We should begin this morning by mentioning that in Mark chapter 6 Jesus is about to wrap up the 2nd third of His three year earthly ministry.
Jesus has already transitioned from the “Period of Obscurity” where He was for the most part an unknown quantity - to a “Period of Popularity” where we see Him drawing huge crowds anxious to hear Him preach and preform miracles.
As we saw in Mark 3:6 the seeds of the third and final “Period of Opposition” have already been sown. The religious establishment and the political players of the day have already hatched a plot to murder Jesus.
The only thing standing in their way was Jesus’ continued support among the population at large. In this chapter, the perception of the popular opinion begins to errode following a trip home to Nazareth.
[Mark 6:1-6] Then He went out from there (region of Galilee) and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And 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? And 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.
Scene of Activity
Jesus is on a return visit to Nazareth.
Since His last trip home (which occurred between Mark 1 & 2 and the details of which are recorded in Luke 4), Jesus has not only become a well-known commodity, He is now rolling with an entourage of disciples (a detail absent from His first trip to Nazareth).
Though the idea of Jesus “traveling with disciples” seems innocent enough, this new development generated a significant reaction among the residence of Nazareth.
Let me take a second and explain why....
The formal, religious education afforded at the local synagogue consisted of two stages: “Beth Sepher” which focused on the written Law, and “Beth Midrash” which focused on the oral Law.
The only “higher-learning” of the day came in a third and final stage when a young man would be chosen to continue His studies at the feet of a Rabbi. (These advanced studies focused primarily on the interpretation of the Law.)
If you were chosen for this final stage of education (and few were), you would be formally referred to as the “disciple of that a Rabbi.”
A disciples relationship with their Rabbi was a type of 1st-century intern program.
Only after years of training and mentorship would a disciple become appointed a Rabbi in their own right (once again very few made it to this point).
This is why when Jesus returned to Nazareth with disciples the locals were left wondering. Since Jesus had never been discipled, the question on everyone’s mind was how and when did Jesus become a Rabbi?
Mark says that after hearing Jesus speak they were even more perplexed asking, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter?”
Understand.... this skeptical attitude towards Jesus welled up from a skeptical perspective of Jesus. The people of Nazareth knew Jesus the retired carpenter, but they did not know Jesus the Rabbi!
Mark tells us the locals were “offended at Him.”
The word “offended” is the Greek verb “skandalizo” from which we get our English word “scandal.” Jesus coming to town as a Rabbi - with disciples - when they only knew Him as a carpenter became a scandalous affair.
Please note.... the people were not offended by Jesus, but they were offended at Jesus. It wasn’t what He said that rubbed them the wrong way. It was who He was that caused such a strong reaction.
Since the townsfolk was certain Jesus had never been the disciple of a Rabbi, the natural question as to how Jesus (a carpenter by trade) received His Scriptural training is relevant and worthy of our own consideration this morning.
1. Jesus received His theological training at church.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say Jesus was incredibly intelligent. As a young, Jewish male attending school at the local synagogue in Nazareth, I am confident Jesus excelled in His study of Scripture.
Luke tells us concerning a 12 year old Jesus that “they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who hear Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.”
The one thing we know for certain concerning Jesus’ developmental years was that He was a dedicated church goer! Jesus loved joining the people of God in the worship of God and the study of God’s Word. Often we’re told Jesus would enter the synagogue on the Sabbath “as was His custom.”
Before we continue we should pause and address another Relevant Question: How did Jesus go from being an excelling student at the age of 12 - to a carpenter when we see Him again at the age of 30?
Aside from the fact this period of Jesus’ life has been left only to conjecture, the question is further complicated when examined within the context of Jewish culture.
When a young man no longer had the chops to stay up with the curriculum, he was asked to leave his studies to learn his father’s trade. Because Joseph was a carpenter, one could easily assume Jesus ended up dropping out of school.
While this first theory is obviously unlikely, there is another possibility that seems more feasible and Scripturally consistent. If the father of a family died, the burden to provide for the family would automatically fall to the first born son.
Most scholars believe that somewhere in Jesus’ early teen years Joseph died forcing Him to leave behind His studies to care for the needs of His family.
In addition to His mother Mary, Jesus would also have to provide for His six siblings (4 brothers and at least 2 sisters) as well.
This would not only explain why Jesus seemed to abandon His formal education to be a carpenter, but it would also explain why we have no further mention of Joseph in Scripture following Jesus’ 12th birthday.
This theory might also shed light as to why the folks in Nazareth referred to Jesus as the “Son of Mary” instead of the customary titled, the “Son of Joseph.”
Regardless, this reference would have been a clear dig towards the origins of Jesus birth. Though we know Mary was a virgin who miraculously conceived of the Holy Spirit - and everyone was aware Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father - people in Nazareth always viewed Jesus as a fatherless bastard.
2. Jesus received His theological training on His own.
Though Jesus was likely forced from His full-time studies in the synagogue or at the feet of a Rabbi to work as a carpenter, I think it’s safe to assume Jesus never abandoned His study of Scripture. Instead of a “formal education,” Jesus studied on His own learning at the feet of His heavenly Father.
Maybe we should rethink our own theological training.
The case can be made (seeing Jesus as our ultimate example) that adequate, theological training isn’t and shouldn’t be limited to a formal institution.
Don’t get me wrong.... I’m not saying we shouldn’t utilize the benefits afforded by seminary or Bible College, but as with Jesus, everyone one of us have two readily available resources at our disposal.
1. You should regularly attend a Bible-teaching church.
Faithfully attending a church that faithfully teaches God’s Word will have incredible benefits to your understanding of the Bible.
The key is finding a church that actually teaches the “whole counsel of God” instead of the common, elementary, topical studies that fail to move a person beyond the milk of the Word and into the meat of Scriptural understanding.
2. You should faithfully study the Bible on your own.
I hope you understand your study of God’s Word shouldn’t be limited to a one-day-a-week-church-service anymore than a growing child should be limited to a-one-meal-a-week diet!
As a Christian you should be making a habit of not only “reading Scripture” but “studying Scripture.” As Paul exhorted Timothy.... “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
May I encourage you to move beyond panning for the flakes of truth, and instead mine deeper for the nuggets of lasting value!
In today’s information age that places an unlimited amount of excellent resources at your fingertips, studying the Bible has never been easier!
Influenced by the power of the Holy Spirit - a Pandora station of good jazz - a quiet place for reflection - equipped with a Bible, BlueLetterBible.org, a few free online commentaries like EnduringWord.com, and an unlimited amount of free audio resources anyone can dig into the meat of God’s Word on their own.
When it’s all said and done I have found that the key to Bible study really boils down to desire! Are you willing to make Sunday’s a priority for you and your family? Are you willing to set aside a hour here or there throughout the week to study on your own? If it was important for Jesus, I think it’s important for you as well.
Jesus was a Carpenter!
The idea that Christianity was started by a “carpenter” has always been used by the enemies of Christ as an insult, but I loved the fact Jesus worked a blue collar job!
The word “carpenter” is the Greek word “tekton” which suggests Jesus was more than a generic day-laborer. The word indicates Jesus was a craftsman. He was a woodworker. Jesus would have been buds with Ron Swanson.
Though we can’t prove this.... Justin Martyr, an early church father, stated that Jesus’ specialty was hand-crafting ploughs and yokes for the local farmers.
The fact Jesus was a carpenter by trade is significant for three reasons:
1. It tells us Jesus likes to build things.
This should really come as no surprise! According to John 1, Jesus (the 2nd person of the God-head) was instrumental in the creation process. According to Genesis 1, Jesus spoke matter into existence, and then over the span of 6 days proceeded to create the entire world!
Scripture tells us that Jesus was and has always been a builder. In the beginning, He created the world. Today, He’s actively building His church by rebuilding the lives of fallen people! In the future, Jesus is going to rebuild a devastated world by creating a new order, with new kingdom, a new government, in a new Jerusalem.
As a first-century carpenter, Jesus enjoyed taking a piece of unfinished, raw, maybe even damaged, and discarded lumber back to His shop where He’d slowly and sometimes painstakingly craft it into something useful, beautiful, and unique. A rather incredible image!
Today, nothing brings Jesus greater joy than taking the life of a man or woman lost in sin, damaged by the world, discarded - unfinished - and raw.... redeeming them to Himself - providing a future and new hope - and then taking the time to craft him or her into something useful and unique for His purposes.
Paul even says in Ephesians 2:10 that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
2. It tells us Jesus is identifiable.
As a carpenter, Jesus was a normal guy. He wasn’t removed from the everyday man. Jesus didn’t come to appeal to the academic or the religious. He wasn’t a politician. He wasn’t a suit and tie kind of guy.
Jesus was a man of the working class. He knew what it was like to earn a living! He was a blue collar man for the blue collar man.
Everyday, Jesus would rise before daybreak - drink his cup of Folders (Dunkin wasn’t around yet) - put on his Carhartt overalls - slip on his Georgia boots - load into His pickup truck and head to the shop.... where He’d spend His day working with His hands till sundown providing for His family.
3. It tells us Jesus was manly.
I’ve been reading a book titled, “Why Men Hate Going to Church” and in it one of the contributing factors as to why we see an exodus of male involvement in the modern church is the neutering of Jesus that has taken place in a progressive, touchy-feely brand of popular Christianity.
Today, less than 40% of adults attending church are male.... with about a quarter of married women attending without their husbands?
Should it be no surprise to anyone that by presenting Jesus as a soft, meek, effeminate man who promoted peace and love instead of strength and resolve that men have found it difficult rallying to His side? Without going into to many details this is one reason Islam has supplanted Christianity is the third-world as well as the American inner city void of male leadership!
As a carpenter Jesus defies some of our preconceived opinions. Yes, Jesus was loving and a peacemaker; however, Scripture presents Jesus as being equally strong, creative, courageous, even rugged.
Jesus was the ultimate man’s man.... tan from the hours in the sun, chiseled from the hours planing wood, callused and scared from the wear and tear of the profession. Jesus was determined, a man of resolve, cool under pressure, steady in the face of opposition, ready for a fight when necessary.
Jesus might have come to lay down His life for His friends, but He’ll come again wielding a sword seeking to take the lives of His enemies!
Though feministic elements might have popularized a neutered perspective of Jesus, never forget Jesus was the kind of man who endeared the men of His day and men throughout the centuries to follow Him even to the point of death.
I am convinced if we want men to reenter the ranks of the church it’s time we get back to an accurate portrayal of the Man, Christ Jesus. He is a builder! He is identifiable to the common man! Jesus is a man’s man worthy of our allegiance, devotion, and loyalty! Jesus is the King of Kings!
Jesus is not deterred by rejection.
In addition to the neutering of Jesus, Bible students can also fall prey to the common mistake of de-humanizing Christ.
Understand, Jesus had the same kind of human emotions you and I grapple with everyday. He experienced happiness and sorrow - joy and grief - excitement and disappointment. Jesus knew the gratification of acceptance, but He was also intimately aware of the misery of rejection.
For a moment I want you to read between the words of our text and imagine the natural emotions Jesus would have experienced being rejected by His own....
Though Jesus ministered to people far and wide, the one thing unique to Nazareth was His distinct personal history with the people of this town.
Nazareth was His hood. Jesus would spend more of His life in the alleyways and playgrounds of Nazareth than He would any other place on earth. Jesus grew up with these folks. He attended synagogue and went to school with them. He owned a business that brought Him into daily contact with the townsmen.
Knowing what I know of Jesus, there is do doubt He had an incredible love for these people.... which is what made their rejection so difficult!
It’s been said “home is where the heart is” meaning the pain inflicted at home cuts deeper than almost any other place. Though our text doesn’t specifically state this reality, I am sure the rejection by the hometown folks of the hometown kid cut Jesus deeply. Desiring their acceptance would have only been natural!
And yet, though hurt by rejection, Jesus’ reaction to rejection is telling.... Mark is clear that Jesus didn’t allow the natural discouragement of rejection to deter Him from His calling and mission.
In response to their skepticism Jesus quotes a common proverb of the day.... “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” But then Jesus does something else I find interested.... Mark says, “Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.”
In commenting on this passage, many scholars only address the work Jesus didn’t do in Nazareth, while failing to observe the work Jesus did accomplish. Though rejected by the majority, there were a few people who believed and their lives were forever changed by the ministry of Christ.
You know sometimes it’s easy to allow disappointment to spawn inactivity or bred apathy towards a situation. Many times we approach things with an all or nothing mentality, meaning when things don’t go as we hoped and discouragement sets in bailing becomes the easiest reaction.
However, we witness something different in our Lord! Jesus shook off the discouragement of rejection - looked beyond the work He could have done -focusing instead on the work He could do. A worthy example we should also follow in the face of rejection!
Jesus marvels at unbelief.
Consider the magnitude of these words.... “Jesus marveled!” Jesus, the God of the universe, the Creator of all things found the unbelief of these Nazarenes utterly unbelievable!
We’re then told because of their “unbelief” Jesus “could do no mighty work there.” This is not to say the God-man was unable or lacked the ability to do something. The idea is that their lack of faith was a direct inhibitor to the work Jesus would do in their lives. Jesus simply wouldn’t answer their unbelief with a miraculous work.
It’s a truth that you have to do something really extraordinary to get this kind of reaction out of God. It was such a rare thing for Jesus to marvel that we only find this reaction in two places: (1). In the story of the centurion in Luke 7, we’re told Jesus marveled at faith found in an unexpected place. (2). In contrast, in Mark 6, we see Jesus marvel at the absence of faith in an expected place.
Of all people who should have believed in Jesus, the Nazarenes were at the top of the list. Their blatant unbelief was more than a surprise, it was down right shocking.
We have countless examples in Scripture of Jesus responding in a miraculous way to a person’s faith. We even see Jesus at work in the midst of a person’s lack of faith, but we never see Jesus working in spite of a person’s unbelief.
The absence of faith still possesses a genuine desire to be persuaded. Unbelief is different because it invokes our freewill. Unbelief declares that I know the truth, but I am still making a conscious decision (for whatever reason) to reject what I know to be true. It’s only in the presence of unbelief that Jesus refuses to intervene.
Familiarity doesn’t guarantee faith.
You have to consider.... Why did these Nazarene’s reject Jesus even in the presence of insurmountable evidence and undeniable revelation?
Though it’s only left to conjecture, maybe they were over-familiar? Maybe it was pride? It could have simply been stubbornness? It could have been a number of things. I guess the better question we should ask is why - even with so much evidence pointing to the divinity of Jesus - do people still reject Him today?
Either way one thing is clear.... proximity to Jesus doesn’t always guarantee faith in Jesus! In Matthew 7 Jesus said that “many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name.... and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you....”
Jesus is willing to be rejected.
Of all the things that blow my mind from the first six verses of Mark 6 is the reality that Jesus allowed these people - whom He undoubtedly loved with all His heart - to reject Him.
They made a decision to reject Jesus. They refused His ministry in their lives. And in an interesting twist, Jesus honored their decision by leaving. We should point out Jesus would never return to Nazareth!
Don’t think for a moment Jesus left Nazareth without doing everything He could to persuade them. It should be noted that Jesus’ trip back to Nazareth at this point in His ministry was a daring and even dangerous one.
In Luke 4, after Jesus had finished teaching in the synagogue during His first trip back home “all those in the synagogue were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.”
Jesus’ first visit concluded with an assassination attempt. Why return? We can reason Jesus came back out of a great desire to provide these people one last chance to accept Him for who He really was!
Jesus had done everything in His power to draw these people to Himself via His incredible patience and love, but there was one thing Jesus refused to do.... The one thing that will limit the saving work of an all powerful God is the freewill of man to make a decision for themselves!
There are those who have this great problem with the existence of Hell because it paints a loving God out to be a cruel executioner seeking blood and vengeance. I couldn’t disagree more.
When you recognize that hell is the final act of man’s freedom.... the rejection of His Son and His will for their lives and is in a simplified since the honoring of man’s free choices.... it becomes hard to see hell being the manifestation of vengeance, but rather love.
In many ways I actually believe hell presents a radicle brand of love. A love that is willing to allow rejection is a love that is vulnerable and sincere. It is a love that is real and passionate. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that “hell is the greatest manifestation of God’s love.”
In a quick recap of the first six verses of Mark chapter 6:
- If you want to be like Jesus, attend church regularly and study His Word faithfully!
- As a builder Jesus is always looking for remodels. Jesus came to be identified with the common man. He is a man worthy of our loyalty and devotion!
- Like Jesus never allow the disappointment of rejection to deter you from your ultimate purpose and mission. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do - focus on what you can!
- The only thing that can limit Jesus’ work in your life is unbelief. Familiarity with Jesus doesn’t guarantee faith in Jesus.
- Finally, Jesus loves you enough to allow you the freedom to reject Him! I guess to that end I agree with Rob Bell.... “Love indeed does win!"