We have all heard stories of those who “made good” and returned to their hometown as a hero. Some heroes remember their hometown with fond memories while others are glad they left and are ashamed of their roots once they reach success. The reception of the hometown people varies, too. Some are proud of the accomplishments of their fellow citizen while others are envious or disapproving, thinking they have “gotten above their raising” (a Southern term meaning they think they are better than the others).
The sixth chapter of Mark records a very interesting story about Jesus’ ministry in His hometown. His ministry had expanded, and He had a band of followers. He was well-known for the miracles He performed. The previous two chapters in Mark, tell how Jesus taught the multitudes, calmed the storm with His word, cast a legion of devils out of a man, healed a woman from an incurable disease, and raised a little girl from the dead. Then Mark 6:1 tells us, “And he went from thence and came into his own country; and his disciples followed him.”
He went back to his hometown. The people there knew Him well, because He had grown up among them and His family was still there. Jesus obviously wanted to do the same for these people that He had done for so many others.
“And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.” (Mark 6:2-3)
These people were keenly aware that Jesus was different now than He had been when He was among them. His wisdom and insight into spiritual matters was evident, and they were astounded by the reports they heard of His miracles and healings. They questioned the source of His abilities. After all, this was Jesus Who grew up down the street from them and He didn’t show this power then. Since we are all aware of human nature, we can imagine some of the rumors that circulated about Jesus. He was trained to be a carpenter, not a teacher and miracle worker. He hadn’t studied the Law. He wasn’t among the Rabbis. Who did He think He was – an untrained itinerant teacher traveling around with His band of disciples? How could He rise to such prominence and have so much power?
“And they were offended at Him.” They could not accept His authority because they could not factor it into the knowledge they had of Him. They stumbled over the truth because they were so familiar with His personal history.
“But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.” (Mark 6:4-6)
Jesus realized His ministry was rejected by those to Whom He was common - His hometown, His blood relatives and those in the house where He grew up. He recognized that instead of being honored among them, He was resented and dishonored. And so He was limited in the miracles He did among them because of their unbelief.
Let us be on guard so that we will not make the same mistake as those who were so familiar with Him that they could not receive from Him. There are many things Jesus wants to do in us and through us, but we must have a vision of Him greater than a learned tradition.
Many of us have grown up with Jesus in church, and He has become common to us. Because of that, we limit Him in what He can do among us. He is the Jesus we go to church to sing about and hear a message about. Sure, we know Him. We can tell you His life story from beginning to end. We’ve read our Bibles through countless times. But have we lost the power and wisdom of His Spirit in our lives because of unbelief? When we reach a knowledge of Him that makes us feel comfortable to the point that we grow careless and lazy, we have allowed Jesus to become commonplace to us. When we are busier with works than relationship, He has become common to us. When we lose the revelation of Him we once had, then we have lost the love and zeal, and Jesus has become common in our eyes.
If we are in that condition, anything Jesus does outside of our perspective of Him or outside of our comfort zone, will be an affront to us. The following questions can help us examine whether we have an accurate view of Jesus.
Do we stumble at His Word? That happens when Jesus speaks with authority and wisdom, and we feel threatened because it requires we do something besides our daily routine. It places an unwanted responsibility on us that interrupts all that is familiar – the rise and fall of our everyday living.
Are we offended by the light that shines from Him? Do we find that we draw back from His light rather than allow it to change us? Light exposes sins and weak spots that need to be eradicated from our souls. If we embrace the light and allow Him to cleanse every hint of sin within us, we can be truly free.
Do we stumble over His proclamation that He is the only way to the Father? Many are offended that Jesus would make such a rash, narrow statement. Yet, Jesus cannot change the truth, because He IS truth. Truth that is changed becomes a lie. Surely if there had been another way, He would not have left the glories of heaven to suffer and die for us. Many teach there are various ways to heaven, but Jesus spoke the truth. He IS the way.
Are we offended at His power to save, heal and do mighty works? Unbelief limits what Jesus can do among us. We can have the power of Jesus active in our lives, the wisdom of Jesus working in us, and the grace of Jesus reflected through us by the Holy Spirit He has sent to us. Surely we believe Jesus can still do anything. Yet, so many people have grown up with Jesus as a Sunday morning routine, a set of rules or emotions with no power or relevance for daily living. They have grown up hearing about Jesus all their lives but have no power.
It is easy to get used to things the way they have always been. We get accustomed to the way of the world and, as it continues a downward slide in morals and spiritual values, we take that slide with them. We maintain a respectable distance from them, but inch by inch we get farther away from God. Then, when Jesus comes upholding the unchanging principles of God, we can become offended that He would confront our indulgence and compel us to change. It is easy to hide on the edges of darkness and allow our eyes to adjust to the obscurity. Then, when Jesus comes shining His light, we see the foolishness of living in darkness. When we see the light, we need to be careful not to draw back into the darkness, offended that He would uncover our transgressions. Why does Jesus compel us to change, reveal to us the principles of God and shine light in our darkness? Because He knows that is the only way for us to be free. He paid the price for our freedom and He longs for us to receive it.
It is human nature to resist change and to be offended at discipline, but we can overcome human nature through Jesus Christ. We can put off the carnal (thinking from a darkened mind) and put on the mind of Christ, being transformed by obedience to His Spirit and His Word.
Even those who have followed Christ for many years can still be offended by Him. We may reach a certain point of maturity and stop growing. When Jesus comes to challenge our sedentary existence, we become offended, citing all our accomplishments and all we have given up for the kingdom. But Jesus presses us ever forward in our relationship with Him in spite of obstacles that are sent by Satan to turn us aside. He compels us to keep climbing higher because He loves us.
Let’s take the challenge to lay aside every preconceived idea about Jesus, and study the gospels asking the Holy Spirit to make the truth clear. He doesn’t want the truth hidden. He came to reveal it to us.
We will know Who Jesus really is when we make it a priority to develop our relationship with Him - get to know Him on a personal level by listening to His Spirit and feeding on His Word. He is far from common. Don’t believe others’ opinions of Him. Find out for yourself Who He really is.
His disciples - those who were closest to Him - knew Who He was. The more they were with Him, the clearer the revelation became. Even after Jesus had ascended into heaven, their knowledge of Him increased by the Holy Spirit sent to come alongside them. All we have to do is reach out to Him. It is time to renew our love and zeal for Jesus – the real Jesus!!