It's been a couple of weeks since we were in the gospel of Mark, so I want to go back and review just a little bit. I want to pick it up at the end of chapter 4.The disciples are out on the Sea of Galilee, and there is a great storm that comes up, and they fear for their lives. Jesus stands up, and He calms the sea. He looks at His disciples and He says, "Why is it that you have no faith?" And the disciples look at one another and they say, "Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" I think that is the question that launches Mark's discussion in chapter 5. It's addressing the question: Who is this? They're still trying to figure that out. So Mark tells us: Jesus is the One who has the power over nature to calm the wind and the sea.
Then we encounter the demoniac, the one who is possessed by demons. He's out of his mind. If there was ever a hopeless person, it was this man. He was chained and lived in caves and lived more like an animal than a human. If there was ever anyone who seemed absolutely hopeless, it was the demoniac. And yet, a matter of hours after he encounters Jesus, he is commissioned to be a missionary of the gospel. And we are reminded that with the life changing power of Jesus, nobody is hopeless. Nobody is out of His reach. Jesus is th One who has power over the demons.
We're reminded that Jesus is the One who has power over disease as He heals the woman who had hemorrhaged for years. She was hopeless and in despair. She came to Jesus and there found her healing.
Mark reminds us that Jesus is the One who has power over death as He raises Jairus' daughter back from the dead.
Who is Jesus? He's the One who has power over the wind and the sea; He's the One who has power over the oppression of the enemy; He's the One who has power over disease and power over death. That's Who He is.
Having preached continually in the area by the Sea of Galilee and around Capernaum, Jesus now returned to His own neighborhood around Nazareth, no doubt visiting His family, but also in order that He might proclaim His message there. But He discovered that the people there had little interest because they knew Him too well, or at least they thought they did.
Rejection is the easiest thing in the world to handle when it comes from those you do not like anyway. The real test of rejection is when it comes from those you like, from those you know, from those from whom you desire acceptance.
In Mark 6:1 through 13 we see two paragraphs that fit together in a very interesting way. First we see Jesus rejected by his own people in Nazareth, and then we see Jesus telling the disciples to prepare for rejection themselves.
Mark 6:1 (NASB) And He went out from there, and He came into His home town; and His disciples followed Him.
"He went out from there" If you remember from our last study, Jesus and His disciples had gone to the "other side" of the Sea of Galilee to the land known as the Decapolis. Then they got back into the boat and returned to the area of Capernaum where Jesus raised Jairus' daughter from the dead. Now they leave Capernaum and go to Nazareth. What is special about Nazareth? It is where Jesus was raised.
"He came into His home town" The word "home town" means: "one's native place." While Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He was raised and worked in Nazareth, about 20 miles southwest of Capernaum a day's journey.
The people of Nazareth saw Jesus as one who left their town a year before to become an itinerant Rabbi. Never had any place on earth such privileges as Nazareth. For thirty years the Son of God resided in this town and went to and fro in its streets. For thirty years He walked with God before the eyes of its inhabitants, living a blameless, perfect life. Talk about Him flooded the Galilean region and beyond, so that people in Nazareth were quite aware of the claims and work of Jesus Christ.
His return to Nazareth to teach in the synagogue was probably the second and last trip back home that we find recorded in the New Testament. On the first one, Jesus read from Isaiah's prophecy concerning the Messiah, declaring: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." At first they spoke well of Him, but then the reality of His Messianic claims sank in, so they sought to throw Him over the cliff:
Luke 4:29-30 (NASB) and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.
After this He settled in Capernaum but made at least one more trip back to Nazareth the setting of our text. It's amazing that Jesus would ever have thought to return here seeing as an attempt had been made on His life that last time. But Jesus returns to His home town where He'd been brought up since His return from Egypt (Matthew 2:23). This must have been the one place above all others where He would have longed for the people to heed the message of the Gospel, for He had grown up in this neighborhood and probably knew many of the people still there, He had been in their houses in which He'd eaten and talked through the evening and played as a child.
Mark 6:2 (NASB) And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands?
Jesus came to town with His disciples, which was a clear statement that He was coming as a rabbi, and these were His students. It was customary that a visiting rabbi would be invited to read the Scriptures on the Sabbath and to make some comments. Jesus was granted that invitation. The imperfect tense of "began to teach" indicates that He may have taught numerous times during that stay in Nazareth. Our text is the culmination.
It is important to bear in mind that He was asked to speak. It is also important to know that any speaker could be questioned regarding His message. The synagogue service still held some of it simplistic beginnings, and the opportunity for question and answer interchange was one of the foundations of the service.
After Jesus made His comments, the people were astonished at what He had said. They "were astonished" is in the imperfect tense. The word means to lose control of oneself. The imperfect looks at a continual action in the past. They kept on being astonished.
Then they began to question, "Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him and such miracles as these performed by His hands?"
They didn't ask Jesus these questions, they asked each other. They would rather hear the opinions of their peers than the truth from the Lord. There was a time to question the speaker, but they ignored Him and would prefer opinion over truth. This is pure subjectivity; ignore the source of truth even when it is standing right in front of you.
Their first two questions attacked the source and the quality of His wisdom. "Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him?" Now they were left with only two sources: either God or Satan. And they were too subjective to accept God as a source of this Man's teaching, so their unspoken conclusion is Satan.
This was the conclusion of the Jewish leaders as we saw in:
Mark 3:22 (NASB) And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons."
They were questioning the source of Jesus' words and miracles. By that they meant that it was not of divine origin. In their minds, it could not have been. It's not that they denied that miracles took place through Christ or that He said things that baffled the religious leaders of the day, but they questioned the source of this wisdom and power.
They also question, "Where did He get the power to do these miracles?" They probably were referring to what they had heard He had done in Capernaum, about 20 miles away.
This is the last time we have Jesus recorded as teaching in the synagogue in Mark's Gospel. The inference may be that Jesus was now finding it restrictive to teach in the synagogues, and that He chose rather to be in the open country where people came to Him to receive both teaching and healing.
Mark 6:3 (NASB) "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him.
As the questions continued, we find the people of Nazareth also questioning the person of Christ or His nature and being. Note the questions: "Is not this the carpenter?" This is a remarkable expression and is only found in the Gospel of Mark. It shows us plainly that for the first thirty years of His life, our Lord was not ashamed to work with His own hands. There is something overwhelming in the thought! He who made heaven, earth, sea, and all that therein is; He, without whom nothing was made that was made; the Son of God Himself took on Him the form of a servant and "in the sweat of His face ate bread" as a working man. This is indeed that "love of Christ that passes knowledge." Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. Both in life and death He humbled Himself.
The word "carpenter" is the Greek word tekton, which actually means: "a craftsman who builds." Given that Israel's buildings were constructed of stones and rocks, Jesus likely worked as a stonemason rather than a carpenter. He probably spent hours helping his father shape and cut stones. He would have built anything from a plow to a house to a piece of furniture. They were very skilled craftsmen. It was also very physically demanding work. It was a very noble profession but it was labor class; it was blue collar.
In the ancient cultures it was not like it is here in America where you start in the warehouse and work your way up to the corporate office. It just didn't work that way. Your advancements had to do with your heritage, the family you were born into, not your skills and abilities. So if you were labor class, you were labor class. If you were upper class, you were upper class. That's just the way it stayed. Rabbis didn't come from the labor class. Rabbis came from the upper class. So, at first, they are astonished by Jesus' teaching, but then they back away and say, "Wait a minute, wait a minute! This guy is just a carpenter."
The textual authorities vary considerably here. Many say, "the son of the carpenter and of Mary" (but then why not mention Joseph by name?). The former is more probably correct. It is in all the major manuscripts (but not papyrus 45), and we can see why it might be changed later. Calling Jesus an artisan may later have been seen as degrading Him (Origen argued with Celsus that Jesus was never called "the carpenter," demonstrating how deeply the issue was felt).
Not only was He a carpenter, but He was a carpenter from Nazareth! It was an inconspicuous town with no trade routes or governmental palaces or anything of distinction. Nathaniel expressed the disdain that many city dwellers felt toward it:
John 1:46 (NASB) And Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
So they considered that since He was one of their own from Nazareth, He could not possibly be what He claimed to be in His teaching. How could He be anything more than a lowly carpenter in an obscure town?
"He's the son of Mary." this would be no big deal to us for someone to say: "That's Mary's son." But in the ancient world, this is a very derogatory statement, they would refer to someone according to who that person's father was. Even if the father was dead, it was proper to refer to Jesus as the son of Joseph. To call Him the son of Mary was a statement of derision, a very negative statement. You remember Mary and Joseph were betrothed when she suddenly showed up pregnant. Joseph became aware of that. He knew he didn't have sexual relations with her, so obviously she had been unfaithful. So he sought to divorce her. And the angel appeared to Joseph and said, "No, don't divorce her. She hasn't been unfaithful. She's still a virgin. She's with child through the Holy Spirit." Can you imagine explaining that to their friends? "Really, we have never been intimate. She's just pregnant by God." Well you can imagine nobody believed that. Nazareth was a rural Jewish community of about three hundred people. So the rumor through Nazareth as Jesus grew up was that Jesus was the illegitimate child of Mary frankly they didn't even know who His father was. All of that is captured in this statement, "He is the son of Mary" the illegitimate son of Mary.
Questions about the person of Christ began early in His ministry. So the biblical writers made it very clear that Jesus was God in the flesh. John opened his Gospel by declaring Jesus Christ to be God the Creator. Luke often spoke of Jesus as Son of God. Matthew and Mark tell us about the Transfiguration and the divine approbation concerning Christ as God's Son. Paul, especially, deals with Christ's nature in Colossians, declaring: "all things have been created through Him and for Him" (1:16). The Epistle to the Hebrews explains, "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power" (1:3). In other words, to have seen Jesus Christ was to see God in the flesh who exactly corresponds to the revelation of God in His being, and who also demonstrates His omnipotence in sustaining the world.
Church history is replete with those denying the person of Christ. Monarchism developed around A.D. 200 by those denying the uniqueness of Christ as the Son. Arianism arose in the 4th century when Arius denied the eternality of Christ, stating that there was a time when the Son did not exist. In that same era, Apollinarianism declared that while Jesus was perfectly divine, He lacked true humanity. Nestorianism, in the 5thcentury, claimed Jesus to be both divine and human, but denied that these two distinct natures existed in one person. Seventh century Islam claimed that Jesus was a prophet of Allah. The denials of Christ's nature have continued through the centuries, and they shall continue as long as there are fallen men. What Dan Brown is doing in The Da Vince Code is nothing new; fallen man has always attacked the person of Christ.
"...brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon?" "James" is the James that wrote the New Testament book of James. And "Judas" is the brother that wrote the New Testament book of Jude. But at this point, they didn't believe. We know they didn't. They didn't believe until after the resurrection. Of the others, we have no information. Paul also mentions the Lord's brothers:
1 Corinthians 9:5 (NASB) Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
"Are not His sisters here with us?"
Although Mary and Joseph had no sexual intercourse for the first nine months or so after they were married, they did once Jesus had been born. So Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters.
"And they took offense at Him." The word "offense" expresses the opposite of believing. It could be translated as: "they stumbled over Him," that is, they stumbled over the revelation concerning Christ in His person and work. That word offense is the Greek word from which we get our English word scandal. They were scandalized. "Here comes Jesus into town acting like a rabbi, trying to convince us that He's something more than He is. He's just a carpenter, blue collar. He's the illegitimate child of Mary. He's just one of us. Who does He think He is!" They were offended by that.
Mark 6:4 (NASB) And Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his home town and among his own relatives and in his own household."
That was a common saying among both the Hebrew people and the Roman people. It was the idea that a prophet is honored except when he goes home. The people that know him best maybe fail to see him for what he really is.
Jesus is saying that sometimes you become so familiar with people you fail to see them for what they really are. These people had become so familiar with Jesus that that became a barrier to seeing Him for what He truly was.
Even though there were no doubts about the remarkable things Christ taught and the fact that He performed miracles, His own hometown chose to dishonor Him. Maybe some were jealous of His recognition. Others thought that one that lacked family notoriety to be unworthy of the honor that the rest of Galilee placed on Christ.
This scene of rejection within Mark's larger narrative was prepared for in:
Mark 3:21 (NASB) And when His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, "He has lost His senses."
Jesus' mother and brothers have come for Him to Capernaum, evidently to take Him home, because they are embarrassed by His behavior, which seems to them that of a madman.
Mark 6:5 (NASB) And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands upon a few sick people and healed them.
The point is not that they missed out on some really cool things, or that they sure missed out on better health and comfort. Miracles attested to the reality of Christ as Messiah. Miracles were tools of proclamation to point people to Christ as their Redeemer. It was not that Christ was powerless to do miracles, since we find Him doing miracles in settings where people lacked faith. But the point of the miracles would have fallen on darkened minds. "He's just a carpenter. He's just an illegitimate son of Mary. He's just one of us. What can He do?"
Mark 6:6 (NASB) And He wondered at their unbelief. And He was going around the villages teaching.
Jesus was filled with wonder at the total lack of faith in Him among His neighbors. He found it quite incredible that they should be so unbelieving in the face of all that they must have heard about Him.
Jesus sends out His disciples:
Mark 6:7 (NASB) And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs; and He was giving them authority over the unclean spirits;
The word "send" is a present infinitive of apostello. It is the verb form of the word "apostle," which refers to an official representative. It was used in Ancient Greek for the high admiral of the Greek navy who personally represented the king, and the apostles word was the word of the king. It is a word that carries tremendous authority with it, and it was a gift and office in the early church prior to the completion of the Bible. There are no apostles running around today, except those who are so appointed by self in arrogance.
This passage is appropriately used by many churches as a blueprint for evangelism training. The principles here are relevant even for today. First, notice that the disciples had been with Jesus first. They themselves were disciples before they attempt to make their own disciples.
Only those who have spent time with Jesus are qualified to share with others. We have a saying that we use a lot in our elders' meetings: You cannot give what you do not have; and you will not have anything to share if you do not spend time with Jesus. You don't need a PHD, but you do need a living relationship with a living Savior. If you know the Lord and are walking with Him, then you, like these disciples, have the preparation necessary to begin putting into practice sharing the good news.
"He sent them out in pairs" Mark is the only gospel writer who mentions this fact. I see three reasons they were sent out in pairs:
1. For their own safety. Many areas of Galilee were dangerous. The robbers preyed upon the weak. The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 illustrates the dangers that could befall a lone traveler.
2. For encouragement and mutual support: Even today we see the greater effectiveness of believers working together and ministering to each other in encouragement. Discouragement will come, and that is when there is strength in numbers:
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NASB) Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10 For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
Paul took a companion with him wherever he went, first Barnabas and then Silas.
3. For a legal witness: Jesus refers to the Old Testament law:
John 8:17 (NASB) "Even in your law it has been written, that the testimony of two men is true.
And so by sending out the disciples in pairs, there were two who would proclaim the testimony of Christ.
They did not go out all by themselves; our Lord sent them out two by two. Matthew gives us the list of who went with whom. Andrew went with Peter, his brother. James went with John, his brother. And so on down through the list. You've got to feel bad for Simon the Zealot, because his partner was Judas Iscariot!
"He was giving them authority over the unclean spirits" which is a way of saying that Jesus gave them the authority to do what He had been doing. What a remarkable thing this is. Not only did Jesus have a unique authority over the powers of evil, but He was able to give that authority to others. Matthew tells us, "When they came back, they were rejoicing that the demons were subject to them."
Mark 6:8-9 (NASB) and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belt; 9 but to wear sandals; and He added, "Do not put on two tunics."
Why didn't He want them to take a suitcase and a lot of stuff? He wanted them to be totally dependent upon Him. Jesus would have to meet their needs. I think there's a picture here that their physical dependence on Jesus was meant to be symbolic of yet a greater dependence upon Jesus for the power needed to accomplish the mission. Evangelistic efforts in our own strength will ultimately fail. Furthermore, we are not to rely on our own style of evangelism or smooth delivery, but in the power of God and His message.
Now the prayer that they had been taught, "give us today our daily bread," would take on new meaning. The prohibition against carrying a bag is interesting in that normally the word was used for a bread bag; common in the ancient world. But the Lord already said, "no bread," making the prohibition against a bag for the bread redundant. But the bread bag was also used by beggars to hold out like the tin cup, so this prohibition may be against going about begging.
In all this, the Lord is going to teach the disciples that He can care for them even when He is not with them. This is one way to teach Christ centered dependency. There are many ways the Lord will use to get believers to realize that they can depend upon him. Sometimes He may send us out with nothing, and we will see that He is adequate to meet all our needs:
2 Corinthians 3:5 (NASB) Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,
These disciples would learn what we must also learn. The Lord provides for us, and we can depend upon Him.
The only thing they were to take was a staff. Most scholars think this was a reference back to the staff of Moses. If you track through the Old Testament, there's a theology that tracks the staff through the old covenant. But it really begins with Moses and his staff leading the nation of Israel out of bondage and into the land of promise. And there's a symbolism here that Jesus was calling His apostles to go to His people and once again lead them out of their religious bondage into the freedom of the New Covenant. And the staff was symbolic of that.
We also need to recognize, however, that this was in line with the general practice of that time. That is, hospitality was considered very important in these Eastern villages. Any stranger coming to town could expect to be taken care of and entertained. So when they went, Jesus told them to expect hospitality. They did not have motels and hotels, and inns were very few, so this was the normal provision for travelers in that day.
There are some who, having read this account of the first mission of the twelve, immediately leap to the conclusion that their practice is to apply as much to us today, and they rush forth to minister without making any adequate preparation whatever. This shows how carelessly we sometimes read the Scripture. Our Lord makes clear that this was a temporary provision, specifically for these men. We must read this account in conjunction with Luke 22 where, much later, as Jesus came to the close of His ministry, He said to his disciples:
Luke 22:35-36 (NASB) And He said to them, "When I sent you out without purse and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?" And they said, "No, nothing." 36 And He said to them, "But now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one.
We must develop our doctrinal positions from the whole of Scripture, not isolated texts.
Mark 6:10-11 (NASB) And He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 11 "And any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake off the dust from the soles of your feet for a testimony against them."
This advise was given in light of a problem in Jesus' day with itinerant Rabbis who traveled to the villages and would move from house to house improving their quarters. If a family invited them to stay, they would stay only until a better offer came along. Then they would move up to a better home, wealthier hosts, more servants. But the disciples were not to impose upon the hospitality of many nor accept a more attractive offer once they were settled.
This requirement of the Lord for his disciples has an application to us: be satisfied with what the Lord gives you:
Philippians 4:11-13 (NASB) Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
We need to develop an attitude of contentment regarding the grace that God gives to us. If He should give another more grace by way of logistical support, then rejoice for your fellow believer - do not envy them.
"Shake off the dust" This was actually a Hebrew custom that when they left the land of promise and went out into heathen territory, when it was time to return they would get to the border, and they would shake the dust of the heathens off their sandals. This was so that they didn't track it onto their sacred soil. Thus the similar act by the Apostles would indicate that the place was looked on as unclean and defiled. We can also compare Acts 18.6 where the shaking off of the dust indicated that the messengers were free from guilt, and the recipients had brought their judgment on their own heads based on the same principle.
Mark 6:12 (NASB) And they went out and preached that men should repent.
This is the same message Jesus had been preaching ever since the inauguration of His ministry. As He first began to preach, His message was:
Mark 1:15 (NASB) and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
Repentance is used most often in scripture to mean: "turn from sin to God." Repentance is not a negative experience, it is a positive experience. When you repent, you turn from doing things that are capable only of creating misery in your life, and you turn toward doing things that will create joy and fulfillment in your life. When you repent, you turn away from the things that are bent on destroying your life, and you turn towards the One who has promised to bless your life.
Mark 6:13 (NASB) And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.
Just as in the ministry of Jesus, the miracles were not an end in themselves. The miracles were there to validate the messenger in order to validate the message. In other words, people would see the miracles and say, "These men have to be from God. Therefore, the message has to be from God."
Jesus never anointed with oil, but the disciples did, evidently at His command.
This anointing with oil demonstrated the separation of the person in question to God, as in the Old Testament. They were healed because they responded to Him in faith and became His.
Just as Jesus wanted to teach His disciples to trust Him, He wants us to learn the same lesson. We are to be dependant upon Him for everything. We are to trust Him in everything. We must be willing to adopt the attitude that God can and will work in our midst if we will only trust Him. But how do we come to the place where we really trust Him, where we are willing to step beyond where we can see? There is an important biblical answer to that question. The answer is found in:
Romans 10:17 (NASB) So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
Faith grows as we give attention to what God is saying in His word. As we open the Bible and study it, as we seek God in prayer, for Him to reveal by His Holy Spirit the lessons this Book contains, then we will begin to have the eyes of our understanding enlightened. As we hide the word in our hearts, faith will grow. You see, faith must be nurtured. A believing heart does not simply happen, it is developed. As we come to understand and know Christ better through His word, we will also come to understand the faithfulness of God to keep His promises to us.
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