Posted by: Johnold Strey | July 13, 2015

Sermon on Mark 6:1-6

THE HOMETOWN PROPHET–REJECTED

  1. See an amazed rejection of Jesus
  2. See an amazed reaction from Jesus

Text: Mark 6:1-6

Introduction

There is an unwritten rule among pastors that you never accept a call to serve the congregation in which you grew up. Four years ago, I came to St. Mark’s to serve as one of your pastors, but the year before you called me, I had a call to a church that would have placed me just down the street from our seminary, mere minutes from my parents’ house, and within reasonable driving distance to more than one Lutheran high school. Some friends thought I was crazy to decline that call until I tell them that the church that called me five years ago operates the Lutheran grade school that I attended. To be the pastor of your grade school classmates and their parents would present challenges that could cause problems to the ministry. People remember the child, and it would be awfully difficult for them to accept—let alone respect—a man as their pastor that they primarily remember as a little boy.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Jesus didn’t seem to fare so well in the Gospel for today. Chapter six of Mark’s Gospel begins with Jesus visiting his hometown, Nazareth, and serving as the guest preacher for a synagogue’s Sabbath Day service. Jesus was only the guest preacher, not the resident rabbi, but instead of being treated as a hometown hero, Jesus, the hometown prophet, was rejected by the synagogue crowd. None of us claim Nazareth as our hometown, but this account from Mark’s Gospel contains a warning for us lest we reject Jesus, and it also contains a unique glimpse into the grace of God. As we work through today’s Gospel, we will see an amazed rejection of Jesus, but also an amazed reaction from Jesus.

I.

There is always a certain feeling of excitement when a son of the congregation preaches in a service. In September we will welcome back Pastor Keven Boushek who will preach for our final fiftieth anniversary service, and a couple of years ago we had Seminary student Gunnar Ledermann preach for us, who is now only a year away from his ordination. Those occasions offer a sense of pride not just for the parents but for the whole congregation.

If we look at Luke’s account of this incident, it seems that there was some initial excitement when Jesus came to guest preach in his hometown’s synagogue. But it didn’t last long. Mark takes us right to the rejection. “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! 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.”

Mark tells us that the crowd was “amazed.” Later on in this reading, Jesus is also described as “amazed,” but in each case a different word is used in the original language. Here the word “amazed” pictures the crowd as being overwhelmed by what they witnessed. You can year it in their words. “Where did this man get these things?” We’d say, “Who does this guy think he is?” This Jesus fellow had been a carpenter—a profession that wasn’t always thought of so highly at that time. Some of these people probably had furniture in their homes that Jesus made! They mention his brothers by name and the fact that his sisters were right there in town. And he preaches to them that he is the Messiah? That was too much for most of them!

Why did Nazareth by and large reject Jesus? Jesus gave the answer in verse four. “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” I suppose there is little risk of that happening here this morning. None of us is from Nazareth, Jesus isn’t in the pulpit, and there’s two thousand years between us and his entrance into this world.

We aren’t likely to reject Jesus and his Word because he’s from our hometown, but we do run that risk when Jesus and his Word hit too close to home for our comfort. Five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court redefined marriage in our nation in a way that contradicts God’s Word, and we rightly and proudly stand with Jesus and his Word to proclaim the truth that God’s definition and design for marriage is one man and one woman united for life. But when that same Jesus and his Word points out our own sins and our own attempts to redefine his Word, we too can play the “amazed” card. “I can’t believe God would say that!” “A negative thought toward someone is just as sinful as a harmful action?” “Good people and people who suffer severely won’t go to heaven just because they didn’t believe in Jesus?” “We’re supposed to grow this church with the same old message, the same simple water, and the same repeated sips of wine and bites of bread?” “C’mon! These things can’t be!” And we too become amazed and, in our own way, reject the hometown prophet when his words hit too close to home.

II.

It has been said that an “expert” is someone who comes from more than 100 miles away. Someone local makes a suggestion or offers advice and we tend to doubt it, but bring in someone from a little distance away that we don’t know and people are often inclined to trust the outside “expert.” I suppose that was part of the equation with Jesus’ rejection. He should have been the hometown hero! Instead Jesus stated quite boldly that an outsider would have been a better judge of who he is than the people of his own hometown! “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

But Jesus’ reaction extended beyond that statement. “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” Because Nazareth rejected Jesus as the Savior, Jesus was not able to do many miracles there. At first reading, this sounds like Jesus’ power was somehow limited by the negative reaction of the people. This was not a power limitation, but as one Bible scholar put it, this was a “moral limitation.” Think of that Christian baker in Oregon who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding reception. When she said, “I can’t do this,” she didn’t literally mean that she didn’t have the ability to make that cake, but that it went against her Christian principles to do anything that would give the impression of condoning gay marriage. Perhaps that’s not the best modern illustration, but it gives you a sense of what Mark means here. Jesus had the power and ability to do miracles there, but it contradicted his principles to use miracles as a show to unbelievers and skeptics who had rejected him.

We’ve seen Jesus’ verbal and nonverbal reactions to his rejection in Nazareth. Now Mark concludes with Jesus’ overall reaction: “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” There is a different word for “amazed” in the original language here than the one that was used to describe the Nazareth synagogue-goers. This time the idea is that Jesus just stood back from it all, took it all in, and wondered and marveled at what had just happened.

What amazes me is that Jesus was only amazed! Let’s “play God” for just a moment. You’re Jesus. You are God in human flesh, returned as the celebrity guest preacher at your hometown. And the crowd rejects you and insults you in amazement. How would you react? I know what I’d say! “You’re amazed and insulted at me? I’ll give you a reason to be amazed! Your amazed rejection deserves my amazing wrath!” These people should have been in more trouble than an investor who has put all his money in a Greek bank!

But that’s not how Jesus handled it, and it’s not how he deals with us, either. Jesus certainly has every reason to be amazed at the natural-born rejection of his grace that comes from our sinful nature’s default setting. But what should amaze us is Jesus’ reaction to our rejection.

Instead of wrath, Jesus deals with us in patience, as he gives us a time to repent and believe in him as our Savior. Instead of punishment, Jesus sends us his Holy Spirit who has led us to believe his Word and trust in his grace and receive his gracious forgiveness. Instead of sending us to judgment, Jesus sent himself to the cross to endure our judgment for sin and to free us forever from that judgment. Instead of leaving us to the end result of our sin, Jesus showers our thirsty, drought-stricken hearts with the gentle nourishing rains of his grace that he obtained for us on the cross, that keeps us trusting in him on this side of heaven, and that will one day bring us to his eternal grace on that side of heaven.

Conclusion

Last weekend, my family and I were in my hometown of Cedarburg, Wisconsin. We attended the Fourth of July parade in the morning. Near the start of the parade, the servicemen from my hometown marched down the street. They were greeted by parade-goers who stood up, cheered, and generally gave a warm welcome to those hometown heroes.

We would have liked Jesus to receive that kind of welcome in today’s Gospel, but thanks to the working of God’s Word in our hearts, the Holy Spirit has led us not to reject Jesus but to welcome and receive him. We trust in him as our Savior, we honor him in our lives, and we’re happen to confess him before others that they might also hear him and have a change of heart from rejection to repentance and reception. We may not be from Jesus’ hometown, but thank God, and never take for granted, that Jesus has made his home in your heart! Amen.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Thank you Pastor for taking the time to write your Blog. I have enjoyed all of them. Another way to hear the word. God be with you this week, Nancy McCorkell


Categories

%d bloggers like this: