Join us every sunday at 9:30 AM

“Hometown Failure; World-Changer”

July 7, 2024 Preacher: Minister Thomas Houston

Scripture: Mark 6:1–13

July 7, 2024 Seventh Sunday After Pentecost The text is Mark 6:1-13.


1[Jesus] came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.2On 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! 3Is 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. 4Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief.  Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11If 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.” 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.


May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

There are obviously two decidedly different narratives combined in this morning’s lesson from Mark’s gospel.  The first deals with Jesus being rejected in his hometown; the second recounts his sending out of the twelve disciples, conferring on them the authority to proclaim repentance and heal the sick.  While they appear to be unrelated, it’s apparent that the rejection of Jesus at home is in strong contrast to the success the disciples enjoyed when they ventured forth from the local area.       

Let’s take a look at what’s happening in the first story.  When referencing Jesus’ hometown, Mark is referring naturally to Nazareth.  And this morning’s event is taking place right after Jesus restored health to the woman enduring a hemorrhage for twelve years and his raising of Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter from the dead.  And just a short time before all this, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum and we read that the crowds there were amazed at his knowledge and holy wisdom.  Now back home, many of those hearing him preach in the local synagogue are also initially astounded by Jesus’ wisdom and deeds of power.  Yet others question how this hometown-boy is able to act in the manner he does, and eventually the topic comes around to Jesus’ parentage and birth.

“Isn’t this the son of Mary?” they ask.  I must confess that I have tended to lean in one particular direction whenever this topic of Jesus’ paternity is mentioned, especially when it’s in the context of him being back in Nazareth where he was born.  In ancient cultures a person would have been referred to as the son or daughter of their father.  When connecting Jesus to Mary, his mother, it’s always felt to me like his neighbors were dredging up the fact that Mary was pregnant with Jesus before she married Joseph; why else would the locals not extend this paternal courtesy to Jesus by naming him as Joseph’s son?  It has always felt like some of the locals had very long memories with regard to the circumstances of Jesus’ birth.  After a good deal additional research however, I have come to reconsider why Jesus is identified with his mother Mary, and not mentioned as being Joseph’s son.  Perhaps the reason is much less nefarious than petty neighborhood gossip.  Joseph is acknowledged to have been quite a good bit older than Mary, in fact he may have been married to another and she had died before he then married Mary.  At the time of his ministry Jesus was 30 to 33 years old.  Thus, Joseph might have been at the upper end of the lifespan of people in Jesus’ time.  The alternative reason for Jesus not being named as the son of Joseph is that Joseph may very likely have died.  To be honest, the jury is still out on this topic, but at this point I’m willing to keep an open mind and not think too harshly of Jesus’ neighbors; at least where the matter of how they refer to Jesus’ parentage is concerned.

But, there remains the negative ways that some of Jesus’ boyhood acquaintances seem to view him and his abilities as a prophet.  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? “  At the very least this smacks of resentment; “Doesn’t Jesus as a laborer have blisters on his hands just like the rest of us?”  “Aren’t his clothes a bit grimy from working like ours, and doesn’t he have dirt under his fingernails, just as we do?”  Noting the presence of his siblings is another way that those who are not impressed by Jesus’ teaching seek to maintain their view that he is no better than anyone else in Nazareth; “his sisters and brothers are here, and he’s no different from them”.  it’s just not possible that their boyhood pal could be the long-awaited Messiah!

Everywhere that Jesus went away from Nazareth, preaching and teaching, he was received and accepted by the strangers that he met; it seems that his neighbors and, in some cases his family are the ones who are quickest to reject him and what he says and does.  You will recall that only a few Sundays ago we read that Jesus’ family, his mother and brothers came to the house where he was trying to eat a meal with his disciples.  They were concerned that he was losing his mind because of the things he was doing and saying.  They came to retrieve him and tried to convince him to “stop all this nonsense”, to come home and forget all this “Son of God” stuff.  This morning he is back in Nazareth, having returned from Capernaum where he was welcomed and  acclaimed for his miraculous deeds.  Now back home he is reviled and looked upon with disdain.  For whatever reasons his neighbors and family had, it was true what Jesus proclaimed; “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”  Such a sad commentary!  Undeterred by this rejection, Jesus continued his ministry beyond Nazareth, resuming his proclamation of the Good News, the coming of the kingdom of God.

Which brings us to “Part 2” of this morning’s gospel reading.  Likely, still a bit disturbed by the less than encouraging way he was received in Nazareth, Jesus sends the twelve out in pairs to proclaim the gospel, preach repentance, and cure the sick.  Obviously, two would be more effective than one disciple alone, but likely this sending out of pairs had more to do with the dangers that could befall someone traveling alone out on the road.

Jesus is adamant that the ones being sent out (“apostles” in Greek) are to go forth with nearly no possessions.  They are to carry only a walking staff and the sandals they were wearing on their feet.  No money, no belt, no provisions, just a single light shirt.  That’s what a “tunic” really was, just a long-sleeved cotton or linen shirt.  They are forewarned; if they are not welcomed when they enter a new village, if the Gospel is rejected by those living in that town, they are to “shake the dust of their feet” and depart.  Jesus is preparing the disciples that the Good News they preach may be denied in the same way the people rejected Jesus’ message in Nazareth.  Yet Mark assures us that these twelve did enjoy success; they preached repentance, proclaimed the gospel, and healed the sick.  The admonition to shake the dust off their feet is a reference to the act that Pharisees would perform when leaving Gentile areas.  This was to show that they wouldn’t be bringing anything that was ritually unclean back home to their Jewish neighborhoods.  The disciples were to do this as a means of showing their disdain for those who would reject the gospel message.  Oddly, Mark doesn’t tell us if they ever did this; in fact, we read only that they were able to accomplish what Jesus sent them out to do.   

So, we should ask, “why was the gospel received by strangers in distant towns and rejected by Jesus’ neighbors in Nazareth?”.  Were they simply not able to separate the Gospel message of Jesus as Messiah from Jesus as small-town neighbor?  Were they unwilling to accept as a prophet this man they knew since he was an infant?  Maybe the people of Nazareth were just not able to acknowledge that someone they were so familiar with could be the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God.

But the twelve who were sent out were able to achieve what they set out to do.  They preached the same message that Jesus did and they were successful.  Maybe this was due to the way Jesus prepared them.  No money, no belt, no food; just sandals, one tunic, and a walking stick.  It wasn’t about sandals, shaking dust of their feet, or not carrying a spare shirt.  This sparse way of travel was intended so they wouldn’t be hindered by “unnecessary baggage”.  They were commanded by Jesus to let go of their own needs, their conception of what success or failure would look like; whether they would be accepted or rejected.  They witnessed the repudiation Jesus himself faced in Nazareth.  They likely thought, “if Jesus himself was rejected in his hometown, what can we expect, as we preach repentance to strangers in remote towns?”        

But Jesus was well aware that they had all they would need to assure their success, even if they didn’t know it.  They had the power to proclaim, anoint, and heal bestowed upon them by Christ Jesus himself.  They couldn’t fail in their mission; Jesus gave them the power to succeed; divine power and authority.  Just as the twelve were fully equipped, so are we in our mission.  We have what we need to help us spread the Good News, because Christ travels with us, he abides within us.  We simply have to remind ourselves that we don’t travel the road alone.  Every time a person in need is fed, clothed, or sheltered the light of Christ is seen, the gospel is proclaimed, the truth of God is declared.  So we are assured that we have all that we need to go forth just as the twelve did.  Jesus sends us out to be his apostles, the ones sent out, equipped with all we need to serve.  We are armed with the Gospel and Jesus Christ is with us.                                               

Will you pray with me?  Good, and gracious, and holy God, grant us the faith, the trust, and the strength to go forth as disciples of Jesus, to be his current-day apostles; to serve in his name  And we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who was rejected in his own home, who nonetheless changed the world.  The One who will usher in the kingdom of heaven  Amen. 

God is Good, all the time.  All the time, God is GoodAmen.