21. Mark 6:1-6a

Fresh off this double healing Jesus and his disciples return to Nazareth, Jesus’ home. This scene counterpoints the emphasis on faith in the previous “sandwich.” It shows how lack of faith can hinder even Jesus’ work. Mark tells us he “marveled” or was “amazed” over it (v.6).

It is sabbath and Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. Apparently his teaching and “mighty works” are known in his hometown. This is perhaps what garnered him the opportunity to preach there. All too quickly, however, the “familiarity breeds contempt” syndrome kicks in and local-boy-makes-good morphs into how-could-this-kid-we-all-know be doing all this? An doubt creeps in and turns to “offense” (v.3) at Jesus.

Mark calls Jesus a “carpenter.”

“Early in Jesus’ childhood, Sepphoris, then capital of Galilee, had been destroyed by the Romans, and rebuilding had begun immediately. Thus carpenters were no doubt in demand in Nazareth, a village four miles from the ruins of Sepphoris; and Joseph, Jesus’ father, probably taught his son his own trade, as was common for fathers to do in those days. After Sepphoris had been rebuilt, they probably did most carpentry work from their home, as most Galilean carpenters did. The observation that Jesus is a carpenter is meant to identify him, not to suggest the unlikelihood of a carpenter being a teacher, for we also know of other carpenters who became famous teachers (e.g., Shammai).” (Keener, IVP Background Commentary on the New Testament on Mark 6:3)

Israel had a shameful history of rejecting the prophets God sent to it. Jesus joins himself to that line. And Mark’s portrayal of his authority and power place him at the head of it.

Which makes especially poignant his note: “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them.”

There’s no contradiction here though some have thought so. It’s not just a matter of doing miracles for Jesus. It’s a matter of carrying out God’s New Exodus movement. Healing “a few sick people” marks the limited amount of success his ministry had in his hometown. Jesus could strike no blow for the New Exodus there.

“The point . . . is not that Jesus was powerless apart from men's faith, but that in the absence of faith he could not work mighty works in accordance with the purpose of his ministry; for to have worked miracles where faith was absent would, in most cases anyway, have been merely to have aggravated men's guilt and hardened them against God.” (Cranfield, Mark, 197)

A sobering counterpoint to the faith of Jairus and woman in the crowd, huh? Resistance to Jesus can spring up anywhere and for more or less noble reasons. It even surprised Jesus here!


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