The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 9B (July 5, 2015)

Lessons:Ezekiel 2:1-5 Psalm 123 2nd Corinthians 12:2-10 St. Mark 6:1-13 Semicontinuous Series: 2nd Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 Psalm 48

Prayer of the Day: God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us to proclaim the coming of your kingdom. Give us the courage you gave the apostles, that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace in every circumstance of life, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:1He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!3Is 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.4Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.6And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching.7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts;9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.10He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

St. Mark 6:1-13 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Offended by Jesus

A Catechism student recently asked me, had I been living in the first century: did I think I would have stood up for Jesus (like the Centurion did), or might I have abandoned him (like so many others did)? This seemed like a very good question to me. We’d all like to think that, given the chance, we would stand up for our faith and our Lord. But at the same time, there was no shortage of people who found themselves opposed to (or at least skeptical of) Jesus. We see that in this week’s Gospel lesson.

Jesus has just freed the Gerasene Demoniac from the legion of unclean spirits that had been destroying his life. He healed the woman who had been ill for 12 years, and raised the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus from the dead. He and his followers have been traveling back and forth across the Sea of Galilee, and at every stop he seems to do something amazing.

Then he lands in his home town of Nazareth. He has been away for some time. St. Mark reports that he had relocated to Capernaum. (See 1:21 and 2:1.) Now he is back among those who have known him all his life. They don’t think of him as the traveling miracle worker and healer. They think of him as Mary’s son; the boy next door who grew up among them, who played with their children.

He makes his way to the synagogue and begins to teach there. The people are amazed at his wisdom, and the deeds of power that have been attributed to him. They wonder how this can be. How did he accumulate so much wisdom? How can he possess such power? But before his teaching has concluded the tide has turned and they take offense at him. St. Mark tells us that “he could do no deed of power there” and Jesus was amazed at their unbelief.

We don’t hear from St. Mark what set his hometown friends off. (St. Luke tells us a little more; see 4:16-30.) But it is a pattern that repeats itself throughout the New Testament. Jesus comes, bringing news of God’s kingdom. He calls his listeners to a new way of living. He challenges the existing religious systems. He calls out hypocrisy and injustice and faithlessness.

And his listeners react. They are so offended by his words that it prevents him from touching them as powerfully as he has done in other cities.

Do we dare wonder what Jesus would have to say to us today? What would he say about the shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston? What would he say about the recent Supreme Court decisions regarding affordable health care and same-gender marriage? What would he say about our relative comfort in a time when others live in deep poverty? What would he say about the church’s reluctance to share faith with those who don’t yet know him?

“Pastor Dave, if you lived back then, would you stand up for Jesus like the Centurion did? Or would you turn away from him like so many others did?” This is a good question; one we would do well to consider.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why are the hometown family and friends of Jesus offended by him?
  2. How does this prevent him from accomplishing deeds of power among them?
  3. What must it have been like for the disciples to carry on his ministry?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How do I react when God’s word runs counter to what I prefer to believe?
  2. Do I know anyone who has been so offended by Jesus that they turned away?
  3. Do I know anyone who has been so touched by Jesus in a way that was life changing?