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Is Not This ...

July 04, 2021
By Rev. David French

When I was a young boy, the people in Nazareth always puzzled me. It seemed to me that the people in Nazareth should have been proud of Jesus. He was very popular. He went about healing the sick and feeding the poor and just doing good deeds. He challenged the teachers of Israel and taught a message of salvation by grace with authority. You’d think that whenever Jesus returned to His hometown, they’d welcome Him with great joy. You’d think at a minimum they’d hang up a sign at the entrance to the town - Home of Jesus, the rabbi and miracle worker. But instead, the people in Nazareth hated Jesus. We see fierce - even physically violent - opposition to Jesus in every recorded account of His teaching in Nazareth. That’s why He moved His headquarters, if you will, down the road to Capernaum. It just never made sense to me. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with the people in Nazareth.

What I didn’t know or understand then was the bigger picture, if you will. A picture that is given color by today’s reading from the Old Testament provides some insight to my curiosity. When God chose Ezekiel to be a prophet to Israel, He warned Ezekiel that the people were very stubborn in their unbelief. He told him, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn.”

The result of their generations of stubborn arrogance is seen in their descendants in today’s reading by their refusal to learn more about their own native son. The things that they did know about Jesus were absolutely right. Is not this the carpenter? No doubt Jesus had learned the trade from Joseph. Is not this the son of Mary? That’s what Christmas is all about. Is not this the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Absolutely is! Are not his sisters here with us? Yes, they are. Their knowledge of Jesus was absolutely right as far as it went. But because of their stubborn arrogant hearts, the people of Nazareth were unwilling to learn more about Jesus.

And, it’s not like Jesus was doing these things on the other side of the country. Last week we heard about Jesus raising a girl from the dead. That happened in Capernaum, less than thirty miles from Nazareth. Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine, was less than six miles from Nazareth. Jesus taught and healed in the area all around Nazareth and yet, when He was in Nazareth itself, He experienced rejection. In their stubborn arrogance, the Nazarenes refused to learn more about Jesus. Today’s reading tells us that Jesus marveled or was amazed by their unbelief.

Now, before we condemn the Nazarenes, we might take an inventory of our own attitude toward learning about Jesus. Do we take the attitude that we learned all we need to know in confirmation? Or, do you think you have nothing more to learn from Jesus? Be honest with yourself. I mean, God already knows the answer. When it’s time for Bible study, are you there eager to deepen your understanding of not just Jesus, but of what Jesus taught?

In the Great Commission, Jesus tells His church that she is to make disciples from all nations by baptizing and teaching them to observe all that He has commanded. Jesus knew that those God has given Him would be hungry for His gifts - that they would want to know more and more about their Savior’s love for them. In the Great Commission, Jesus instructed His church to be ready to feed His disciples for a lifetime.

C. F. W. Walther, the first president of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, had used these words when he described the Nazarenes in today’s Gospel, [Walther, Law & Gospel, Second Evening Lecture] “A person may pretend to be a Christian though in reality he is not. As long as he is in this condition, he is quite content with his knowledge of the mere outlines of Christian doctrine. Everything beyond that, he says, is for pastors and theologians.”

Today’s lesson, if you apply it to yourself, forces each of us to consider some hard questions. Questions like “How often do I ignore the opportunity to learn more about Jesus?” or “Why do I think studying God’s Word isn’t worth my time?” I’m not judging anyone’s heart; I’m simply saying anyone can look at just about any church and see that there are more people in worship than in Bible studies. Why do you think that is?

You see, we’re no different than the people in Nazareth or any other place. We’re sinners, forgiven sinners to be sure, but that also means Satan works harder to deceive us. It’s plain to see, the gospel of Christ is still offensive to many. I mean, we all know there are whole denominations of “Christians” who are offended by many of the teachings of Christ. But Christ told us that. He told us those who share God’s Word faithfully will meet opposition. And so, many will say nothing because, for some reason, we feel like we’ll have to defend God’s Word rather than simply speak the truth in love and let the seeds fall where they may. Remember, we don’t grow seeds, we sow seeds in a sinful world. And that means conflict will always be a part of the Christian’s life. There are, after all, two natures warring within us.

The good news is, in spite of the world’s opposition, Jesus doesn’t stop offering His gifts. He continues to send His disciples out to prepare the way for His work even though He knows there will be opposition. You see, Jesus doesn’t withhold His gifts just because His church would experience rejection.

In fact, Jesus still offers those gifts today. When Christ died on the cross, it wasn’t for good or nice people. Christ died for sinners. And as God reminded the Romans through Paul, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23], which means Christ died for all. He died for those who rejected Him in Nazareth, and He died for those who still reject Him today. He offers His gifts of forgiveness and life to all, even those whose actions show they reject Him time and time again.

It truly is beyond human understanding, but simply, Jesus loves us, you and me. He wants us to know Him. He’s given the church the command to teach the nations to hold fast to all the things that He taught. Notice, not just what He did, but what He taught. Take advantage of this invitation. Learn about the Christ who loves you and gave Himself into death for you. Learn about the Savior who delights in giving you the things that are best for you. Learn about the Lord who rose from the dead in order to give you eternal life.

Yes, God’s Word is divisive. As we read in the book to the Hebrews, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” [Hebrews 4:12]. What the Word divides is those who are faithful to Christ’s teachings from those who reject them.

Jesus faced opposition in Nazareth, His hometown, because the people rejected God’s Word. Eventually, other people who rejected God’s Word arranged to have Him nailed to a cross, leading to the fulfillment of His promise. By His death on the cross, He reconciled us to our Creator and heavenly Father through His blood paying our debt for sin. And so it is, by grace through faith, that we are among those who say of Jesus, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

In His name, Amen.

Tags: Mark 6:1-13