Sunday (July 8): Scripture:
1 He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.
Meditation: Are you critical towards others, especially those close to you? The most severe critics are often people very familiar to us, a family member, close relative, neighbor, or worker we rub shoulders with on a regular basis. Jesus faced a severe testing when he returned to his home town where he had grown up. Everyone in Nazareth knew him as the town carpenter, and they knew his mother and relatives as well. Jesus now returns as a rabbi (a master teacher) along with a group of his disciples.
It would have been customary for Jesus to go to a local synagogue each week on the Sabbath day (Saturday) to pray with his fellow Jews, and when his turn came, to read from the scriptures during the Sabbath service. His hometown folks began to listen with rapt attention on this occasion because they had heard about the miracles he had performed in other towns. They marveled at Jesus’ explanation of the scriptures and wondered what sign or miracle he might do for them. But as soon as Jesus began to prophesy and give a warning that no prophet or servant of God would receive honor among his own people, they took offense at him (Mark 6:3).
Why were they offended by Jesus’ word to them? Did they find his message and warning too much to bear? They despised Jesus and his warning for them because he was a carpenter by trade, a layman who did not hold a public office or ruling position in Israel like the scribes and the Pharasisees who sat on the “seat of Moses” (Matthew 23:2). Where did Jesus get his wisdom and authority to speak in the name of God? Jesus’ authority did not come from man but from his Father in heaven. When Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan, the Spirit of God annointed him with divine power and authority to carry out the mission entrusted to him by his Father, who spoke audibly, “Behold, my Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him” (Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22) Familiarity with one’s acquanitances can easily lead to contempt and jealousy when we feel diminished by their advancement in position or authority. Don’t we fell tempted to look down on those who rise above us in prestige or power? Our sinful nature likes to compare ourselves with others, especially among the people we know and relate with. Our sinful “flesh” wants to hold them in contempt and anger when they rise above us, or express a position which is contrary to our own point of view.
Mark tells us that Jesus marveled because of the unbelief of the townspeople he grew up with! They didn’t simply question Jesus’ authority to teach and speak in God’s name, they rejected it outright! Luke tells us in his Gospel account that the people were so upset and angry with Jesus that they wanted to kill him (Luke 4:29-30). Jesus’ message of repentance and belief in the good news of the coming reign of God’s kingdom fell on deaf ears because the people were too set in their own ways of thinking. They had failed to heed the words of the prophets in the Old Testament (the Jewish Bible) who not only spoke in God’s name, but also prophesied the coming of God’s annointed Messiah and Savior for Israel. Now they reject Jesus, whom the Father sent in his name, to redeem them from their sinful ways and stubborn pride. They disbelieved in Jesus’ claim to act and speak on God’s behalf, and they drove Jesus out of their lives and town altogether. That is why Jesus did no mighty works in Nazareth. Mark tells us that Jesus only healed a few of his townspeople who put their faith in him. Do you recognize and believe that Jesus is the annointed One sent by the Father to redeem and deliver us from death and destruction? The Father has given all authority to his Son, the Lord Jesus who came to set us free from sin and oppression. Jesus not only pardon our sins and releases us from guilt and condemnation. He also heals and transforms us to be a people who share in God’s own glory, mercy, and loving kindness.
The word “gospel” literally means “good news”. Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would come in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring freedom to those oppressed by sin and evil in the world (see Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus came to free us from the worst tyranny possible – slavery to our own sinful passions and hurtful desires. God’s power alone can save us from depair, fear, and destruction. The gospel of Jesus Christ is “good news” for all who hunger for abundant life and peace with God. Do you know the joy, victory, and freedom which the Lord Jesus has won for you?
“Lord Jesus, your word is truth and life for me. Set my heart free to love you above all else as my Lord and Redeemer. And fill me with the joy and power of the Holy Spirit that I may love and serve my neighbor with the same kindness and mercy you have shown me.”
1 To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he have mercy upon us.
3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.
4 Too long our soul has been sated with the scorn of those who are at ease, the contempt of the proud.