Summary: God is no respecter of persons. He will use whom he will. There is a danger in our Christian lives that we can miss out on God’s blessings because we fail to recognise God’s messenger.
A prophet is without honour in his own country
We all know the old adage “Familiarity breeds contempt” - a saying that goes back as far as Publius the Syrian, in 2 BC.
And we see in our Gospel reading this morning, how this happened to Jesus when he went back to his hometown of Nazareth.
I didn’t grow up with anyone who went on to be famous. Though I missed being a contemporary of the rock group "Genesis" at Charterhouse by one term.
But I wonder how I would have responded if one of my friends had gone on to become famous
You could imagine the Nazareth Times that Sunday:
The front-page story: “Local Boy Makes Good” – followed by a report on the miracles that Jesus had been performing. And undoubtedly - in the letters column - you would have found a letter by one of the religious leaders carrying some severe criticisms.
So WHY was there a problem when Jesus came to
In the previous chapter, St. Mark records how Jesus had performed some great miracles – away from home.
He had healed the man possessed of a legion of devils (Mk 5: 1-20) and then he had raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mk 5:21-43).
And in Mk Chapter 6, at Jesus’ homecoming to Nazareth, we read that:
“When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the Synagogue and many who heard him were amazed” (Mk 6:2).
St. Mark doesn’t actually tell us what flamed the controversy. All he does / is to leave us with the impression / that what Jesus taught / must have been controversial - judging by the response he got.
We read how the Nazarenes responded:
"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 offence at him. (Mk 6:3)
What was in Jesus’ teaching that generated so much heat?
One of the great blessings of having four Gospels / is that many of the incidents in the life of Jesus / appear in more than one Gospel. And often the account in the other Gospel or Gospels will shed a different light on the event. Where one of the Gospels skates over a particular aspect – the other will often give more detail. And in this particular case, we are not disappointed.
In the parallel passage from St. Luke’s Gospel, St. Luke tell us more about the controversy: Let me read you what St. Luke says:
He (Jesus) went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom
for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour."
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:16-21)
You might still ask – why the controversy.
I think you can find the key in Jesus’ words: "TODAY is the Scripture fulfilled." (Luke 4:21)
The passage that Jesus had just been reading - was a well-known Messianic passage - from the book of Isaiah - Isaiah 61:1-2.
The Jews were looking forward to a Messiah – God’s deliverer who was going to come and release all those in captivity.
This was particularly poignant - as the Jews had been suffering under the yoke of the Romans for about a century (since 63BC). And they were hoping for a political and military Messiah – someone in the mould of Judas Maccabeus – who had lived almost two centuries earlier – and who, in 166 BC had delivered the Jews from the yoke of Antiochus IV, a particularly despicable monarch.
What made Jesus unorthodox was his claim TO BE that Messiah.
Why did the Nazarenes reject him?
Well I think it is because they saw him as “one of them”. In their eyes he wasn’t someone special. Who did he think he was - rising above his station?
God is no respecter of persons – and he will use whom he wishes - as his messenger.
Story: This year is the tercentenary of John Wesley’s birth. John Wesley was actually an Anglican clergyman all his life.