6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.
(Mark 6:1-6 NIV)
Jesus and His disciples had been around Lake Genesserat, mostly in Capernaum. As we closed chapter 5, Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.
As we open chapter 6, Mark records Jesus and His disciples visiting His hometown of Nazareth, a full day’s walk from Capernaum. While Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He grew up in Nazareth and was known as being from there (1:24).
On the Sabbath, Jesus spoke in the local synagogue. The crowd’s initial reaction was amazement. But their amazement turned to questions; questions turned into doubt, and doubt into offense and a critical spirit. How quickly the tide had turned against Jesus!
The crowd’s three questions are crucial to understanding their offense toward Jesus:
- Isn’t this the carpenter?
When the crowd asked their first question, they referred to Jesus by His trade – a carpenter. The term used was more of a skilled craftsman (Greek – “tektōn“) – a builder that used wood, stone, and other available materials. The crowd took offense that Jesus was just a common man – He was not a priest or a trained theologian. Jesus was one of them, and yet He was eloquently teaching them.
- Isn’t this Mary’s son?
This question insinuated multiple thoughts:
- First of all, Jesus’ earthly father Joseph was probably dead. Many scholars think that Joesph died fairly young, and Jesus worked as a builder in the family business until His brothers were old enough to take up the family building trade and support Mary and the other children.
- Secondly, tracing Jesus’ family heritage to Mary was a slam against both Mary and Jesus, citing her illegitimate pregnancy and Jesus’ birth.
- Third, Jesus’ family were all working-class folks. None of them had any extended schooling or theological training. Who did Jesus think He was, teaching in the synagogue like this?
- Aren’t His sisters here with us?
Even Jesus’ sisters lived in Nazareth and attended the local synagogue. Why did Jesus run off to the big city of Capernaum, and now come back all important, with an entire entourage of disciples with Him? Who did Jesus think He was?
Jesus’ reply was equal to the crowd’s amazement and offense: “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”
Jesus likely shook His head, wondering how the same people that had sent Him off to minister were now offended at His growth and success. Jesus was also likely referring back to His mother and brothers making the trek from Nazareth to Capernaum in their failed attempt to intervene and “rescue” Jesus (3:30-21, 31-35). As we would say today, familiarity breeds contempt.
Mark notes that Jesus was not able to do many miracles in Nazareth. Jesus healed a few sick people, but that was it. It was not that Jesus was incapable of performing the miracles – He still possessed the power to heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead to life, plus so much more.
The limiting factor was not Jesus, but the hardness of the crowd’s heart, their unbelief. The atmosphere or environment of the town was not conducive to Jesus performing many miracles there. The town’s attitude toward Jesus hampered His freedom to act. To do many miracles in that environment would have done more harm than good.
Mark concludes this section by saying that Jesus was amazed at the crowd’s lack of faith, by their unbelief. The crowd’s response likely cut deep in Jesus’ heart, as His hometown folks, likely even His own family rejected Him and His teaching.
As we shall see in the next section, the experience of this confrontation and rejection would not be wasted. When Jesus sends His disciples out to minister among the villages, they would likely experience the same rejection due to the townspeople’s unbelief.
How do we respond when people take offense when we share the Good News of Jesus? Are we shocked and surprised, and stop telling others about Him? Or do we press on, knowing that some may reject our message (especially those closest to us), but others will turn to the Lord and receive Him with gladness and joy?
May we press on undaunted as Jesus and His disciples did.