Mark 6: 1 – 6 A prophet without honour
Jesus left there and went to his home town, accompanied by his disciples. 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? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 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.
Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few people who were ill and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
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This is a fascinating and disturbing passage. Jesus seems to fail. His family and friends question the source of his wisdom and question the miracles he has performed. Why? Because they know him.
We’ve just read how Jesus calmed a storm, cured a man with severe mental illness, miraculously healed a woman who only needed to touch his cloak, and raised a girl from the dead. Now we’re told that the people who knew Jesus best didn’t believe in him.
In a way, this could be read as testimony against the truth of the gospel. Jesus’ life up until the time of his ministry did not lead people to believe there was anything special about him.
But is that a fair assessment? Jesus’ public ministry didn’t start until he was baptised by John the Baptist, at which point he “saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” (Mark 1: 10 – 11)
In fact, it’s not surprising that Jesus seemed completely normal to his neighbours. What this really emphasises is that Jesus was fully human. And this passage confirms his humanity in another way. We are told that “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” Jesus was not in possession of full knowledge of God’s plan. He was exactly like the rest of us; he had to rely on prayer and on the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
The failure in this passage is not on the part of Jesus; it is on the part of his family and friends. Their doubt – perhaps arising out of the very human pride that asks “Who does he think he is? What makes him think he’s better than me?” – almost stops Jesus from doing anything “except lay his hands on a few people who were ill and heal them.”
Perhaps we should take this as a lesson that we must never take Jesus for granted. Whatever we think we have learned about him, we actually know almost nothing. We must approach him in faith, seeking to be obedient, and ready to be astonished at the miracles he can work.
Thank you for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Help me never to limit his work through my lack of faith.
In Jesus’ name, Amen