- 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
- Psalm 48
- 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
- Mark 6:1-13
Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.
Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honoured everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was appalled by their disbelief.
Then Jesus traveled through the surrounding villages teaching.
He called for the Twelve and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts. He said, “Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them. (Common English Bible, Mk 6:1–13)
We’re often tempted to think something like “Well, if Jesus came from here, I’d definitely recognise him and follow him. What could these dull Nazarenes have been thinking?” The error these people, so familiar with Jesus and his family, were making is that they were sure that they knew all about Jesus, and, as well, knew all about how God chooses to work in the world.
“How could God use someone so ordinary and familiar to us? It‘s surely not possible.” These people of Jesus’ hometown were, of course, a sort of representation of the way that Jesus could expect to be dealt with by his own people, the Jewish nation. They, too, couldn’t see how God could be using Jesus to do something radically new and unexpected in the world. So, Jesus is rejected out of hand. He even scales back his description of himself – he refers to himself as a prophet, and there were plenty of those around during Jesus’ time. He’s still unpalatable.
The word used in this translation is particularly revealing “they were repulsed by him and fell into sin.” In return, “he was appalled at their disbelief.” Strong stuff.
The people from Jesus’ hometown got it wrong because their thinking was too narrow, too limited. Most of the people who encounter Jesus in the gospels get Jesus wrong, and are ‘repulsed’ by him, because the person who Jesus is, and the message Jesus teaches are so transgressive.
It’s why I suspect that if Jesus stood before us, we’d be as scandalised and repulsed as the people in his hometown. We’re simply not prepared for the radical simplicity of Jesus call to us. We hear the words in worship all the time, but tend to let them wash over us. The call is:
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbour as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
Simple, isn’t it. Love God, surrendering absolutely everything about yourself to God. Love your neighbour (which means everyone else) by understanding that they are the same as you, with the same hopes, desires, fears, needs, terrors and longings.
But if Jesus stands before us, a man who is just like us, and speaks this, we’re inclined to say “what gives him the right? What makes him special? He’s just like us.” And so we put the words away, turn away, and get on with our lives.
What makes a difference in the gospel stories, and in our own lives is relationship. Jesus’ teaching begins to make sense, and to be placed at the centre of our lives when we’re in relationship with him. Loving God with everything we possess is easier when we’re in relationship with God. Loving our neighbour -however much we like, love, dislike, hate or fear them – only makes sense when we’re in relationship with them. We might not agree with them, but we can still love them, because they’re just like us, and they’re just as much beloved by God because of their humanity.
Relationship, too, is why Jesus didn’t perform miracles in his home town. Surely, we might thing, a judicious miracle would have convinced the doubters. It would convince us! But that makes the mistake of understanding what Jesus’ miracles are all about.
Jesus coming into the world was the first act, if you like, of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Miracles are normal in the Kingdom of God – they’re ordinary. Jesus entry into the world brings a little bit of the Kingdom of God into the world, and because of the relationships he entered into, the miracles had meaning and effect. They’re not just random. Jesus heals to reintegrate people into the Kingdom of God. Jesus turns water into wine to build community, in the same way as he feeds the crowds with just a little food. Jesus’ action at the Last Supper, too, creates community by giving new meaning to simple things – bread and wine, a miracle that persists in our own time. Jesus gives new meaning to water, too – the sign of adoption of someone into the family of God.
So because this group won’t enter into relationship with him – can’t enter into relationship with him, really,due to their hardness of heart, there are only a few miracles. The Kingdom of God exists where there is faith, and where the Kingdom exists, there we find miracles.
The text then moves on to the familiar story of the sending out of the twelve, to minister on Jesus’ behalf to those all around the country. It is from this story that much of our theology of being called and sent comes. It is likely this is ‘a good place in the text’ for the story, and not that it actually happened at the same time. So, we shouldn’t draw too much out of the placement, and shouldn’t try to see links that aren’t there.
What we do need to realise is that it is through this sending and all that it involved, that the Kingdom of God was spread. Those sent became emissaries of Jesus: apostles. That’s what the word ‘apostle’ means. One who is sent. They weren’t just people with their own ministry and intentions – they were Jesus’ hands, feet, eyes, ears and heart. They were part of Jesus, and Jesus was part of them.
Nice story. And people get healed.
But the confrontation often comes for us when we realise that each and every one of us is called and sent. Not just deacons, priests and bishops. Not just people who have certificates from the bishop. Each and every one of us. We’re given a distinctive commission from Jesus, to be his hands, feet, eyes, ears and heart. We’re called and sent to bring healing and freedom. We’re called and sent to be broken people who are a gift to the world, and to everyone we meet.
We’re called to be Jesus for everyone we meet. The process of becoming who God is calling us to be takes our entire life, and is what salvation is all about. But each of us is in the process of being changed into something new and tremendous, and when we allow that to happen we let Jesus be present.
There are some logical questions to ask yourself from all of this, I think. They all follow on from one another. Are you in relationship with God? Are you in relationship with Jesus? Are you in relationship with your neighbour? Are you willing to live our your call and sending? Are you willing to be Jesus for all who meet you?
When I ask myself those questions I am saddened, because I know that, all too often my relationship with God is fractured, my relationship with Jesus is fractured, and so is my relationship with my neighbour. I know that I let my pride get in the way of being Jesus for those given to me. I relate to Paul’s words when he speaks about ‘a thorn in the flesh’ to prevent him getting to conceited. When I’m tempted to think I am better than I am, I’m almost immediately reminded of my poverty, brokenness and utter dependence on God’s love.
God’s call to us all is get our relationships right, to serve willingly and with the spirit of Jesus, accepting, loving, caring, healing and freeing, and not judging. God’s call to us is to realise that God is always doing something new and unexpected. God’s call to us is to be aware of the presence of Jesus even in those people, those situations, those moments we’re completely sure could not bring Jesus’ touch.
Because Jesus’ touch is always there for those who are willing to simply be, to look at him, and say “my brother, my Lord, my God.”
- How is your relationship with God? How is your relationship with Jesus? What is working well? What isn’t working well? What is stopping you from going deeper? How can you get help with that block?
- Are you in relationship with your neighbour? Is there a particular relationship that needs healing or freedom?
- Are you willing to live our your call and sending? How are you being Jesus’ hands, feet, eyes, ears and heart?
- Are you willing to be Jesus for all who meet you? When people meet you, do they see Jesus?
- Take the later part of the reading, Mark 6:7-13, and use lectio divina to pray it this week.
- What is God showing you about your call as a person of prayer? How does this tie in with the reading?