SYNOPSIS – Despite his miraculous deeds, his hometown rejected his ministry and took offense at the humble origins of the Messiah – Mark 6:1-6.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus experienced increasing conflicts as he with each step toward the city of Jerusalem. In the end, even the men and women closest to him abandoned him and he died utterly alone. In Galilee and in Gentile territory, he displayed his lordship over nature, demons, disease, and even death. In contrast, among his own people in Nazareth, he experienced unbelief, dishonor, and rejection – (Mark 6:1-6).
Earlier in his ministry, the crowds marveled at the authority and deeds of Jesus; however, in Nazareth, he marveled at the lack of faith among the inhabitants of his home village in what God was doing, and at their 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 hearing were being 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 being 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 there 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” – (Matthew 13:53-58. Luke 4:16-30).
In the narrative, his rejection by Nazareth is a prelude to the execution of John the Baptist and a precursor to the trial and execution of Jesus himself. The first paragraph of Chapter 6 concludes the second major section of the gospel of Mark – (Mark 1:14, 3:7-6:6, 14:43).
The Greek word rendered “hometown” means “fatherland.” Here, it refers to Nazareth, not Bethlehem. Jesus grew up in Nazareth and learned his trade there. That the crowd asked a rhetorical question about his craft indicates that, previously, he had engaged in work in Nazareth for which he was still known. The Greek noun rendered “carpenter” or tektōn is a generic term for an artisan – It can refer to several different skilled trades such as carpenters and stoneworkers.
Nazareth was a small village of no significance. It is never mentioned in the Old Testament and was noted among Jews for its insignificance – (John 1:45-46, “Nathaniel said to him, ‘can any good thing come from Nazareth?’”).
The crowd acknowledged the wisdom displayed in his words and the mighty works that he did – His miracles could not be denied. However, the crowd reacted with skepticism because of the lowly origins of Jesus. They were offended by his ordinary pedigree and run of the mill social status. He was not a man of great prominence, wealth, or religious significance – He had no connection with the Temple in Jerusalem.
Where did he get his wisdom? He had not attended any of the recognized rabbinical schools and lacked the appropriate “credentials” to expound the Hebrew scriptures. The crowd did not deny his insight but could not comprehend how he acquired it. They were offended by the vessel that God had chosen, not by the contents of his message or by the miraculous deeds that he did.
Familiarity breeds contempt. In this ancient culture, heredity and geographical origin had much to do with determining a man’s place in society. The crowd was “scandalized” by Jesus and his lowly origins. It was not so much his words and deeds, but the fact of who and what he was. A carpenter was one who engaged in manual labor, something one would not expect the future 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 of the church at Jerusalem. Jude is the author of the epistle by that name – (Jude 1:1).
The passage does not say whether his family was present at the synagogue, but the crowd knew of his family and his origins. 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 may suggest the latter was dead by this 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 or that Jesus had given wise teaching. Regardless, he was rejected and found offensive by his own people. It was not his teachings or miracles that offended, but the person who performed them.
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.
This story is the climax of the second major section of Mark and parallels the climax of the first section. Previously, Jesus was rejected by the Pharisees and the Herodians. Now, he is rejected by his hometown and family.
This passage warns anyone who would follow Jesus of the possible rejection even by close associates and family that he or she may experience. To emulate Jesus is to offend the world – (Mark 1:14-3:6, 3:7-6:6).
Later, Jesus warned his twelve 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.” In the three synoptic gospels, it is not his signs and wonders that win hearts and minds or that define his messiahship.
Discipleship entails great personal cost. If following Jesus comes without any costs, perhaps it is time to reassess whether we are “following the Lamb wherever he goes.”