apostles were tempted to despair. The prophet Ezekiel could have despaired because of his difficult work. Ezekiel had been called to preach to a rebellious people who did not listen to God. He was preaching to Israelites who had been taken into captivity in Babylon. These Israelites had made their hearts calloused toward the Lord. Ezekiel’s difficult mission was to crush their rebellious hearts and then to show them that God would be gracious and restore the nation of Israel. His mission was difficult because the people were rebellious. And yet God strengthened Ezekiel for his mission with gospel promises.
The Apostle Paul had many difficulties in his ministry. He had been persecuted in many ways. He had been imprisoned on several occasions. He had been stoned and left for dead at one time in his ministry. He also had to deal with people who wanted to hang onto their old sinful ways. He pleaded with God to take away some of his difficulties. The Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God gave Paul the strength to keep going. The power of Christ’s gospel, the comfort of forgiveness renewed Paul so that he could keep on preaching God’s Word.
Jesus comes to us and reminds us that he our source of strength when we are tempted to despair. His forgiveness and love help us to go on proclaiming his Word. He reminds us in the gospel of Luke, “he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). When people reject us because of the gospel, they are really rejecting the Savior. We need to keep bringing them the Gospel so that the powerful Word of God can work in their hearts and they can know Jesus as their source of hope and salvation.
It is important for us to keep on returning to God’s Word, especially when we feel worn out because of this sinful world. Just like God said to Paul, he also says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you.” He continues to forgive us, he continues to love and strengthen us. Think about the wonderful blessing it is that we have the Word of God before us on a regular basis. After the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, he went on to preach elsewhere. He did not stay where the people were not willing to listen. He gives his word to us, to people who want to hear what God has to say. How good it is that we can come to worship and be strengthened through meditation upon the very words of Jesus.