Mark 6:1 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 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! 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. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
This text was preached in morning worship ...
"Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." Isn't that the truth?! We know what he was like growing up. There's nothing special about him.
When I was growing up on our farm, I would frequently hear a name on the radio news. He was a farmer's advocate, well known, well respected, and often quoted. My father clearly respected him. One lazy Sunday afternoon, one of those when visitors come and the adults talk while the children become a little invisible, I heard the name again. My dad was saying he didn't understand why Gladstone people were so churlish about "G". And Grandpa said, He's a Gladstone boy. You know what people are like. A prophet is not without honour.....
Up to this point in the Gospel of Mark, there has been a litany of acceptance or rejection of Jesus. Crowds follow him, yet The Ten Cities beg him to leave. The people hang on his every word, although it is made clear their understanding is limited, while his family think he has taken leave of his senses. Jairus, the leader of a synagogue, falls at his feet, but his home town discounts him. The message is clear: you have to choose; will you listen to Jesus?
Do you notice that the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth was not denial. 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! Is not this the carpenter...? They recognised the truth in what he said!
I have a younger clergy colleague whose baby face, and gentle demeanour, left some wondering how he would ever cope in a parish. Then I watched him speak at a regional seminar, and was amazed at his insight and authority. I wondered to myself where I'd gone wrong. No invitations to speak ever came to me. I felt provincial. I also recognised this bloke was aware of stuff I'd not even thought about!
Fortunately, I really like him, because the time was ripe to write him off for some reason or other, or as Mark says, take offence. The people at Nazareth were not so fortunate. They took offence. They were so busy being annoyed that he was getting all the attention, and thinking, "Who does he think he is, saying all that?" they forgot to listen to what he said! They forgot to listen to the very things they had actually admired, and knew to be good and right.
We are at risk of doing this to Jesus. We know him too. We know his brothers and sisters in the church. Are we so busy taking offence that we forget to listen? When he comes to us in the person of those people who have sat in the next pew to us for years, the ones whose family scandals and personal failings we know so well, do we take offence, and fail to listen? Who does she think she is, saying that?!
Or we could look at this whole reading another way. What if we put ourselves in the role of Jesus? This is appropriate, for as Paul says, we are the body of Christ. We are meant to be Jesus to the people around us.
When we try to live out the gospel, who are we talking to? Are we talking to the people we have known for years, the people of our home town? How much will they listen? I wonder if we would do better to be like Jesus and his disciples, and go out to the other towns?
Jesus and the disciples went out and met new people- people who could hear the message fresh, without all the baggage of I know you! I was in primary school with you. Why would I ever want to listen to you? The disciples met new people, in their homes- on their turf. They took the opportunity, and if nothing came of it they moved on. It sounds ideal for our little old towns on the edge of the city. There are hundreds of new people, and more new housing estates coming.
We see that in this second story the disciples had great success. So as much as we may be faithful friends to our long time neighbours, perhaps it is also a time to make new friendships. To paraphrase the gospel, "a prophet is only without honour among her own people ."
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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