Rejected In Nazareth

OVERVIEW - Despite his miraculous deeds, his own hometown rejected his ministry and took offense at the humble origins of Jesus – Mark 6:1-6

Ghost Town - Photo by Ben Cliff on Unsplash
Jesus experienced conflict with each step he took toward Jerusalem. In the end, even those closest to him abandoned him, leaving him to die utterly alone. In Galilee and Gentile territory, he displayed his lordship over nature, demons, disease, and even death, and was met with enthusiastic crowds; but among his own people in Nazareth, he was met with unbelief, dishonor, and rejection - (
Mark 6:1-6). - [Ghost Town - Photo by Ben Cliff on Unsplash].

Earlier in his ministry, the crowds marveled at his authority and deeds, but in Nazareth, HE marveled at the lack of faith he found in what God was doing, and at the rejection of His final “prophet,” the Messiah - (Mark 1:22, 5:20).
  • (Mark 6:1-6) - “And he departed from there and is coming into his hometown, and his disciples are following him. And Sabbath having come, he began to be teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard were astonished, saying, ‘From where has this man these things, and what is the wisdom given to this man, and mighty works such as these are occurring through his hands?! Is not this one the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they were scandalized in him. And Jesus was saying to them that, ‘A prophet is not dishonored except in his hometown and among his kinsfolk and in his household.’ And he was unable to do not even one mighty work, except on a few sick, having laid hands, he healed them. And he was marveling because of their unbelief. And he was going around the villages in a circuit teaching” - (Parallel passagesMatthew 13:53-58. Luke 4:16-30).
In Mark’s narrative, his rejection in Nazareth was a prelude to the execution of John the Baptist, as well as a precursor to the trial and execution of Jesus - (Mark 1:14, 3:7-6:6, 14:43).

The Greek word rendered “hometown” more accurately means “fatherland.” Here, it refers to Nazareth, where Jesus grew up and learned his trade. That the crowd asked a rhetorical question about his craft indicates that, previously, he engaged in work in the area for which he was still known. The Greek noun rendered “carpenter” or tektōn is a generic term for an artisan, and could refer to several skilled trades, including carpentry and masonry.

Nazareth was a small and insignificant village. It is never mentioned in the Old Testament - (John 1:45-46, “Nathaniel said to him, ‘can any good thing come from Nazareth?’”).
The crowd acknowledged the wisdom displayed by Jesus and his mighty works. His miracles could not be denied. However, the villagers reacted with skepticism because of his lowly origins. They were offended by his ordinary pedigree and low social status. He was not a man of great prominence, wealth, or religious significance.

Where did he get his wisdom? He had not attended any of the recognized rabbinical schools and lacked the appropriate “credentials” to expound on the Hebrew scriptures. The men of Nazareth did not deny his insight, but they could not comprehend how he acquired it. They were offended by the vessel God had chosen, not by the contents of his message or the miraculous deeds done by him.

Familiarity breeds contempt. In this ancient culture, heredity and geographical origin had much to do with determining any man’s place in society. The crowd was “scandalized” by his lowly origins. A carpenter was one who engaged in manual labor, something one would not expect the Messiah and king of Israel to do.

The list of his brothers is found only here and in Matthew 13:55 (James, Joses, Judas, Simon). Elsewhere in the New Testament, James became a prominent leader in the church at Jerusalem, and Jude was the author of the epistle that bears his name - (Jude 1:1).

The passage does not say whether his family was present at the synagogue, but the crowd knew of his family. Presumably, his brothers and sisters were children whom Mary had by Joseph after the birth of Jesus. Here, he is designated the “son of Mary” rather than “Joseph,” which suggests the latter was dead by that time. Previously, his family had questioned what he was doing. It seems his siblings only accepted him as the Messiah after his death and resurrection - (Mark 3:21, 31, Acts 1:14, 1 Corinthians 9:5).

Ironically, no one denied that mighty deeds were done by him. Regardless, he was rejected by his own people. It was not his teachings or miracles that offended, but the person who performed them. Previously, he was rejected by the Pharisees and the Herodians.  Here, he was rejected by his hometown and family.

The paragraph ends with Jesus “going around the villages in a circuit teaching.” The proclamation of the Kingdom was his primary activity, not miracle-working or exorcisms, though he did those things when needed. Too often, his miracles produced the wrong results - Unbelief, confusion, offense, rejection.

The passage warns anyone who would follow Jesus of the possible rejection even by close associates and family he or she could experience. To emulate Jesus is to offend the world. Later, Jesus warned his disciples that times would come when “brother will deliver up brother unto death and children will rise up against parents to put them to death; you will be hated by all because of my name” - (Mark 1:14-3:6, 3:7-6:6).

Discipleship entails great personal risk and cost. If following Jesus comes without any costs, perhaps it is time to reassess whether we are "following the Lamb wherever he goes.” In Mark’s gospel account, rejection and opposition are the norm, not the exception.


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