Mark 6:1-3a… Jesus went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom given to him? What mighty works are formed 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?”
After raising Jarius’ dead daughter back to life in Capernaum in 5:36-43, Marks says, “Jesus went away from there and came to his own country.” Of course Jesus’ “own country” was Nazareth – about 20 miles southwest of Capernaum, the town he had been using as a home-base of sorts. This trip to Nazareth was actually Jesus’ second trip there following his baptism approximately one year prior. Matthew 4:12-17 records that Jesus went to Nazareth right after his 40-days in the wilderness when he was tempted by the devil. Though Matthew records nothing about that brief stay there, Luke 4:14-30 records that Jesus created quite a stir there when he proclaimed himself the Messiah in the Nazareth synagogue. The people, however, were highly offended and attempted to kill their hometown boy, but he escaped. He then traveled into Capernaum where he gathered his disciples and performed the Kingdom signs of Mark 1-5.
In 6:2 Jesus went into the synagogue on the sabbath and began to teach – the very thing he had done approximately one year before in Nazareth. This time, however, his ministry had become well-known in and around the region. His family there had heard all about his ministry, but they believed that he’d gone mad (cf. Mark 3:20-22). Therefore, entering Nazareth again for a second time after his near-death experience the year before seems to be a dangerous venture. He was welcomed without incident in the synagogue, but the people were offended by his words and his wisdom. After all, he was nothing more than Mary’s son – a carpenter in their town.
In v. 3 the scorn of the people clearly reflects the fact that their hardened hearts were unchanged one year later. They asked, “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” Lane notes that this is a derogatory statement meant to demean Jesus in light of how wise he sounded. The term for “carpenter” was used for common workers, so the people seem to be saying, “Isn’t he simply a common laborer just like us?” By adding that he was the “son of Mary” they were also debasing him because the Jews never described a man as the son of his mother but always by his father. It was only done when trading insults. Clearly, the people did not recognize Jesus for who he really was but only as a common person with no education and no credentials.
The added phrase by the people that Jesus’ brothers and sisters were well-known in the town reveals that Jesus had siblings, albeit half-siblings. The mention of the four boys and Jesus’ sisters alongside of Mary, all in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, shows that Jesus’ immediate family was well-known throughout Nazareth. And each Gospel speaks of Jesus’ “brothers” showing how familiar Jesus was to the people there – a familiarity that made them scorn him.
Food for Thought
When a preacher’s words hit hard, when they convict, it’s natural for the one convicted to belittle the teacher. It makes them feel better. This was even the case with the Son of God. The crowd he taught are described as “astonished” at his teaching – a word that means to be “amazed and gripped with fear.” The people were so offended by Jesus’ teaching that they attempted to write him off as a simple peasant. So it is when people refuse to be taught and are dead-set on a life of disobedience. Even Jesus’ miracles couldn’t persuade the ones who simply refused to believe. Jesus’ words are hard, and we should expect them to be. He’s the Creator God!
Mark 6:3b-6a… And they took offense at Jesus. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.
In the latter part of v. 3 the text says, “And they took offense at Jesus.” The reason was that he and his family were just well-know residents of Nazareth. He was nothing more than a carpenter whose family everyone was acquainted with. His familiarity with the townspeople, along with his former run-in there (of announcing that he was the Messiah just after his baptism in the Jordan in Luke 4:12ff.), caused the people to take offense at him. But mainly the people were offended because their hearts were hardened. It’s not that Jesus’ words weren’t believable, and it’s not that his miraculous works had not been witnessed by the people. They simply refused to believe in the words and works of this young man who had grown up in their midst.
It is noteworthy that Jesus was nothing more than a regular man who grew up as a regular boy in Nazareth. An ancient legend found in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (an ancient Gnostic heresy) says that Jesus performed many miraculous feats during his childhood years. Jesus is said to have turned mud into sparrows and purified river waters and made them into pools along with many other miraculous stories. If these legends were true, however, then the people of Nazareth wouldn’t have viewed Jesus as just an ordinary man in v. 3. On the contrary, his words and works would not have surprised them if he had been known as a miracle worker in Nazareth.
Upon being scorned and rejected by the people of his hometown Jesus quoted a well-known proverb of the day to them: “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” In other words, prophets who spoke the words of God were generally accepted by folks who didn’t know them, but when a hometown boy comes back to his roots the people take offense when he teaches. This holds true for anyone who is known as a child but who later grows up and becomes an important figure in his hometown community. The proverb was (and is) true, but it became simply another barrier for the people to not believe. Jesus planted the seed of his being the Messiah on his first trip to Nazareth, and he was rejected. After his ministry and his reputation had become known in all of Galilee, however, his hometown still rejected him. They simply refused to believe.
As a result of Nazareth’s rejection of Jesus as the Christ, Mark says that Jesus could do no mighty work there. In other words, the unbelief of the community at large made Jesus’ miraculous powers null and void. It would have been a waste of time for him to do great wonders, for the people were not going to believe anyway. All he did was heal a couple of people, and v. 6 says, “he marveled at their unbelief.” Jesus himself could hardly believe, having come to simply seek and save the lost, how hardened the hearts of his hometown had become towards him. He sowed the seeds of salvation a week before, only to find that they had fallen on the beaten path where Satan had devoured his words of truth. So it was then, so it is today.
Food for Thought
We as Christians have the breath of life so that we can tell others about Jesus Christ. It is the mission of the church, and it is the mission of each individual believer. But we should take heart, however, in our “failures” to convert all people with whom we share. Even Jesus Christ’s evangelism was rejected! It just goes to show that our efforts to sow are what counts when we evangelize. We don’t convert; we simply sow the seeds of truth and let God give eternal life.
- The phenomenon of unbelief.
- Jesus’ ministry began in Galilee; Herod Antipas; went to Nazareth and rejected; then went into Capernaum where he performed many signs and wonders.
- Parable of the sower in Mark 4:1-20… only 25% believe. This is illustrated in Mark 1-6:
1. Drove out demons; taught w/authority, healed diseases (1:21-34)… mid-soils
2. Healed a leper (1:40-45)… 4th soil b/c he told everyone
3. Healed/forgave the paralytic (2:1-12)… mid-soils
4. Ate w/sinners (2:13-17)… 1st soil
5. No fasting & doing good on Sabbath (2:18-3:6)… 1st soil
6. Deeds attributed to Satan (3:20-35)… 1st soil
7. Calming of storm (4:35-41)… 4th soil
8. Healing of demoniac (5:1-20)… 1st soil for town… 4th soil for demoniac
9. Dead girl/sick woman (5:21-43)… 4th soil
10. Rejected in hometown of Nazareth (6:1-6)… 1st soil
- Herod’s hard heart that rejected Jesus out of indifference
- The miraculous feed of 5,000 then 4,000 – the initial fascination proved false
- Scribes & Pharisees in their attempts to condemn Jesus (stony ground)
- Canaanite woman who confessed Jesus after daughter was exorcised (good soil)
- Galileans who brought their sick to Jesus but had no genuine commitment
· The power of belief is attested throughout the Scriptures
- Abraham believed God and became the father of a great nation
- Israel believed God and walked through the Sea
- David believed God and slew Goliath
- Naaman believed God and was healed of leprosy
- Daniel believed God and was spared from the lions (as did his friends)
- A Roman centurion believed God, and his servant was healed
- A Philippian jailer believed God, and his family was saved
· The power of unbelief is strong too: (saying NO to God in spite of the evidence)
- Adam and Eve didn’t believe and plunged the human race into sin
- The world of Noah’s day refused to believe and died in the flood
- Pharaoh refused to believe and lost his son
- Israel refused to believe and wandered the desert for 40 years
- Aaron refused to believe God and led the nation into idolatrous worship
- Moses refused to believe God and was kept back from the Promised Land
- Nebuchadnezzar refused to believe God and became a senseless beast
- The scribes/Pharisees refused to believe and committed the unpardonable sin
- The rich young ruler refused to believe and forfeited eternal life
- Felix, Festus, & Agrippa refused to believe God through Paul and were lost forever
- Preaching to hometown folks & family must be done cautiously.
- Christians should be willing to fail when sharing the message of Christ.
- Even Jesus “failed” to convert many, and they persecuted him and killed him.
- “Proving” God’s existence won’t convert many as attested by Jesus’ miracles.
- The soils are God’s business. Sowing the Word is ours. He causes growth.
- Two kinds of people: wheat and tares. Tares are Satan’s children, and they won’t believe.
- To believe in Jesus is to believe in God. To reject Jesus is to categorically reject God.
- A prophet is generally honored – but not always in his hometown.
- The status of the messenger is a moot point. His message, however, is what counts.
- People will use all kinds of excuses to not believe, but that isn’t our concern. It doesn’t change our task in the least bit. The power of God is found in His Word. Sow it!
- Jesus did not perform wonders in the face of unbelief… a casting of pearls before swine.
- We may marvel at unbelief, but it is a fact of life. Only one soil grows to the harvest.