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Expecting the usual! For the hometown folks, that meant Jesus as they always knew him. For the disciples, it meant witnessing one surprise after another. Did either side get what they expected?
Then Jesus went from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue.
Many were astonished, saying, "Where did this Man get these things? What wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" So they were offended at Him.
But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house." Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.
And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.
Mark 6:1-6 NKJV, condensed
One skeptic put it this way when first hearing about Jesus of Nazareth--"Can anything good come out of Nazareth!" That was the town's reputation. Not even Jesus could break through and transcend it. The reason nothing good came out of Nazareth was because nobody, not even those who lived there, ever expected that it would. Jesus was caught in the clutches of nothing good. He was simply a favorite son from an unfavorable place. That's the way it was.
Jesus and these people from Nazareth had worshipped together for years, laughed together, cried together, and discussed their common problems. Jesus had been a carpenter; worked his miracles in wood back then. They had all grown up and mingled with members of each other's family. He knew their stories, they knew his.
There's something about familiarity which keeps a person in their place. It's like there are unwritten rules which shun greatness, unique expression, and for that matter, anything out of the ordinary. Maybe Nazareth was like that. No particular person may outshine the others. If you excel or produce too much, you make everyone else look bad. Can't have that.
When Jesus returned home this time, he had twelve disciples with him, plus others who followed him around and hung on his every word. When they went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, there might well have been more visitors than homefolks. That in itself is cause for aggravation. After all, we don't need everyone plus their uncle around here!
People were amazed when Jesus sat down to teach them. They didn't know he was so good! Which raised some questions. Where did he get all that wisdom? How come he can work miracles with those hands of his? They had been at ease with the carpenter, but they didn't know how to interact with a celebrated miracle-worker. Who does he think he is coming home with an entourage!
Isn't this Mary's son, they asked rhetorically; his brothers and sisters--we see them every day. Jesus used to be a familiar part of their community, now they wondered who he was. They couldn't explain the change, and didn't like it. Certainly didn't see it as God's doing. Strangers might be enthralled with Jesus, but the hometown folks definitely were not.
Something about this new Jesus displeased and offended them. He generated distress, inflamed their emotions, ruffled some feathers. They chafed at his popularity, resented his success, rejected his authority. There was no way Jesus could perform miracles in that atmosphere.
Now it was Jesus' turn to be amazed. His old neighbors and friends didn't trust him anymore. It must have been very painful. No honor; no respect; no faith! Jesus had good news but they refused to receive it, choosing sickness over health. They revealed a side of themselves he had not seen before and it wasn't pretty.
Jesus' line about a prophet without honor sounds a bit philosophical. Maybe he was saying: That's life! Or we could take it as criticism as he disparaged his hometown, then his relatives and even those within his own house. Just reading the words off the page does not do justice to what he said because we don't know how he said it. But it's clearly not complimentary.
For the homefolks it was too big a leap from nothing good to Jesus being sent from heaven to do the works of God. Believing in nothing good produced nothing much. Only a few people were healed of their sicknesses. They would learn the hard way that when we have no faith and we do not co-operate, God can do no good work in us. So Jesus departed Nazareth and moved on to villages where the faith of strangers would enable him to do what he was meant to do.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Thoughts of "home" often bring on the question, "What ever happened to . . . . . . . ?" Describe someone from your past you wonder about.
Anticipation and planning can be more fun and fulfilling that the actual event. When has that been true for you? Why did that event or visit fall short of your expectations?
Describe some of the typical emotions and memories people have when they travel to a place where they lived in the past, or where family and friends await their arrival? What might Jesus have been thinking as he headed home to Nazareth?
Jesus' mother, brothers and sisters are quiet throughout this story. Does that suggest anything to you?Mary does not surface again in the Gospel story until the crucifixion. His brothers come to light shortly thereafter in the beginning of the book of Acts when they are included, along with Mary, among the believers. What are some of the hard realities of family life which make faith, trust and honor difficult within the walls of one's abode?
Think about the word "offended" and define what it means. What are some things which offend you? Is it true we are probably offended more at home than anywhere else?When have you felt more comfortable with strangers than with family?
The Bible teaches us that God is the great initiator. God was at work in our lives long before we ever became aware of God's loving kindness. So why would lack of faith in Nazareth prohibit miracles from happening there? What exactly did Jesus want the people of Nazareth to believe? What is the relationship between our faith and God's good work?
The tragedy in this story is that some positively great changes could have taken place in that town, if the people had only believed. Do you think you ever missed out on something good happening to you because you lacked the faith to believe that it could? When have circumstances prevented you from doing what you are meant to do?
Home can be the hardest place to hold on to our religious beliefs and live them. If you can identify with this statement, what comfort or instruction does this story about Jesus and his hometown provide for you?