The Jesus Who Offends (Mark 6:1-6)
Topic: Mark Passage: Mark 6:1–6:6
The Jesus Who Offends
(One Lord: No One Like You)
July 5, 2015
I. Would You Recognize Him?
I don't know if you remember it, but there used to be a game show called, “To Tell the Truth.” The basic premise was that three people came out on stage and all claimed to be the same person. To win the game, four celebrity panelists would have to ask these three contestants questions in order to find out which one was telling the truth.
Now imagine if the show started like this: Three men walk out. Although they differ in size, all of them are wearing long robes, dirty sandals, and sporting beards. Then the announcer breaks in: “Well let’s welcome our three contestants. Contestant number one, please tell us your name. 'My name is Jesus of Nazareth'. Number two. 'My name is Jesus of Nazareth'. Number three. 'My name is Jesus of Nazareth'.”
That would be a pretty interesting show, wouldn’t it? But imagine if you were part of the panel asking the questions. What questions would you ask? Or maybe more importantly, what answers would you be looking for? Here’s what I’m getting at: Do you know the real Jesus? Would you recognize Him based on the answers He might give? Even though all of these Jesuses might look familiar, would you know who was telling the truth?
Keep that in mind as we turn to Mark 6 this morning. As I begin reading in verse 1, watch how those to whom Jesus was very familiar welcomed him back to Nazareth:
II. Wrongly Defined, Wrongly Rejected (6:1-4)
He went away from there [that would be Capernaum] and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.  And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?  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 offense at him.  And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”
What a wonderful homecoming, huh? As was his custom, Jesus used the synagogue as a venue to proclaim His message. He did it in Capernaum in Mark 1:21 and 3:1, and he does it here in Nazareth.
We don’t know how long it’s been since Jesus has been home, but we do know, according to Mark 3:7, 8, word about Jesus’ ministry had spread all over the region. And we know that the reports about Jesus had also reached Nazareth since 3:21 tells us that His family back home heard about the things He was doing.
So when Jesus goes into the synagogue at Nazareth, as the returning hometown celebrity, you would think that He would be given a hero’s welcome, right? Far from it.
A. His Message, Their Response
Now, let's ask this: do we know anything about what Jesus was teaching, about His message? Does their reaction give us any clues? Well, looking at Mark as a whole, He was undoubtedly proclaiming the same message he had earlier in His ministry. He was declaring the coming of the kingdom of God.
Luke, in his Gospel, actually preserves some details about what was probably this same visit to Nazareth. Turn over to Luke 4. Look with me at verses 16-21:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)
Jesus was identifying Himself as the fulfillment of God’s prophetic plan. Now, even though Mark 6, verse 2 does tell us that they were astonished by His teaching, I think that astonishment is qualified by their questions. Look at the tone of their questions in verse 2:
“Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? [as the rest of the passage will make clear, they had not witnessed any miracles, but they had heard the reports...How are such mighty works 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?”
As we see here very clearly, their astonishment is really incredulity, a surprising and skeptical disbelief in the claims of Christ.
What they're saying here is, “We know this guy. We know him. He’s no rabbi. He’s no miracle worker. He might sound good, He might sound impressive, but something's wrong with this picture. He must be getting this from someone else. This is Jesus; we watched him grow up; this is the Jesus who fixed our yokes and repaired our chairs; this is Mary’s boy [Joseph was probably long dead], this is James’ brother. We know this man. He’s one of us.”
Do you see the point? They already had Jesus defined. And as Jesus states in His response, this is the kind of familiarity that, as the saying goes, breeds contempt.
“A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”
You may or may not know that in chapter 3 of Mark's Gospel, Jesus’ own family “his relatives” and “his own household” came out to bring him home because they thought he’d lost His mind. Yes, Jesus had brothers and sisters. They were really half-brothers/sisters; the children of Mary and Joseph. And yes, even though they were His family, they didn’t understand the fullness of God’s plan for Him.
And so similarly, because Jesus, according to the estimation of those in Nazareth, was trying to make Himself something He was not, because He was claiming to be the fulfillment of God’s purposes, it says, “they took offense at him.”
In some sense, they got it. In some sense, the people of Nazareth got the message loud and clear. Because Jesus was claiming to be the fulfillment of God’s purposes, the One in whom God’s reign was uniquely present, Jesus was claiming to be Lord. He was, in fact, calling for their submission and allegiance.
Deep down they understood this. That’s why they took offense at Him. The end of chapter 5 revealed how Jairus, the synagogue ruler in Capernaum and the woman with the hemorrhage were both examples of faith-filled acceptance; not rejection. We read there that they “fell at His feet” (5:22) and “fell down before Him” (5:33).
Even if Jairus and the woman did not fully understand who He was, they were acknowledging, based on all they knew, they were acknowledging the greatness of Jesus. The people in the synagogue at Nazareth heard these claims, explicit claims of unique authority, and unlike Jairus and the woman, they rejected Him.
B. His Message, Our Response
As we think about His message and our response, we need to see that what is emphasized here is that, like most of the prophets from the Old Testament, Jesus was rejected by His own people because their familiarity with Him, ultimately made Him unfamiliar.
And yet, obviously, this kind of familiarity is really a pseudo-familiarity, isn't it? A false familiarity stemming from the fact they had wrongly defined Jesus. They had defined Jesus as merely “the son of Mary”, thus how could He be the Son of God? They had defined Him as one who worked with wood, thus how could He be a worker of miracles? They had defined Him as one of their peers, thus how could He be over them as Lord?
But this lack of recognition did not simply affect those in Nazareth. Speaking of the Jewish people in general, the Apostle John, who witnessed the rejection at Nazareth, writes in John 1:11--He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
But what about us? What about you? What kind of familiarity do you have with Jesus? Think about the unsettling truth that we discover here: you can spend your entire life around Jesus and not really know Him.
That’s kind of scary, isn’t it? These people spent thirty years, some of them every day, with God in human flesh, and they didn’t know Him.
What if we went back to the game show I mentioned at the outset. What if you were on that celebrity panel, asking questions of the three Jesuses. What would you ask? More importantly, what answers would you be listening for? What responses would help you identify the real Jesus?
“Jesus #1, what should I do when someone mistreats me? Jesus #2, how can I know I have eternal life? Jesus #3, how will you fix the problems in my life? Jesus #1, what about the days where I fail and fail and fail, over and over? Jesus #2, what are your thoughts on sexual identity and marriage equality? Jesus #3, don't you want me to be happy?”
What answers would you be listening for? Would the real Jesus be obvious to you? How well do you know Him? Every day we react to Jesus in light of how we see Jesus. And while your reaction may not be wholesale rejection, while it may be more subtle than the ‘taking offense’ we read about here, all of us can end up wrongly defining Jesus in a reaction against His lordship.
So often, you and I make Jesus into something He is not by adjusting our image of Him in order to suit our needs. Because we have things in our life that we do not want to change, ideas we do not want to revise, priorities we do not want challenged, control we do not want to give up, we redefine Jesus to make Him fit with where we are.
But when Jesus asserts His lordship, when He speaks to you with authority through His word, do you see Him clearly? The people of Nazareth could not see Him. Why? Because their familiarity [that pseudo-familiarity] with Him, ultimately made Him unfamiliar.
How have you done this? I know I have. When I fail to see, when I am unwilling to see Christ as Lord over a certain area of my life, then I am making Him into something He is not. I’m wrongly defining Him as a King with some authority, and not all authority. I’m making Him into a part-time Lord, and not an all-the-time Lord. But if He is Lord, He is Lord of all; of all things, in all places, and at all times.
He is Lord over your thoughts. He is Lord over your plans. He is Lord over your marriage. He is Lord over your finances. He is Lord over your career. He is Lord over your free time. He is Lord over your words. He is Lord over your ambitions. He is Lord over your commitments. He is even Lord over your hurts; over your past regrets, over your present struggles, and over your future worries. If He is Lord, He is Lord over everything, over your entire life.
This is the Jesus who offends so many, because this is the Jesus that threatens our familiar, comfortable control, even though our life is unraveling because of sin. But this is also the Jesus who fulfills, because this is the Jesus who transforms our chaos into peace; whose authority brings life into our death.
But there's more. I think God wants to drive this point home this morning, by giving us a glimpse of how Nazareth’s rejection of Jesus as Lord led to their rejection of God’s blessings.
III. The Consequences of a Deficient Definition (6:5, 6)
Take a look at verses 5 and 6...
And he [Jesus] could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.
This is where we see that even though the townspeople in the synagogue mention His mighty works at the end of verse 2, they apparently have only heard about them; because as we see here, He could do no mighty work in Nazareth.
Now on the surface, verse 5 is somewhat disturbing. Jesus could not do any miracles in Nazareth? Well, that’s not exactly true because the second half of verse 5 does tell us He performed a few healings there. But how is it, that in general, He was unable to perform any miracles?
Well this verse is not talking about Jesus’ ability to perform miracles as much as it is the people’s inability to believe. For we read in verse 6, Jesus marveled, He was amazed at their unbelief. Jesus was not a stoic because He had supernatural knowledge. As a human being, he was astounded by the extent of and the effect of doubt in these people’s lives.
But Jesus’ failure to do miracles in Nazareth only makes sense when we remember that Jesus’ miracles took place in the context of faith. In the last chapter, in 5:25-34 we find that the woman with the hemorrhage activated the healing power of Christ with her faith in Him. Jesus did not come to do signs in order to make people believe. He came to call people to faith and reward those who responded in faith.
But here in Nazareth, it appears that only a few sick people believed in Him. The vast majority of people were offended by His seemingly pretentious claims.
Thus, He could do no miracles there because there was no one seeking a miracle; there was no one coming to Him. Instead they rejected him, probably even those who desperately needed His healing touch.
As a result, Mark tells us that Jesus and His disciples moved on to other villages to share the very message that those in Nazareth had rejected. As far as we know from the Gospels, Jesus never returned to his hometown.
So what we see here, what I believe God is showing us in this sobering conclusion, is that their rejection of Jesus cost them amazing blessings of faith. Jesus wanted to bless and heal this town he knew so well. Can you imagine the love He had for these people, people he had known all His life.
Maybe He went there with some expectations; Maybe He was hoping that the proverb He later quoted would be wrong in this case. Maybe that partly explains why He was so amazed when they were so offended by Him and His message.
I believe when we reject Jesus’ lordship over areas of our life, even over our entire life, we, like they, forfeit the chance to see Jesus work wonders in and through us. We could put it this way: When our view of Jesus fails to bring us to our knees, our view of Jesus will fail to bring us God’s power.
Is it by God's grace alone that we can have the right view of Jesus? Absolutely. But God gives His grace through that process of calling us to trust. We might be angry when we read about the treatment Jesus’ endured from His own neighbors, from His hometown. But we should be grieved when we see the consequences of their doubt, the results of their so-called familiarity. And that grief should translate into grief over our own loss.
Do you know that God wants to work wonders in your life? Do you know that God wants to work wonders through your life? Could it be said about our lives: And he [Jesus] could do no mighty work there?
Is that what you want? Or do you want, do you desire that God would do His miraculous work in and through you? Listen to what C.S. Lewis said about our desires:
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Are you pleased, content, with a deficient definition of Jesus that keeps you in control of the mud pies and the slum? If only we could see the joy we’re missing. If only we could see, that in all of the areas of our life where we fail to submit to Christ, we are forfeiting front row seats on an incredible display of God’s transforming power. If only the people of Nazareth could have seen what they were giving up because they thought they knew Jesus.
Oh, we so desperately need, I so desperately need to submit to Jesus in all things; to stop playing games with Him. Will we follow Him, forsaking all, or will we be satisfied as pseudo-followers, picking and choosing what suits us?
Remember the end of verse 3? And they took offense at Him. The truth of the gospel, the Good News, reminds us that the same could be said about all of us. Isn't this one of the reasons Jesus of Nazareth became Jesus of Golgotha; why the carpenter was killed as a criminal? WE took offense at Him. He threatened, He threatens our so-called control. This is why the Bible calls us enemies of God. This is why the gospel of grace is so powerful. Remember what Paul wrote in Romans 5:10...
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)
Christ died for those who took offense at Him in order to remove the offense of our sin. He died to give us eyes to see Him for who He truly is. He died and rose again so that we could confess, “Jesus is Lord.” Listen to this: He died to give us the faith to receive His mighty works. With the might work of the cross, we are just like the people of Nazareth. But through the death of Jesus, we can know the very things Jesus proclaimed that day in the synagogue:
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind...
Let's ask God to let those truths wash over us afresh this morning.