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 offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, 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. –Mark 6:1-13 NRSV
There’s something about this story of Jesus returning to his hometown that reminds me of Rodney Dangerfield: “I tell ya…I get no respect….” You’d expect Nazareth, of all places, to give Jesus a welcoming embrace as he comes home at the beginning of his public ministry. But…noooooo.
Maybe because we’ve had two thousand years of identifying Jesus as a carpenter and the “son of Mary” we might miss the unspoken slam against him. Nowhere do we hear about Joseph, so it’s quite possible everybody in town knew of the apparently scandalous circumstances of his birth. Obviously, to them at least, this hometown boy couldn’t possibly be a prophet, a holy man.
But Mark doesn’t dwell on this rejection as much as other gospel writers. Instead, in true Markan style we get Jesus’ pattern for evangelization. He sends the Twelve out two by two and goes to nearby villages himself to teach and heal. Interestingly, the chief reason why he couldn’t accomplish much of either in Nazareth was because of their lack of faith.
In Nazareth Jesus was looked down on. Marginalized is a word we’d choose today. That should alert us to be mindful of the marginalized people in our own society–perhaps there’s a prophet among them. Or maybe we need to look at the margins first to find the Holy Spirit at work. Their mere presence among us may well be a “word of God” to those of us satisfied and smug, with all of our “stuff” as some kind of protective barrier to keep “the other” out.
What is the good news they are proclaiming and we’re unwilling or unable to hear because of preconceived ideas?
Just about everything in our society today gives this message: Worthwhile and influential ideas come from important people. Important people are wealthy or powerful–or both. Conversely, a lack of wealth or power should be an obvious indicator to right-thinking folks that “those kind of people” have little if nothing to contribute. Furthermore, they’re probably “takers” and “moochers” not “givers.” Bigotry can start just that easily. From there it’s a very well-paved and often-trod path.
Jesus offers the better way. It is his mission that matters most.
*Portions appeared previously in a 2012 ForeWords blog posting
- Most Christians Hate People like Jesus: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (mikerivageseul.wordpress.com)
- A Quiet Life (thebiblemeditator.wordpress.com)
- The Season after Pentecost, Proper 9 – Year B: July 8, 2012 (prayerbookguide.wordpress.com)
- Rev. Dr. Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder: No Priority Like Health, No Place Like Home: Mark 6:1-13 (huffingtonpost.com)
- Fifth Sunday after Trinity 8.7.12 Mark 6.1-13 (stephencherry1.wordpress.com)