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Posts Tagged "Mark 6:1-13"

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

A Very Important Difference

July 08, 2018
By Rev. David French

 

One of Christianity’s most basic confessions about God is the fact that He is omnipotent (all-powerful). To the best of my knowledge, no Christian Church body denies that truth. Even the youngest of our children make this confession as they sing, “My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do,” a basic teaching that no faithful Christian would ever question or doubt.

And yet, as we read our Gospel lesson for this morning, we’re faced with a rather stark contradiction. [Jesus] could do no mighty work among his hometown people, except lay His hands on a couple of sick people and heal them. What? Jesus could do no mighty work? Now that’s a problem! According to Mark, our all-powerful God was left powerless. The almighty One … does not look so almighty. So, what does this mean?!

Well, let’s think about this for a minute. Our lesson clearly says that Jesus could do no mighty works in the presence of the hometown folks who doubted Him. But does that mean Jesus didn’t possess the skills, the abilities, the resources - the power - to work powerful things among them? Or could it mean that Jesus (because of God’s specific plan) was not permitted to work these powerful signs among them? You see, there is a difference—a very important difference!

Remember Jesus’s lesson for the bleeding woman last week … it was not just touching me that made you well, it was believing that I am who the miracle says I am which made you well? You see, you can have all the skills, abilities, and resources in the world, but if you’re not permitted to use them, that is if you’re stopped from doing your work, those resources don’t do anybody any good. The truth is, if someone refuses to receive, you can be made powerless to give no matter how much power you truly possess and are willing to share.

So it’s true that Jesus could not do any mighty works in His hometown, but the reason is not found in Him. The reason, again, was that they refused to believe He was who the miracle said He was; that is, the people there doubted Him.

Remember the words, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” These people heard the very Word of God, both Law and Gospel, proclaimed by God with the authority of God and they not only rejected it, they were offended by it. And that really hasn’t changed.

“Who does this guy think He is? What right does He have to judge me!” They, with mere human strength, prevented Jesus, the almighty Son of God, from working His powerful life-saving, life-giving gifts of repentance, forgiveness, and salvation. And so do we.

Now, could Jesus, as almighty and all-powerful God, have simply spoken a word and made them change their minds?  In effect, take away their free will? Absolutely! I mean, He raised the dead with a word. Certainly He can make us change our minds. But if He did that, He would no longer be a loving and gracious God. He would no longer be the God He has revealed Himself to be. He would instead be a forceful, tyrannical God; a puppet master pulling His strings. “You will serve, honor, love, and obey Me, whether you like it or not!”

You know, it really is sad that this same faithlessness seen in Jesus’s hometown crowd is still seen today. People still deny and prevent Jesus from working all the time. Many complain about all the trials and tribulations they endure and then ignore the very Means of Grace which God offers to comfort and strengthen us during those very trials and tribulations.  Countless Christian parents keep their children from Christ’s life-giving power in baptism because while the words sound nice … all they see is water.

Christians across the world this very day will share crackers and juice and call it communion and then openly teach against Scripture that Jesus isn’t physically present, but only figuratively present with His body and blood to remind us about the forgiveness of sins.

But why? I don’t need to be reminded that Jesus paid for my sin, I need to be forgiven.  Scriptures clearly teach Jesus saying He gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sin. But apparently, those enlightened Christians even while seeing what He says know what Jesus “really” meant. And so, well-meaning Christians stop Christ from giving them the life-giving gifts of His Body and Blood. I truly don’t understand such blatant indifference within the Church at large. And this is just looking at things inside the Church. We also prevent the truth of God’s love being shared in our daily lives as well.

We certainly don’t like to admit it or even think about it, but we routinely deny and prevent Christ from working His gifts of life and salvation for any number of reasons or no reason at all. We stay away from church because we’re not in the mood, the weather, the time, the hymns, the sermons … the whatever.

How many times have you stopped yourself from opening your mouth and proclaiming God’s love to those in your life who you know need to hear it? I know that you all know someone who isn’t here today who needs to hear again about God’s love and mercy for them, or maybe just need the shoulder of a fellow believer to lean on.  But, have you reached out to them? What’s stopping you from speaking the truth of Christ in your own circle?

Lord, forgive us, but surely we’re not surprised that He marveled at the unbelief of the people during His days on earth. No doubt He still does. And if we stop and think about it, it really is sad because through all these things that happen in our lives, our almighty God is calling to us and reaching out for us so that He might work and speak with us, and also work and speak with others through us. He is calling to teach us and to teach others through us; to feed and nourish us and to feed and nourish others through us, all with the gift of Christ.

And more often than not, our response is to muzzle Him and stop Him from working the life-giving, life-saving gifts He so desperately wants to give to all who are born of sin; gifts of grace, mercy, repentance, forgiveness, peace, and everlasting salvation.

My friends, It is finished, your place in heaven has been and is secure in Christ alone and because of Christ alone. The powers of sin and death were left behind in the tomb by the almighty power of Christ’s all-redeeming life, death, and resurrection. Last week we were reminded there is nothing to fear. This week there is no reason to doubt, no matter how dark this world or your circumstances in this world may seem. Our all mighty God has declared it to be so, and so it is. That is your baptismal reality.

My prayer is that through the eyes and ears of saving faith, which God has freely given to you as His gift, a gift which enables you to recognize, repent, receive and give thanks for the mighty and powerful workings of God through His Word and Sacraments, that here on His altar you see not just the earthly means God has chosen to use, but the true giver of these gifts, that is, Jesus - your all-powerful, loving, and gracious Lord and Savior; the very Son of God who willingly and freely laid down His life for you and the forgiveness of all your sins.

In His Name, Amen.

Tags: Mark 6:1-13
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