In this chapter, Mark tells three stories of rejection. The first one was in his home town (presumably, Nazareth; Mark doesn’t name it here) where the synagogue congregation rejected Jesus. This is followed by the story of the disciples’ first mission without Jesus and he warns them to expect rejection from some people. The third story is the rejection of John the Baptizer by Herod, resulting in John’s murder. These isolated incidents warn us that the message of the kingdom Jesus preached and charged his disciples (you and me today) to preach, will generate social and political opposition and rejection.
Prepare to listen. Sit still, take a few deep breaths then pray: Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. (Psalm 25:4)
Read Mark 6:1-6a
[Jesus] left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.
‘And they took offence at him.’ It may surprise some Christians today that people took offence at Jesus because of what he taught. Our image of Jesus and his teaching makes it hard to imagine why anyone would take offence. Jesus is the good guy, the greatest teacher; always knows what to say to make one feel better; his teaching may be radical but it’s the best there is. How could anyone possibly take offence? Besides, you don’t win people over to your point of view by saying things that give offence. But, Jesus’ message wasn’t designed to win support for his mission or get him elected to public office or make people feel good about themselves. He proclaimed the radical good news that, in him, God’s kingdom has arrived, therefore it was time to repent, that is, make life-changing decisions. Not surprisingly, people took offence. Who wants to change?
When Jesus left his hometown (Nazareth) to begin his public ministry, he was known as a carpenter. When he returned, he was a rabbi with his own disciples following him. His home town folk only knew him as a carpenter; he’d never trained to be a rabbi. How could he possibly teach them Sacred Scriptures? The Nazareth synagogue congregation was outraged, and question: ‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of…?’ The fact they named his mother and brothers, but not his father, was a disrespectful accusation he could be illegitimate and therefore disqualified from the ranks of gifted Teacher of God’s Word. They might also have been expressing their disgust at an elder son who deserted his widowed mother instead sticking around to support her.
Instead of being excited about a home-boy making good, they took offence. As a result, Jesus ‘could do no deed of power there,’ expect on a few sick people who felt his healing touch. The story concludes with sorrowful words: ‘And he was amazed at their unbelief.’ This is the only time Jesus’ response to people’s unbelief is described in this way. He left his hometown, amazed at their unbelief.
What do you think made Jesus amazed at their unbelief? What does this tell you about your picture of Jesus?
Following Jesus means going wherever he leads, including to places where you may experience rejection. How do you need to keep you following Jesus, rejection notwithstanding?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see the truth in you, train my heart to risk belief in you, help me avoid the traps of unbelief that may cross my path today. For the sake of your glory. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world, risking belief in an unpopular Savior.