Preacher: Emily Linderman
Good evening, friends.
Sitting with these six verses in the gospel of Mark led me to ask the question, “when we come into contact with our own amazement at the wisdom and power of God, are we hometown kin or are we following disciples?”
Are we hometown kin or are we following disciples?
Now, normally I wouldn’t want to put these categories and ways of relating to and following Jesus in opposition. I love the reality of being brothers and sisters in Christ and brother and sisters with Christ. But tonight, since Jesus does draw attention to kin as not being able to handle the wisdom and power of God in one of their own, I’m going to as well.
The text starts with Jesus leaving “that place” and returning to his home town of Nazareth. In the Gospel of Mark, that place is across the sea of Galilee after some time spent in the tombs with Legion. Jesus has also recently spent time with the hemorrhaging woman and Jairus, He’s come in to contact with them and their belief that he could heal them or someone they loved. And indeed, they are all changed by coming into contact with him. And then, he returns home. I wonder why? Maybe he wanted to share his most recent collection of really real moments with the people he grew up around.
Sometime after he returns home the text says he begins to teach on the Sabbath in the synagogue. And the folks listening to Jesus were astounded, or astonished, or amazed. Which makes me wonder—what exactly was he teaching? What did he say to them? Maybe Jesus mistook his hometown for a small group thinking his kinsmen and women would believe him when he shared his really real moments meeting people in their belief and healing them.
Whatever it was here is how they responded, “Where did this man get all this?” Notice, he’s not even Jesus, he’s “this man.” And at first it seems like the listeners could be headed for praise. They don’t say, “Where did he get this garbage?” No, they say, “Where did he get this wisdom?” And in the NRSV the next sentence is a statement completed with an exclamation point no less! What deeds are being done by his hands! I hear amazement. They could be, for a time at least, beholding him and his teaching.
But then it turns. They take offense.
You can almost hear them thinking, “How amazing. But, what a minute! This is Jesus. We grew up with this guy, some of us helped raise him.” And then this man becomes just this. “Is not this the carpenter, the regular old son of Mary with brothers and sisters to boot? This carpenter’s got kin here and now he blows in causing a ruckus after being gone for a while. Seems like he’s forgotten where he came from. Well, we can remind him.”
And Jesus responds, ‘Prophets are not without honor, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ Like, “Well this response is disappointing, not a surprise, but disappointing. I was hoping my hometown would be different.”
Mark goes on to say, “and he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.”
They were astounded and he was amazed. And, “Then he went about among the villages teaching.”
Note that it’s not he would do no deed of power there, but that he could do no deed of power there. This line of scripture repeated in Matthew begs the question, at least it does for me, do Jesus’ deeds of power come through cooperation with our belief? Not does Jesus’ power come through our belief, but do Jesus’ deeds of power happen with our willingness to believe? Does Jesus need to leave unbelieving presence to get anything done? This gospel writer seems to think so. And Jesus meets us where we are, however we are – sharing his power with us in our belief and sharing his teaching and presence with us even in our unbelief.
Now, I’m human like everyone else and when I start to feel competitive or one-upped, or I can’t handle my own feelings of amazement, I take offense and go on defense. My eyes and ears and heart start to close and I can no longer receive wisdom or deeds of power. I can no longer behold the presence of God.
And so I wonder, how many of us here tonight have become Jesus’ kin in the sense that when we hear or see the amazing power of God in anyone, or experience a reliving of a Gospel story in our own life, we dismiss it or we take offense thinking who do they think they are?
And I ask are we creating a hometown here at Epiphany where Jesus is known and perhaps even loved, but kept in his place not allowed to work or transform or heal?
No. I hope and I pray, I see and I believe that you all are, and I hope I am, everyday becoming disciples.
So let us not be competitive or threatened or unbelieving when the really real moments happen and we think we just might be experiencing God’s powerful presence at work in our lives. Let us instead be astounded, astonished, amazed, willing to follow disciples saying,
“Well, look at God! What can we do to spread this good news?”