Summary: A look at the undercurrents in the passage, to see what was really going on
As we look through the gospel reading today, I am going to pick on a number of words and phrases to try to give a better picture of what was going on. Marks’ Gospel is a fast moving text. It could be called "What Jesus Did Next". It is easy to get caught up in the story and miss some of the undercurrents. That of course wouldn’t have been a problem for Marks readers, but for us 2000 years later, and without a Jewish upbringing it is very easy to do.
After healing the woman with the flow of blood, and Jairus’ daughter Jesus moves to his home town. Nazareth was a small town with a population around 300. It is where Joseph and Mary settled after the birth of Jesus. Jesus would have been well known there, many of the people would have grown up with him. There was relatively little movement, most people were born in the town they were living in. Nazareth was primarily an agricultural settlement. The archaeology shows that there are grain store and wine presses. Jesus had left home and made his ministry around Galilee about 30 miles to the north east. When he arrived in the town he would have headed straight for his childhood home. He would have stayed with his family. If his mother was not able to accommodate him then one of his brothers would have taken on the duty.
Jesus had been home for a few days, and as was the family tradition they attended synagogue on the Sabbath. Just as in the church of England it is not permitted for just anyone to teach. You have to have had some training. Normally a trainee Rabbi would be apprenticed to well known and respected Rabbi. We can be fairly certain that this was not the case with Jesus. However he was recognised as competent and allowed to speak. He would only have had a few minutes. The sermon was not the main focus of Jewish worship. Scripture reading was considered more important, as were prayers.
They were amazed
The people in the synagogue were amazed at Jesus teaching. They all thought they knew who he was. What he said appeared to them to have genuine insight, it would have been clear and straight forward. It would have been honest and open. The regular guy had not been away that long, but he had come back and He was different. Those who listened, really listened and were open to Jesus words were the ones who were really amazed. They had clearly heard about his ministry, it would have been impossible to not have heard of this healer even from 30 miles away. Remember there was no internet, television, radio, or newspapers. News travels fast in any human culture no matter what the technology.
But then they start to think a little more. Perhaps Jesus message was a little uncompromising, perhaps he spoke a few home truths with his message. Isn’t this just the repairman? As a carpenter Jesus would have spent most his time repairing furniture and buildings. There would have been new work also, but most of the work would have been wandering around town looking for things to repair, or buildings to help with. Carpenters also included general building work. So this guy is just the repairman – what right does he have to tell me how to live my life?
There is a certain irony here. Jesus is the repair man. Both physically in his skill with wood, but also spiritually with his clean clear wisdom from God. Then there are the miracles, evidence that Jesus can and does repair people physically too.
Yet despite the evidence that they have heard both on the grapevine and now with their own ears they still choose to reject him.
We know now that Jesus is the ultimate repair man – putting the universe back together after it was ruined by sin.
Now they are really getting into it. Calling him Mary’s son is a polite way of questioning his parentage. Even if Joseph had died by this time (which seems likely), he should still have been known as Joseph’s son. It is true that the Jews count their racial purity through the mother, so if your mother was a Jew, so are you. The message here is that Jesus is illegitimate - a cause of shame in the 1st century. It is just being used to bolster there argument that they shouldn’t take any notice of the piece of wisdom that they have just heard. His brothers and sisters get a mention and he’s being viewed just as one of the towns children, why should they take any notice of a child?