Good morning. Before we look at chapter 6 in Mark, let’s remember the scene in chapter 5. Jesus had been ministering with His disciples around Capernaum and he did some amazing things there. He cast a legion of demons out of man, He healed a woman of a hemorrhage without even touching her, and most recently He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. We pick up the story as Jesus travels with His disciples to His hometown of Nazareth. Let’s read this together: Mark 6:1-13.
 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.  And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?  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?” And they took offense at him.  And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”  And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.And he went about among the villages teaching.
 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.  He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—  but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.[a]  And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there.  And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”  So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.  And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
This is obviously a crazy scene and, if we’re going to understand what’s happening, we need to understand a few things about Nazareth. I’ve already said that this is Jesus’ home town. This is where He would have spent 25 or more years of His life.
And it’s a small town that most people were dismissive of. There’s no mention of Nazareth in the Old Testament because nothing important happened there. In fact, you might remember in John chapter 1 when Philip reached out to Nathaniel, he told him about this “Jesus of Nazareth” and Nathaniel said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
I don’t know if you have places like that in India (or in Maharashtra) where when you hear someone mention it you’re like, “Oh, that place!” That was Nazareth because of it’s location (it was in the middle of nowhere) and because of it’s size (Archeologists estimate that no more 500 people lived there).
So, you have a small insignificant town where Jesus grew up and His family still lives there. Which sets up for a really awkward scene because everyone would have recognized Jesus when He walked into town, and because the last interaction that Jesus had with His family was when they showed up to take Him back home because they thought He had lost His mind (Mark 3:21).
And now, here He is. He comes walking back into town. And where does He go? He goes right into the Synagogue on the Sabbath and begins teaching and things get even more awkward.
As we unpack this, I want to break it up in 3 sections. I’ll give you these up front and then we can walk through them to see how they might apply to our lives:
- You have the people’s reaction to Jesus
- You have Jesus’s reaction to the people
- You have a picture of the uninterrupted mission of God.
First, let’s look at how the people respond to Jesus. Look again at verses 2 – 3:
“And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 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?” And they took offense at him.”
So how did the people react to Jesus? By questioning Him and getting offended. This is interesting because you read it and it doesn’t appear that Jesus does anything offensive. He’s just teaching in the Synagogue. So why did they get offended? I think there are 2 possible answers that are more practical. I want to explore those first, but then I want to remind us of a supernatural truth about what’s actually happening here.
The 1st possible answer is something I’ve already mentioned. These people would have known Jesus very well. They would have known Him as He grew up from childhood, through adolescence, to adulthood.
And I’m sure they would have all respected Jesus. After all, He was Jesus! He was perfect, He was humble, He was kind, He served others. The people were probably very fond of Him, but they knew that He was a carpenter. They knew Him as Joseph & Mary’s son.
And, as He left town, the reaction was probably, “We’re sorry to see Jesus go! He’s a great Carpenter, He’s an even better guy.” But that’s all they thought of Him. And now, here He is returning and He’s not alone.
Now all the sudden Jesus has a bunch of students following Him, and they’re calling Him teacher (Rabbi). They’re sitting at His feet learning from Him. There’s no doubt the people are like, “Wait a second, Jesus never sat under the teaching & leadership of a Rabbi. He hasn’t been theologically trained.”
They would have looked at Jesus and none of this would have made sense to them. And so, they became offended. They refused to believe that Jesus wasn’t who they thought He was. They had it in their minds that Jesus was one thing, and it didn’t allow them to see the truth that He was something different.
Doesn’t that still happen today? Where people have it in their minds that Jesus is a certain thing and it doesn’t allow them to see the truth of who He actually is? I think that happens today quite a bit. And, I think it’s very subtle and can easily grab a hold of our hearts. Maybe it’s us trying to turn Jesus into something He’s not so that we can justify our sin or a particular lifestyle. Maybe it’s an entire church that has became comfortable because they think they have Jesus figured out.
I think these people had their minds made up about who Jesus was and it blinded them to the truth. That’s 1 possible explanation, but I think there’s another one. Notice how Jesus didn’t come to Nazareth with a display of miracles (as He had in Capernaum). Just think about this; the people of Nazareth would have heard the stories of miracles being performed by Jesus throughout the region.
And now, here He is. He’s standing right in front of them. Where are the miracles? It could be that they were expecting things FROM Jesus that He wasn’t giving them. Instead of healing people, and casting out demons, and raising someone from the dead, Jesus is simply teaching in the Synagogue.
I can imagine it would have been in the style that Jesus always taught; simple, straightforward and direct, but drilling down to the heart and calling for a response. I can’t help but wonder, particularly as they were confronted with hard teaching, if there was some disappointment in the hearts of the people because they were expecting something from Jesus that He wasn’t offering.
I think that’s also something that we experience today. How often do we expect certain things from Jesus? We want this, or want that, or want Him to heal this, or alleviate that circumstance. And sometimes, when He gives us something different than what we expect, we can become disappointed and even get offended. Has that ever happened to you?
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” That’s the exact principle that we’re talking about here. When you put your hope in something (other than where it should be), and you don’t get that thing, it makes your heart sick.
I have to confess that I’m really bad at this sometimes. I tend to put my hope in things, in circumstances, in events, in things that I’m really looking forward to. But then, when those things don’t go as planned (or they don’t satisfy me like I want them to), I feel let down.
That’s because we are only meant to put our hope in Jesus. When our hope is in being with Him we’ll never be disappointed, because He delights to be with His people.
So, I think those are the possibilities. People’s expectations of Jesus weren’t being met, or they thought they had Jesus figured out. But, I think it would be good to remind ourselves of something that we know is true and is definitely happening here. And we know it’s true because God’s Word tells us it’s true.
The Greek word for “offense” in this passage comes from the same root word for “stumbling block”. That language should sound really familiar if you’ve ever read the book of 1 Peter. Listen to 1 Peter 2:7-8:
“The honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense. They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”
Friends, we must be reminded that everything that is happening here is happening exactly as God has ordained it to happen. The fact that people don’t believe and Jesus is offensive them should not surprise us at all because the gospel is offensive.
The gospel calls out our sin and pride. The gospel says to our flesh, “You must be put to death.” And, if we are set on living in the flesh and trying to be our own god, that message will offend us.
Now, I want you to look at how Jesus reacted to the people. Look again at verses 5 & 6:
“And 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.”
Both of these statements are absolutely incredible! Mark seems to be saying that Jesus couldn’t do mighty works in Nazareth. And then we have Jesus marveling, which means that He’s “amazed”, at their unbelief.
So, how do we interpret these things? I think if we’re going to understand them rightly then we need to interpret them in light of who Jesus actually is. We must be reminded that this is THE ONE through whom & for whom everything was created. This is THE ONE who knows the expanse of the Universe & the number of stars in it. This is THE ONE who is currently upholding the Universe by the word of His power. THIS IS JESUS!
So, this does not mean that Jesus was unaware of their unbelief. Nor does it mean that He was shocked by their unbelief. And it doesn’t mean that Jesus could not perform miracles, as though He was rendered powerless by the people’s unbelief.
God’s power is not subject to people’s response to Him. And His power is certainly not limited in any way. Jesus could have caused all of their hearts to stop beating in that moment. Or He could have caused the scales to fall off of all of their eyes so they could see the truth.
Jesus could have displayed His power. Instead, He chose to act in response to faith. Which is what He’s just done in Capernaum. He commended Jairus & the woman with the hemorrhage for their faith. I think that’s one of the main things that this text is meant to teach us.
Unbelief actually robs us of the incredible blessing that is available to us. There are no miracles performed and it causes Jesus to marvel; both examples that show us how horrifying unbelief actually is in light of Who God Is & What He has done.
So, I think the application is pretty straightforward for us. We all struggle with unbelief, don’t we? Do you believe the gospel & exhibit faith at all times? Of course you don’t, and neither do I.
John Calvin called the heart a factory of idols and he was right. We consistently believe that things are better than Jesus, and we exhibit unbelief as we chase after those things. Which is why the cry of our heart should be like the father of the demon possessed boy in Mark 9. When he “Cried out to Jesus and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!””
Brothers & Sisters, that should be the continual cry of all of our hearts: “I believe that Jesus is better, help my unbelief!” We desperately need God’s help to battle our unbelief.
Now, I want us to end by looking at what Jesus does next. He moves on from Nazareth, but it doesn’t stop His mission. Because the mission of God is uninterrupted. Mark says that “Jesus went about among the villages teaching.”
And, not just that, but Jesus takes this opportunity to send out His disciples. He gives them the power to minister to people in practical ways, He gives them them message of repentance, and He gives them instructions for how to go from town to town.
Now, there are a couple of things that we really need to take away from this section of the text. Notice first how Jesus gives them authority. I cannot overstate how important this is for you & me. We have no other authority outside what is given to us by Jesus. That was true of the disciples and it’s true of us!
In this picture that Mark gives us, the Kingdom of God has broken through and these guys were given the authority to tell people about it. But, think about our position: we live in the end times, the last days, and we have the message of the gospel. We have the message of salvation, the only thing that can bring people from death to life. And we’ve been given the authority by Christ to tell people about it.
Matthew:28 — “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore…”
2 Corinthians:5 — “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us…”
God has given us authority to take His gospel to the world, and He’s told us how to do it. In the same way that Jesus sent out His disciples in community, God has called us to bring the message of reconciliation in the context of community with one another. John 13 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
God has called us to speak the message of the gospel while we show people what the gospel does; which is reconcile people (not just to God but to one another). Church, this is a high calling and an incredible privilege. God chooses to use us in His mission, not because He needs us, but because He loves us.
And — He sends us on mission for Him in a way that requires continual faith. Jesus gives the disciples a list of the bare essentials which means they have to be dependent on God to provide for them. In the same way, God has just given us the message of the gospel with no ability to save people, no ability to affect change in people’s lives. We are completely dependent upon Him to work, which pushes us back into belief, dependence and faith.
Brothers & Sisters, I want to encourage you in 2 ways as we close. First, you must constantly turn back into God in repentance for unbelief in your life and regularly ask Him to help you believe. I believe that’s a prayer that God delights in.
Second, you must realize that your role in this mission is not as much about what you know or don’t know. It’s not as much about what you have or don’t have. It’s about how dependent you are upon God to show up and work in people’s lives. And it’s about a willingness to be used by Him because you believe so strongly that He is the only way to experience life.