Lent – Day 11

March 13

Today’s Thought: What keeps me from talking to others about Jesus?

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners…. (Isaiah 61:1)

Almost ten years ago, I moved back to my hometown—a place I hadn’t lived since I was a teenager. It’s a small community, so it wasn’t long before I ran into people I had attended high school with. We looked essentially the same, the marks of aging unable to hide a familiar smile or particular mannerism. At times, though, those mini reunions were painfully awkward. We weren’t the same people now. Our hearts and minds had changed. It was so strange to look at someone whose face you knew like your own, but whom you didn’t really know at all.

In the early chapters of the Gospel of Mark, we’re given a record of the miracles Jesus performs early in his ministry, and we’re told that crowds follow him everywhere hoping to hear him preach. Sometimes the crowd is so large, Jesus escapes by boat to give himself some much-needed space.

Then, at the beginning of Mark 6, Jesus returns to Nazareth (his hometown) where he preaches in the synagogue just as he had in other towns. Mark tells us, “Many who heard him were astounded.” Unfortunately, they weren’t astounded in the way you might think. They questioned how Jesus was qualified to speak in the synagogue.

“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! Is 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. (Mark 6:2-3) In other words, they knew Jesus—they’d grown up with him and his family—and he wasn’t trained to be a church leader. The Rabbi’s hadn’t tutored him; he was just a carpenter. (Or at least he was the last time they saw him.)

To add insult to injury, the Nazarenes point out that Jesus was the son of Mary. This was a particularly harsh thing to say in the patriarchal culture of Jesus’s time. A son was always referred to in terms of his father, not his mother. In this instance, the people were alluding to Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus prior to her marriage to Joseph, as if Jesus’s paternal ancestry was in question. Surely a man from such shameful beginnings wouldn’t presume to teach in the synagogue.

Jesus quotes a familiar proverb of the time, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” The people who were closest to him believed him the least and questioned him the most. He left Nazareth amazed at their unbelief, but undeterred.

Jesus knew that rejection was part of his fate. He prepared his apostles for rejection and questioning, as well. They all knew the gospel message was worth whatever ridicule, taunting, and suffering they faced.

Do we know that?

Am I willing to give myself up for examination… have all the skeletons pulled out of the closet… in the process of telling others how Jesus redeemed it all for good? Can I stand proud, no matter the cost, and say:  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)


Monday Meditation: “Many people are willing to have Jesus as part of their lives— as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. They may even profess faith in Jesus and join a church. But Jesus to them is almost like an insurance policy— something they obtain and then forget about until they die. What keeps you from being His disciple?” –Rev. Billy Graham