Who do you think you are ? Wednesday, 4th Week in ordinary time – Mark 6:1-6
Jesus has just worked two mighty miracles in Capernaum. He has raised Jairus daughter to life and healed a woman who was haemorrhaging for twelve years. As usual, Jesus strictly ordered the parents of the girl, not to tell anyone about the miracle but that would be most unlikely considering that she was dead when Jesus arrived and now she was sitting down to a meal. Remember, Jesus told the little girl’s parents to “give her something to eat.” (5:43)
While Jesus had made Capernaum his home, he now journeys to Nazareth, his hometown. Scholars tell us that Nazareth was a village of 500 people. It was a town small enough that everyone would know everyone else and everyone else’s business and herein lies the problem; familiarity will breed contempt.
Jesus is accompanied by his disciples. On the sabbath, Jesus “decided” to teach. Obviously, the words and deeds of Jesus have preceded him, this was the home town boy who had made waves in Galilee. The Gospel of Mark tells us that so far he has worked six miracles within a few miles of Nazareth (1:40-45; 2:1-12; 3:1-6; 5:1-20, 21-43). The people of Nazareth must have gone to the synagogue service with a sense of expectation, wondering what they would hear from this young man who had grown up in their midst.
Ironically, while his teachings have been met with amazement elsewhere, here, in his home town they are “astounded” and clearly not in a positive way. The people are astounded both by Jesus’ wisdom and his mighty works. There is a sense of disbelief. What caused this strange reaction we will never really know though we can make some calculated guess from the reaction that Mark records.
Their description of him as “the carpenter,” “the son of Mary,” ignored any mention of a father figure. It is possible that Joseph is dead by this time, although we would expect people to identify Jesus by his father’s name even after the father’s death. In first century culture this could only mean that they were hinting that he was conceived illegitimately This type of history, with a fatherless lineage, would be “scandalous” to them (skandalidzo is translated as “took offense” at 6:3).
Perhaps they simply regard it as impossible for Jesus to amount to anything. Perhaps they ruled him out because Jesus has not had the formal training required for rabbis. For them, he lacks the credentials expected of a teacher. Because the people from his hometown think they know who Jesus is, they end up asking disdainfully, “Who does he think he is?”
Jesus has experienced opposition from demons (1:24; 5:7) and religious authorities. The scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul,’ and ‘by the prince of the demons he casts out the demons’(3:21-22). He faces rejection even from his own family (3:21). In an earlier visit, his family “went out to seize (Jesus); for they said, ‘He is insane.’ This is the first time that he experiences rejection by ordinary Jewish people. It will not be the last time (15:11-14).
Jesus sums his experience of their rejection in one line, “ prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown and among their own kin and in their own house.” By referring to himself as a “prophet,” he associated himself with a long line of counter-cultural figures within Israel. In the Gospel of Mark, others would also view him in this way (cf. 6:15; 8:28).
Sadly, Jesus could do no deed of power there for he was amazed at their unbelief. This statement may lead many to believe that the reason why Jesus is unable to perform a healing comes down to fact that the people lack faith; a statement used sadly by many enthusiastic Christians who foolishly arrive at this conclusion. Look carefully at verse five and six. Yes, Jesus was amazed at their unbelief but yes he also laid his hand on a few sick people and cured them. If our Lord needs our hundred percent faith to heal us he would not have been able to heal the ‘few’ whom he did lay his hands on and cure.
There is an interesting detail that is not obvious to eye. This is the last time that Jesus in the Gospel of Mark will teach in a synagogue. From now on he will teach in houses (Mark 7:17, 24; 9:33; 10:10). Are we driving our Lord out of his own sanctuary with our disbelief?