Mark 6: 1 – 29 NLT
“Jesus Rejected at Nazareth
Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. 2 The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” 3 Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.
4 Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” 5 And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.”
Today we look at that story about Jesus’ hometown rejecting him, and wonder why they didn’t see how wonderful he was. First of all, we need to understand the concept of God that the Jewish people had back then. He was God Almighty, someone they feared. They had the Ten Commandments to keep along with many other rules and regulations. The high priest was only allowed to go into the Holy of Holies once a year, and that was looked on with great awe. God was powerful and remote. But, here was Jesus. He grew up here. They knew his family. He had left the town earlier, and just came back, and now claimed to be God’s son? This was just crazy. “They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.”
Francis Chan talks about them being offended in his Bible study on the Book of Mark. “Mark writes that when the Jewish community heard Jesus teaching, they took offense. The Greek word is skandalizo, from which we get the English term ‘scandal’. Throughout the New Testament, skandalizo often shows up to describe Jewish reactions to Jesus. Sometimes it takes the form of a noun and gets translated ‘stumbling block’”.
In 2020, talking about Jesus is almost looked at with disdain. So many in the media portray Christians as bigoted, cliquish, not very bright. We also don’t want to offend anyone, so we hesitate to talk about our faith. We don’t want to look prejudiced in a culture that touts tolerance. Francis Chan says, “That doesn’t mean we should be divisive or impolite when we tell people about Jesus. But we should expect the message itself to come across like a scandal.”
Think about times you’ve talked about Jesus and faced resistance. What objections did the person/people you were talking to bring up? Was your faith strengthened by this uncomfortable faith conversation? Or are you even more nervous now about sharing your faith? Even though we are aware that people will challenge us if we talk about our faith, God wants us to share this wonderful news. Frankly, in 2020, that scares me to death. I am very aware that many reactions to Jesus will mean rejection – and I don’t want to upset people.
“Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Disciples
Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people. 7 And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out
evil spirits. 8 He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick—no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. 9 He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.
10 “Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. 11 But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”
12 So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to
God. 13 And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil. …
30 The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught.”
Here we have the account of the disciples’ first training mission. Jesus sent them out in pairs. The Bible never tells us who the pairs were, but it would be interesting to know who they were with. For example, was doubting, shy Thomas sent with impetuous Peter? Jesus gave them special power to heal and cast out demons. They were to preach repentance and turning to God. He told them to go without any supplies, allowing them to experience life totally dependent on God. Jesus told them some would reject them, and to expect that. If people did not welcome them, they were to leave. When they returned, they had many stories to tell about what they had done, and what they had learned. It sounds like they were excited about that first mission on their own.
We too should expect both rejection and acceptance when we share our faith. The exciting part is some do decide to follow Jesus. Have you ever invited someone to come to your church with you, and eventually they decide to become a Christ follower? I’ve talked with friends at LSA who were neighbours for years. One rather joked about the other’s religious bent for years, but now is an excited believer. Isn’t that fantastic!
Now we’re going to read a horrific story.
“The Death of John the Baptist
14 Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because everyone was talking about him. Some were saying, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. That is why he can do such miracles.” 15 Others said, “He’s the prophet Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet like the other great prophets of the past.”
16 When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.”
17 For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. 18 John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, 20 for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.
21 Herodias’s chance finally came on Herod’s birthday. He gave a party for his high government officials, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee. 22 Then his daughter, also named Herodias, (some manuscripts say the daughter of Herodias) came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod and his guests. “Ask me for anything you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you.” 23 He even vowed, “I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!”
24 She went out and asked her mother, “What should I ask for?” Her mother told her, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist!”
25 So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!”
26 Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn’t refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison, 28 brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother. 29 When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came to get his body and buried it in a tomb.”
John the Baptist was the most amazing, humble man. All of his adult life, he lived in a wilderness area preaching and baptizing people, getting them ready for the Messiah. When Jesus came to be baptized, John felt he was completely unworthy to do that, to even stoop and tie Jesus’ sandals. This was a man completely devoted to God. And look at what happened to him. He was imprisoned, and then executed suddenly with no warning, with no support by his side.
This execution was by the hand of a depraved man used to getting whatever he wanted. He was one of the sons of Herod, the Great who was king when Jesus was born, who decided to kill all the Jewish boys 2 years old and under. Herod the Great had several wives and sons. Herodias was married to one of them when she decided to switch to Herod Antipas. The fact that she would send her daughter, likely a teenager, in to dance provocatively to a group of drunk men also shows what kind of family Herod had. To be a Christ follower in this situation would definitely be dangerous. But it didn’t stop John the Baptist from telling Herod Antipas that he was disobeying God.
In Canada, we are very unlikely to be subject to that kind of rule and lawlessness. But there are countries around our world that are very against the gospel. Pray for the missionaries who are called to those countries. By our standards, they are being very brave, but they are willing to follow God’s leading into very threatening situations.
These three stories in Mark 6 show us that some people accept the gospel message, some don’t really consider it seriously, and some totally reject Jesus. But the results don’t influence the call to share our faith. Jesus came himself, and sent his followers out as well. Honestly, it scares me to talk about my faith. I have a neighbour who often states her negative opinion about Christianity. We see each other often as she invites me for coffee on the patio in the evenings. I pray that someday, I’ll be brave enough to politely and nicely say I don’t agree with what she said.
Let’s pray for each other that we will share the good news of our faith, regardless of the outcome.