July 8, 2018

Jesus Was Amazed at Their Lack of Faith


7th Sunday of Pentecost
First Lesson:  Ezekiel 2:1-5

Second Lesson:  2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Gospel Lesson:  Mark 6:1-6

Sermon Text:  Mark 6:1-6

Preacher:  Loren Lucht

Mark 6:1-6
(Supplemental reading Luke 4:16-20, 28-29)
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.
 
Dear Friends in Christ,
 
Imagine yourself living in Nazareth 2000 years ago.  You’re in your early 20s but still living at home with your parents, brothers and sisters.  Across the street lives a pretty good-sized family, a carpenter named Joseph, his wife, Mary and their children.  There are five boys and several girls.  The oldest son, Jesus, is about 15 years old.  As far as you know he’s always been a nice kid. In fact, you can remember the day when your mother talked your father into buying a table from the carpenter across the street. And you can remember when Jesus helped you carry the table to your parents’ house and you set it in the corner, right there.
 
Now imagine that it’s 15 years later.  You’ve gotten married and you have children of your own. Your parents have died, and you and your wife and children are now living in your parents’ house, the one where you grew up.  Life in Nazareth is pretty much like it’s always been.  Politically, you wish that the Romans didn’t have so much influence over your life.  Religiously, Nazareth isn’t like Jerusalem: There’s no great rift between people like the Pharisees and Sadducees. You’re just all hardworking Jewish believers who go to the synagogue every Sabbath, every Saturday to worship.  You’re waiting for the Messiah that God has promised, one like King David, and you’re hoping that he’ll liberate Abraham’s descendants from those Romans.  None of that is new. 
 
But a few things have changed.  The carpenter’s shop across the street is gone. There’s another family living there.  Jesus’ younger sisters are married now and living in the neighborhood, but Joseph has passed away and Jesus and his brothers have moved to Capernaum.  Lately you’ve been hearing people talk about Jesus.  He’s become a teacher, a rabbi.  There’s been some talk that Jesus has become a pretty good teacher and that many people go to see him. So, you’re a little interested in making sure that you go to the synagogue next Saturday because you’ve heard that Jesus is going to worship there.  It might be good to see him again and see what he’s become.

He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue . . . The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.  Luke 4:15,16,20
 
When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. John 6:2
 
You’re one of those who are quite amazed at the authority with which Jesus had read the scriptures.  You say to your son, “Pay attention.  That teacher grew up in the house across the street.  In fact, grandma’s table in the corner, where you and your brother write your lessons.  I think that man built that table with his father.  Listen now.”
 
Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah.  That gets your attention because you like Isaiah.  He’s the prophet of comfort.  Isaiah speaks of the promises of God to Israel and how God’s own prophet will bring peace to the world.  Again, you smile at your son and encourage him to listen closely as Jesus reads these words of prophecy that you love to hear.
 
Unrolling the scroll, Jesus found the place where it is written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,  because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Luke 4:17-19
 
This is a nice scene, isn’t it? Perfect!  Now, Jesus starts preaching,
            Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Luke 4:21
 
All of a sudden . . . it was silent.  You wonder, “Did he just say what I think I heard?” Many other Jews are fidgeting.  They heard the same thing.  It sounds like Jesus is saying that the words of Isaiah apply to him!  Listen again . . .

(The Lord) has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
 
You’re kind of dumbfounded because you’ve never heard anyone say what Jesus just said.  Some people want to get up and leave.  You want to cover your children’s ears, so they don’t hear what sounds like blasphemy to you.  Jesus seems to be saying that he is the One, Jehovah’s promised Messiah.
 
Well, Jesus was the one.  He was preaching good news.  He freed people from the slavery of sin.  He brought spiritual insight to those who were blind. He indeed came to bring peace to the people of God.  But that’s not how the people of Nazareth understood Jesus. 
 
We might wonder, “Why were they so confused?”  They recognized his wisdom and they knew about the miracles he had done in other places.  But, his message to Nazareth was, “Quit thinking that I came to save you from the Romans.”  The real reason that God, Jehovah, sent his son into the world is clear from other verses.

The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10
Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15
Jesus came to save Abraham’s descendants from their sins, and to save the non-Jews also.
 
Luke’s account tells us,

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.  Luke 4:28,29
He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.  Verses 5,6
 
Jesus didn’t leave Nazareth because he rejected them.  The people of Nazareth rejected Jesus because they heard him say that he was going to preach about the mercy and grace of God to the Gentiles.
 
Jesus was rejected in his hometown, by people who knew him and heard him speak and watched him do miracles.  Should we be surprised that people reject Jesus today? 

Rejection happened at other times in Jesus life: 

It was especially evident in Jerusalem when Jesus rode victoriously into town on Palm Sunday and the people praised and cheered him.  Five days later, many of those same people shouted, “Crucify him.”
 
Ten lepers came to Jesus and asked him to heal them and he did.  Nine walked away without even acknowledging the miracle or giving thanks to Jesus.
 
Later, in Europe, Christians built great churches and cathedrals. Much of the greatest music and artwork in the world was composed and created by Christians.  And what do you hear now about those spectacular churches? They’re deteriorating because they now belong to the government who determines whether they should be maintained and repaired, or to what extent.  75% of Europeans identified themselves as Christians but only 5-14% attend church regularly.
 
We all have examples in our own families and among our own friends of people who have publicly professed their faith in Jesus Christ and at one time participated whole-heartedly in worship and church work.  And now, they’ve rejected all those things that their parents believed, the things they once learned from the Bible, and even their belief that Jesus is necessary for salvation.
 
But here’s the wonderful part of the story: Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  Don’t stop praying for, don’t give up on, those who have walked away from things they once believed. 
 
The Holy Spirit may not have turned the hearts of Nazareth around but through the Word of God and the gifts of grace through which God continues to forgive sinful hearts and actions, the Holy Spirit is the only one who can overcome stubborn, ignorant rejection of God’s Savior, Jesus, and turn hearts to faith.
 
In the corner of the little house in Nazareth sits a table.  The family who looks at it can say, “It’s just a table,” or they could say, “That’s what Jesus did.”  We can look at Jesus and we can either say, “He was just a man, a good teacher,” or we could say, “That’s my Savior.  Do you know what he did?  He died so that my sins would all be forgiven.” Amen