Mark 6:1-13 (Sixth Sunday after Pentecost—Series B)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
July 8, 2012
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel reading from Mark 6:
[Jesus] went away from there and came to his hometown, 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 these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done 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 hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching. 7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in their belts– 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
How do people handle rejection? A Google search of that question came up with 22,400,000 pages. I guess there is plenty of material out there on dealing with a topic that is common to all of us. One online blogger wrote, “It is inevitable you will be turned down at various points in your life. You may get rejected when applying for a job, making a marriage proposal, or asking your boss for a pay raise. It is not a nice experience to have, but thankfully it is possible to learn how to handle rejection without letting it destroy you.” She then proceeds to list 7 tips that can apparently help you handle rejection. The blogger is right in that rejection is inevitable. In fact, rejection is an experience common to the Lord and to the Church.
During His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus constantly faced rejection. This is what the prophet Isaiah said would happen to God’s promised Messiah, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Is. 53:3) In the prolog of his Gospel, St. John writes by the power of the Holy Spirit, “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” (John 1:11) At Jesus’ presentation in the Temple at 40 days old Simeon said to Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed.” (Luke 2:34) Jesus’ rejection is clearly foretold.
And it happened! The scribes and the Pharisees rejected Jesus and His message that the Kingdom of God had drawn near. They said He had an unclean spirit! Jesus’ own family said that He was out of His mind! (Mark 3:21) That’s rejection! Then there’s a big one in our Gospel this morning. Jesus returns to His hometown with His disciples. He got to teach in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. And He was rejected. Jesus was raised in Nazareth. He grew up there. He was the hometown-kid come home and so He was asked to read the Scripture and He does and He expounds the text. And the congregation was astonished and they wondered where this woodworker got this from. He’s the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Jude, and Simon. His sisters were there. In other words, the people knew Him (or at least they thought they did). Jesus’ old neighbors mentioned His days as a tradesman in order to draw an unflattering contrast with His new role as teacher. It was also a cultural insult to be named the son of the mother. You were respectfully and properly identified as the son of the father, so Jesus son of Joseph. To call him the son of Mary, even if she was at this time a widow, was a slap in the face, a huge insult. The hometown gang took offense at Jesus. They rejected Him and His Word.
The ultimate rejection that Jesus faced was the rejection of all rejections done by no one less than God the Father. In order to win the forgiveness of sin for the whole world, Jesus had to bear those sins. He had to pay the penalty of death for those sins. Hanging on the cross covered in the sins of the world, the sins of all time and every place, Jesus was totally rejected by the Father. He was abandoned by God the Father, forsaken by Him, left alone on the cross to suffer hell and condemnation for our sins. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (Ps. 22:1) But God the Father did not reject Jesus forever. Having completed the mission of winning forgiveness of sins and eternal life for the whole world, God raised Jesus from the dead. God the Father fully accepted the once-for-all sacrifice of His only Son as valid for all people. We are completely forgiven for our sins because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is now no condemnation for you and me.
Because Jesus faced this ultimate rejection by His Father on the cross and died for our sins, you and I are not rejected by the Father. By rejecting His Son who bore our sins and raising Him from the dead after He accomplished our salvation, God receives us as His children through the Word and water in Baptism. In Baptism we receive faith in Jesus and the forgiveness Jesus won for us. But this forgiveness is not only for us. It is also for all people! But not all people know Jesus. Not all people believe in Him as their Savior from sin, Satan, and death.
Jesus faced this same problem in our text this morning. In Nazareth, Jesus “marveled at their unbelief.” And then He went about among the villages teaching! Jesus dealt with the problem of unbelief head-on. Jesus was rejected as the Messiah-Savior because the people had no faith in Him. What is it that God uses to create faith in Jesus as the Messiah-Savior? The Word! So Jesus goes and continues to preach the Word—the message of repentance and forgiveness—so that people might believe in Him! He wants people to turn away from unbelief to faith and so receive the forgiveness of sins which He would win for all on the cross. What’s more, Jesus was determined to extend His mission even further by sending out the Twelve Apostles. Together, they could cover more ground and reach more people.
Jesus authorized the Twelve to be His delegates with respect to both His Word of repentance and forgiveness and His power. Jesus “gave them authority,” His authority, to preach and to teach and to heal. Their message and deeds were to be an extension of His own because “the sent one is as the man who commissioned him.” Jesus gave them specific instructions that they should accept the hospitality they received, trusting that God would provide for them during the mission journey as they proclaimed the Word, cast out demons, and healed the sick in Jesus’ name.
But Jesus also prepared them for rejection. Unbelief is the context in which the mission of Christ advances. It’s just not Jesus who gets rejected. It is also His disciples, His Church, as they represent Jesus and speak His authoritative Word. Jesus tells the Twelve that there would be villages where no hospitality would be offered and where their message would not be tolerated. Jesus also tells them how to handle this rejection. The Twelve are not to be vengeful when rejected. They are not to call down fire from heaven. They are not to go around bad-mouthing the village to others. Jesus tells them plainly, “If any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is under your feet as a testimony against them.” This would provide a warning to the village that the disciples had fulfilled their responsibility and that those who had rejected the message would ultimately have to answer to God.
Our Lord has also commissioned us, the baptized children of God, to be His delegates to the world. The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is for you and me, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mat 28:19 ESV) Jesus has given us His Gospel Word of repentance and forgiveness to proclaim in His name. He has given us His authority to baptize and to teach in His name so that many, many more people might believe in Him as Lord and Savior. And He has also prepared us for the rejection that we will also face. Unbelief is still the context in which the mission of Christ advances. In our country, state, and town there are those who are hostile to Christ and His Word of forgiveness and life. There are those who will be hostile to Christ’s followers who speak in His name. Yet, Jesus promises His presence among us through His Holy Spirit as we share our faith with others regardless of hostility or rejection. He gives us the ability to speak His Word of truth in love and, when it is rejected, He gives us the wisdom and the patience to walk away knowing that we have fulfilled the mission given to us. Remember, it’s not up to us to create faith in Jesus or to make people believe. Our commission, like that of the Twelve, is to share our faith in Jesus through the message of His cross and resurrection. No more, but also no less.
Our Lord was rejected by many of those to whom He had come to share the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Yet, out of His great love for the very people He came to save, He did not give up the mission. He willingly went to cross to face the ultimate rejection by God the Father in order to save us all from sin and death. He has commissioned all of His disciples, His Church on earth, to go out from their congregations with the message of forgiveness and eternal life that comes as a gift through faith in Jesus. May we never shrink away from our mission as Christian people and as a Christian congregation. Be willing always to face rejection and so share the Christian faith in Jesus with others. Our Lord never gives up on unbelief. And we, His people, won’t either. God grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.