Summary: Don't let ridicule, rejection or even death stop you from serving Christ, because in the end it is the only way to live!
Linda, who teaches first grade in Dallas Texas, has an interesting job, especially when it comes to helping children adjust to their first whole day of school. Little Ryan was used to going home at noon in kindergarten; so when it was time to go to lunch with the rest of the class, he got his things ready to leave for home.
Linda asked him what he was doing.
“I'm going home,” he replied.
Linda tried to explain that, now that he is in the first grade, he would have a longer school day. “You'll go eat lunch now,” she said, “and then you'll come back to the room and do some more work before you go home.”
Ryan looked up at her in disbelief, hoping she was kidding. Then, convinced of her seriousness, Ryan then put his hands on his hips and demanded, “Who on earth signed me up for this program?” (Wanda Vassallo, Dallas, Texas, www.Preaching Today.com)
Sometimes we feel a little like Ryan when we start serving Christ. It’s a lot harder than we thought. We get some criticism, and we wonder, “Who signed me up for this program.”
It is to such people that Mark wrote his gospel. His original audience was suffering under Nero’s persecution for their commitment to Christ. Serving Him was much harder than they expected so Mark shares with them some stories from the life of Christ to encourage them.
Mark 6:1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. (NIV)
Jesus is going back to Nazareth, where he grew up, returning as a teacher surrounded by his students, showing them what ministry is all about. You see, He’s about to send them out two-by-two, and they need to have some idea of how to minister to a community.
Mark 6:2-3 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, that he even does miracles! 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. (NIV)
Literally, they stumbled over him. They were scandalized! They could not explain him, so they rejected him (Kenneth Wuest).
They dishonored Jesus. Jesus’ own relatives and childhood friends insulted him. You see it in the questions they asked (vs.3). Isn’t this the carpenter? In other words, he’s nothing special. He’s just a common laborer, and isn’t this Mary’s son? Now, in Jesus’ day no one EVER referred to a man as his mother’s son unless it was meant as an insult (see Judges 11:1-2). They were accusing Jesus of having an unknown father and being the bastard son of a supposedly immoral woman. Well, how does Jesus respond to these insults?
Mark 6:4-6a Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith. (NIV)
Only twice in all of the Gospels does it say “Jesus was amazed.” In Luke 7:9, it says He was amazed at a Roman Centurion’s great faith. Here, Jesus is amazed at his own relatives and friends’ lack of faith, and it prevented Him from doing a whole lot of miracles. Now, that’s not because their lack of faith limited His power, no. It’s because only a few had the faith to come to him for help. All of the rest had no respect for Him. They insulted and dishonored Him.
And that’s an important lesson for Jesus’ disciples to learn about ministry. When we take a stand for Christ and seek to serve Him we will be insulted. We will be dishonored and disgraced, and sometimes by those who are closest to us. It happened to Jesus, and it will happen to us.
Just a few years ago (2007), the Institute for Jewish and Community Research surveyed 1,200 professors from a cross-section of colleges, seeking “their attitudes toward various religions.” The research was originally aimed at gauging anti-Semitism, but something else was discovered. The professors stated they had positive feelings toward Jews and Catholics, but 53 percent said they possessed unfavorable feelings toward students who were evangelical Christians.
In his article, Why Christians Feel Unwelcome on Campus, David French offers his own conclusion on the matter: “For evangelicals, it came through loud and clear. The academic establishment has long dismissed stories about bias against Christians as mere anecdotes. But now we have concrete evidence of sheer bigotry. Our colleges clearly have a religion problem, and faithful students and professors are paying the price.” (David French, “Why Christians Feel Unwelcome on Campus,” The Week, 5-18-07, p. 12; www.PreachingToday.com)