Blog / Book of the Month / “Rejection & Grace” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Season of Pentecost Sunday Sermon July 7, 2024 – Mark 6:1-13

“Rejection & Grace” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Season of Pentecost Sunday Sermon July 7, 2024 – Mark 6:1-13

“Rejection & Grace” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Season of Pentecost Sunday Sermon July 7, 2024 – Mark 6:1-13

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 7 2024: Season of Pentecost / Mark 6:1-13 “Rejection & Grace” 

[Jesus] 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 honour, 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. And He marvelled 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. 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.

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. In last week’s Gospel reading we heard how Jesus’ raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. The Gospel of Mark tells us that Jairus was “one of the rulers of the synagogue.”[1] Jairus was not too proud to come to Jesus for help. Jairus, this ruler of the synagogue, didn’t hold Jesus in contempt as the Scribes had. No, Jairus had come seeking mercy from Jesus. And in today’s Gospel Saint Mark tells us that, “on the Sabbath [Jesus] began to teach in the synagogue,” in His hometown of Nazareth. This is not the same synagogue where Jairus was one of the rulers of the synagogue it’s a different synagogue, with different rulers. What did the rulers of a synagogue do in the synagogue? They, among other things, organized who would read at the synagogue, and who would preach, and who would teach.[2] So this means that when Jesus came to His hometown of Nazareth He would have been invited to teach in the synagogue, He didn’t demand it as a right, or bully His way in, no He would have been invited. Jairus had invited Jesus under his roof to heal his daughter, finding her in the grip of death; then Jesus raised her from the dead; In His home town of Nazareth Jesus would have been invited under the roof of the local synagogue to read God's Word and preach and teach. 

This raises a question: How do you treat invited guests? Jesus in His hometown is not treated that well, our Gospel reading talks about people taking offence because of Him: Jesus had been welcomed with open arms all around the sea of Galilee but in His hometown the reception is poor, and harsh. The Gospel of Saint Luke helps fill in some of the details about this visit to Nazareth. Saint Luke tells us how on that Sabbath day Jesus was at the synagogue, as was His custom, and when, “He stood up to read ... the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

        “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

               because He has anointed Me

               to proclaim good news to the poor.

        He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives

               and recovering of sight to the blind,

               to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

        to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

        And [Jesus] rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down [to preach]. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”[3] There, right there, that was is the cause of offence, and what do they do?

1)   First they question the validity of His statement, saying ‘we know this Jesus and we don’t believe it’s possible that this reading from Isaiah is about Him.’

2)   Then Luke tells us how all the people, presumable including the rulers of the synagogue who would have invited Jesus to participate in the Service that day,] were filled with wrath. “And they rose up and drove [Jesus] out of the town and brought Him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw Him down the cliff.”[4]

This is what Saint Luke records in his Gospel about that day, and again this is not a good way to treat an invited guest.

About ten years ago now, back in 2014, I had opportunity to be in Nazareth, and the modern town of Nazareth is situated amongst some very rocky hills, the highest hill with the steepest cliff face which would have been the best from which to throw someone down to their death is a bit of a hike. You would have to be very angry with someone to march them to the brow of that hill, this is not a momentary action acted upon in the heat of the moment, and to throw someone from the brow of one of these hills would be a deliberate thing requiring some fortitude and conviction.

Just like Jesus makes no protest when He was later marched up to Golgotha, the place of the skull, where He was crucified, here too we see that Jesus made no struggle as they drove Him to the brow of the hill. But that was not the hill that Jesus was destine to die on, that was not the place where He would give His body for sacrifice, where His blood would be spilled for the sin of the World, and when they’d reach the brow of the hill Jesus simply, “[passed] through their midst, [and] He went away.”[5] And here’s where Saint Mark in his Gospel picks the narrative up again: Jesus simply passed through their midst, and went away to do what? After the unpleasant business in the synagogue in Nazareth Jesus went and “laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them,” and then “He went about among the villages teaching.” This is sort of like just going around to the local villages in a circle around Nazareth,[6] if Nazareth was Regina it would be like Him going around to Lumsden, Regina Beach, Craven, Silton, Earl Grey, Strasbourg, Southey, Cupar, Edenwold, Pilot Butte, Balgonie, White City, Emerald Park, Francis, Rolo, Ogema, Moose Jaw, Pense, Stony Beach; just moving around His home town in a big circle.    

Now here’s the best part of our Gospel reading today. Do you remember how it started? Jesus, “came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him.” Jesus’ disciples would have been right there with Him at the synagogue and they would have witnessed His poor reception, they would have seen—as Saint Mark recorded it in His Gospel—the people of Nazareth rejecting Jesus, they also would have seen what Saint Luke recorded when the people of Jesus’ hometown tried to kill Him: What a contrast from what the disciples would have been witness to when they earlier were traveling around the sea of Galilee with Jesus, where He’d been so well received.

Keep all this in mind, right after all of this Jesus sends His disciples “out two by two, [giving] them authority over the unclean spirits.” And furthermore He tells them to simply rely on the kindness of those to whom they are being sent, Jesus tells 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. And He said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there.” Jesus is basically saying: Shoes, just the clothing on their back, no coat, no money, a walking stick ... go. Is that outside your comfort zone? It would have been outside theirs too. It required trust, trust in Jesus, and trust in the one who sent Jesus, and trust in His Heavenly Father.

What's more Mark says, “They went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” Calling people on their sin and calling them to repentance is not often well received. Do you think it was any more popular in that day to hear someone say ... ‘hey that thing you’re doing ... knock it off, repent turn back to God.’ In next week’s Gospel we see how well received John the Baptiser’s call to repentance to King Herod went, when John had told Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” John was calling Herod out on a sexual sin. Herod was not taking in his dead brother’s widow, his brother was very much alive, Herod just took his brother’s wife for his own.[7]

Who then would welcome these freeloading killjoys? They show up, they sleep in your home, they eat your food, and they proceed to point out everything that’s wrong with your life. Who would welcome them? Well, those in greatest need: The poor, those who were captives of sin, the blind, those who were oppressed by the devil, men like Jairus whose daughter was on the verge of death, the desperate and the afflicted. Everyone who had “ears to hear” the Good News that the Saviour had come, that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, that that same Spirit had descended like a dove upon Him in the Jordan river and that He, this Jesus, was anointed to preach the Good News of God’s grace and mercy in the midst of their pain and suffering. That is who would welcome these men as they came two by two with nothing but the grace of God. And here’s the rub, to the rest of the World, “grace doesn’t sell: you can hardly give it away because it works only for losers and no one wants to stand in their line.”[8] We are tempted to want to be winners with unimpeded success in every area of our life. Indeed Jesus—rejected in His own hometown—had made Himself an object lesson, sending out His disciples the way He was sent out, not to stand at some antiseptic distance from the agonies and failures of the people, rather His disciples are out right into the thick of the troubles of the people, to live under their roof with them just as He does, with no care to what the World thinks, to simply carry the Good News to those who need mercy, and grace. The Good News that the mercy and grace and love of God is for them putting the message and the needs of other first.  

Jesus also gives this advice, He tells the disciples as He sends them out, “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.”

Who are the ones who have no “ears to hear?” The ones who can’t listen, the ones for whom repentance is a bother? Are they any less messed up, any less sinful than the ones who would gladly take these men in? No. They are the ones who can’t see their sin for looking, who are pleased and comfortable with their sinful lives and who don't think they need a Saviour, the proud who would rather take Jesus up to the brow of the hill and throw Him off a cliff than listen to Him, the ones who would call for His crucifixion, beat Him, nail Him to a cross, make double sure that He was dead and then sit down to the Passover meal secure in their “self-righteousness.” These are the ones who turn their noses up at grace unable to stomach the taste of it, while their starving brothers eat every word with tears of joy.  Back in Nazareth Saint Mark tells us that Jesus “marvelled because of their unbelief.” You say, “here, here’s forgiveness of your sins and eternal life,” and they say, “shove it, I don’t need magic Jesus’ forgiveness or His Eternal life, my life is fine, I like it the way it is.” Is the World we live in any different today? Are there even Christians who become recalcitrant, obstinate, intractable, headstrong to a fault, prideful and dismissive of those Jesus sends to them?   

I leave you with this Good News: When Jesus began to teach in the synagogue in Nazareth, Saint Mark tells is how those who heard Jesus 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?” Now think way back to the Sunday of June 9th, four weeks ago, when we heard in the Gospel reading that day how Jesus’ family had come down to the Sea of Galilee from Nazareth to collect Jesus and take Him home. Mark told us how thinking Jesus was out of His mind Jesus’ “mother [the Virgin Mary] and His brothers came, and standing outside they sent to Him and called Him. And [how the] crowd [that] was sitting around Him, ... said to [Jesus], “Your mother and Your brothers are outside, seeking You.” And [Jesus] answered them, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around Him, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, He is My brother and sister and mother.”[9] Consider how that crowd would have been full of those honest about their desperate need for Jesus and the help, the mercy, the grace He was giving to them, and at that moment Jesus’ family wasn’t part of that crowd, but they would have been part of the crowd rejecting Jesus in today’s Gospel reading.

I know that doesn’t sound like Good News, ‘you said you were going to give me Good News:’ Now the Good News: Scripture teaches us that The Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother, who should have known better that day[10] when they came down from Nazareth to collect Him home, who should have known better the day they marched her Son up the hill in Nazareth to throw Him from the cliff, that she later displays a change of heart over these things and comes back around to God showing great public faith in her Son. We know this because she is one of the few who end up standing vigil at the foot of Jesus’ cross on Good Friday and she is later with the remaining disciples on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was sent to them; James, listed in Mark’s Gospel as Jesus’ brother likewise became a Christian a follower of Jesus, James is later known as James the Just, Brother of our Lord, the writer of the Epistle of James and a leader of the Church in Jerusalem in the Book of Acts; Judas listed as Jesus’ brother here (not Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus), this Judas is also known as Jude who is the author of the short Epistle of Jude.

Mary and these men went from thinking Jesus was mad and out of His mind, an embarrassment to the family causing offence in their hometown, to following Him as their Lord and Saviour. The Gospel of Saint Luke says nothing of them trying to stop the people of Nazareth from attempting to kill Jesus after He taught in the synagogue that day; And Saint Mark in his Gospel says nothing about them objecting to the offence taken by the people of their hometown. It looks like they didn’t raise a finger to help Jesus and yet Jesus forgave them just as He forgives us when we are repentant and confess that we, in our sin, think we don’t need Jesus, when we are repentant and confess that we have been happily living in our sin, when we have a change of heart and are turned back to Him. If Jesus forgave them, He will forgive you.  

If someone you know, who should know better, is currently rejecting Jesus, there is hope for them. But that hope comes not in their pride, or in their comfortable life. It will come when they are like the desperate father Jiarus, when they are in great need, when they see that they are poor, captive, blind, and oppressed. At that point they will no longer seek to throw Jesus from the brow of the hill, they will find that they have been lead to a different hill, one with a cross and Jesus already dead nailed to it: dead because of their sin: dead because of my sin: dead because of your sin. There Jesus was truly and totally rejected not just by the people of Nazareth but by the whole World, the World He came to save. And it was there that God the Father, who sent Jesus, who Jesus His innocent Son absolutely trusted, had mercy and showed His grace upon the one who suffered, once for all, and three days later Jesus walked alive out of the tomb. This is the only hope in a hopeless World, just as it is your only hope in the face of trouble, just as it is the only hope for the one who is currently rejecting Jesus because it is the very picture of grace. And as we heard in our Epistle this morning Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”[11] And as Saint Paul says in return, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”[12] This is true for the disciples Jesus sent out two by two and it is true for you today. Amen.    

Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Mark 5:22  
[2] Mark 1:1 - 8:26, Concordia Commentary. James W. Voelz, Concordia Publishing House, 2013, pg 362.
[3] Luke 4:16-21
[4] Luke 4:28-29
[5] Luke 4:30
[6] Voelz, Pg 379.
[7] Mark 6:14-29
[8] Father Robert Farrar Capon.
[9] Mark 3:31-35
[10] Especially considering the events of Annunciation, her pregnancy and Jesus’ birth, and the visit of the Wise Men and the family’s flight to Egypt.
[11] 2 Corinthians 12:9
[12] 2 Corinthians 12:10

Photo Credit: Main photo of cliffs at Nazareth in Israel supplied by Pr. Ted Giese.