|Rejected | His Hometown of Nazareth|
|January 3, 2009|
Part 2 of 5 | January 04, 2009
Welcome to the second week of our teaching series called Rejected. We talk a lot about the people who followed Christ during his earthly life. But in this series, we’re focusing on the people who rejected him.
In Matthew 12, Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me…” (Matthew 12:30, NIV)
There are only two choices when it comes to Jesus. Accept him or reject him. There is no middle ground. There is no gray area. Jesus said, “Either you’re with me or you’re against me.”
In this series as we explore the lives of people who made the choice to reject Jesus, God is going to make the reasons for their rejection crystal clear. We can reject Jesus for the very same reasons that these people in the first century did. Or we can learn from their rebellion and at the end of this series, we can be even more committed to Christ than ever before. God is going to lay out the choice right before our eyes. It will be up to every one of us to decide.
Last week, my buddy, Dave Hubert, taught us about Herod and why he rejected Jesus when Jesus was nothing more than a toddler. How do you reject such a young child? Herod found a way.
Today we’re going to be in Mark 6. We’re going to talk about some more people who rejected Jesus. You would never expect these people to reject him, but they did. Today we’re going to talk about the people in Jesus’ hometown.
Mark 6 says, “Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:1-6, NIV)
This really is an incredible scene from Jesus’ life. He was rejected by the people in his hometown. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but he was raised in a very small town called Nazareth.
Nazareth was a small, agricultural settlement. You could barely even call it a town. Nazareth had a population of maybe 200 people…maybe. It was barely more than a dot on the map. This town was the butt of all the jokes in this culture. Nazareth was viewed as a hick town full of country bumpkins.
Listen to how one person in Scripture talked about the town of Nazareth.
In John 1, the Bible says, “Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.” (John 1:45-46a, NIV)
That’s how Nazareth was viewed in this culture. And yet this little nowhere town was the place that God chose for his Son to be raised. So you would think that the people of this small town would have been really excited to have someone with celebrity status like Jesus in their town. You would think they would embrace him with open arms. He was the one who could finally give this town some credibility. He could put Nazareth on the map. The hometown boy made it big. He went from carpenter to prophet. You would think that would score him big points in Nazareth. But it didn’t.
Instead of embracing him, the people in his town rejected him. As we unpack this story from Mark 6, we’re going to see why.
Mark writes, “Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” Mark 6:1-3, NIV)
Look at the questions the people asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son? Don’t we know all his brothers and sisters?”
In a town the size of Nazareth, everybody knows everybody. Everybody is in everybody else’s business. If you blow your nose, people across town will hear about it by the end of the day. This is where Jesus grew up. The people in this town knew Jesus very well.
In fact, they knew him too well. It sounds strange, but it is possible to know Jesus too well. And the people in his hometown are living proof.
They knew him too well. There were old women saying, “I changed that boy’s diapers.” This was the dirty-faced kid who they saw playing in the street. The teenager who worked in his dad’s woodshop. The young man, who scratched out a living doing whatever carpentry work he could find.
When you look at the questions they asked, the implication behind them is clear. They had constructed a box that Jesus had to fit in. They had a limited paradigm of thought about Jesus, and they expected him to always live down to it. And when Jesus didn’t fit their preconceived mold, they rejected him.
It’s a really dangerous thing to know Jesus so well that you begin to place limits on him. When we box Jesus in, when we begin expecting him to fit into a certain mold that we’re comfortable with, we’re walking on very thin ice.
But that is exactly what a lot of contemporary believers do. They have dumbed down Jesus to the point where he is snuggly, comfortable, and safe. He is always predictable. Never surprising. He is a Jesus that they can keep under their control.
Do you realize how arrogant this type of thinking is? Do you realize how paralyzing that type of thinking is? When we see Jesus through this kind of limiting lens, we stop him from working powerfully in our lives.
Go back and look at what Mark writes about this scene in Nazareth. The people said, “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” (Mark 6:3-6, NIV)
This is a story of limits. The people of Nazareth had a limited view of who Jesus was, and that limited what Jesus could do in their lives. That is key, so let me repeat it. The people of Nazareth had a limited view of who Jesus was, and that limited what Jesus could do in their lives.
Did you notice that the Bible doesn’t say that Jesus “did not” do any miracles there. What does it say? It says he “could not” do any miracles there. This really opens up a paradox.
If I had started this message with the question, “Is there anything that Jesus cannot do?” almost everyone would have said, “No! Jesus can do anything. He is almighty. He is all-powerful. There’s nothing that Jesus cannot do.”
But these verses from Mark say something very different. Mark tells us that, in fact, there is something that Jesus can’t do. He couldn’t perform miracles in his hometown because of their unbelief.
There’s the paradox. How can there be something that an all-powerful God cannot do? The paradoxical answer is that God has voluntarily limited his own power.
Think of it like opening or closing a garden hose spigot. God allows us to open or close the spigot of his power. The more we choose to trust him, the more we increase our faith, the more we open the spigot to allow his power to work in our lives. By contrast, the more we rely on ourselves, the more we limit our view of Jesus, the smaller our faith becomes, the more we close the spigot.
God allows us to determine how powerfully he can work in our lives. I’m just going to let that marinate for a second. Think about the significance of this truth that we’re uncovering from the book of Mark.
The Bible says that Jesus “could not” perform miracles in Nazareth because of their lack of faith.
I love the way the English Standard Version of the Bible says it. “And he could do no mighty work there…” (Mark 6:5, ESV)
The people of Nazareth had closed the spigot. Because of their familiarity with Jesus, they rejected the thought that he could be anything more than a carpenter. They heard his wisdom. Even saw him perform miracles. But they would not believe. They would not expand their view of Jesus. They would not budge from their unbelief. They closed the spigot. The miracles stopped. The mighty work of Jesus stopped.
A lot of us live in Nazareth, don’t we? We have closed the spigot of God’s power in our lives. And like the people of Nazareth, a lot of us who have closed the spigot have known Jesus for years.
Why are so many churches dying? Why is there no passion, no energy, no life? Maybe because they’ve grown too familiar with Jesus. They’ve been with him so long that they’ve lost the wonder, like we talked about in our Christmas series. They’ve lost the awe of God. They are more governed by their traditions than by the leading of God’s Spirit. And the result is tragic. Churches that more closely resemble funeral parlors.
Why are so many Christians living with a complete absence of passion and purpose in their lives? Why does it seem that their walk with Christ has become a religion instead of a relationship? Maybe because they’ve known Jesus so long that they’ve allowed him to become familiar, just like the people in Jesus’ hometown.
When that happens, we shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t see a mighty move of God in our lives anymore. Because Jesus looks at us and sees another Nazareth. He could do no mighty work in Nazareth…and many of us have moved into that town.
God allows us to determine how powerfully he can work in our lives. This is the power of free will. God has given us the choice to accept him or reject him…and there is great power in that choice. But God loved us enough to give us the choice.
Why didn’t God create us without the ability of choosing evil? Why did he even create the possibility of us rejecting him? Wouldn’t that have saved everyone a lot of trouble and pain? Wouldn’t everything be better if we couldn’t reject God? It would be better, except for one thing. We could never love him.
Love is a decision we make. But that decision becomes worthless if there is no other option. How much would it mean to you if your spouse said, “I love you,” knowing that he/she had no other choice? What if your kids said, “I love you mommy/daddy,” but you knew that it was the only thing they could do? Those words would be empty. Their love would be meaningless.
For us to truly love God, we had to be given the choice to reject him. We had to be given free-will. There is great power in our free-will choice, but God makes sure that it is always our choice. He will never force himself on you. If it’s a journey of ten steps, God will take nine. But he’ll always wait on you to take that last step.
We have to understand that God wants us to accept him. He wants us to have the kind of faith that opens the spigot of his power wide open. But until the day we die, the choice will always be ours.
Now, we have to understand the choice we have and the choice we don’t have. We get to choose to accept Jesus or reject Jesus. That’s our choice. But we do not have the option to redefine Jesus. That’s not an option that we have. But this is where the people of Nazareth landed. I don’t think they wanted to out-and-out reject Jesus as much as they wanted to redefine who he was.
But what they didn’t understand is that redefining Jesus is rejecting Jesus. Here is the trap that a lot of Christians fall into. Are they trying to reject Jesus? No. Are they trying to redefine him? Definitely. But that’s not a choice we have.
Like we read earlier, Jesus said that if we’re not with him, we’re against him. Accept him or reject him. That’s our only choice. We get to accept him or reject him as he is. But we don’t have the choice to try to change or redefine him. And if we do try to redefine who he is, Jesus will interpret that as rejection.
What exactly are we talking about? Go back and look at what the people of Nazareth said again.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” Mark 6:2b-3, NIV)
Jesus was obviously more than a carpenter. They heard his incredible teaching. They experienced his divine wisdom. They saw the miracles. But they weren’t comfortable with that. Their hometown boy was getting too big for his britches, so they wanted to take him down a few notches. Jesus the carpenter…they could handle that. Jesus the prophet…Jesus the Messiah…that was too much. So they tried to redefine him.
Not much has changed, because people are still trying to redefine Jesus. When someone ignores a Biblical truth or actively tries to alter a Biblical truth, they are trying to redefine Jesus. When someone claims that a particular belief is sacred but they don’t have any Biblical evidence to back it up, they are trying to redefine Jesus. When someone claims that there are many ways to God instead of only one, they are trying to redefine Jesus. When someone cherry picks the parts of the Bible they like while leaving out the parts that they don’t, they are trying to redefine Jesus. Anything we do that changes God’s Word, any time we attempt to change Jesus’ character, any time we place our own beliefs and traditions above God’s truth, we are attempting to redefine Jesus.
When Jesus wouldn’t be what the people in his hometown wanted him to be, when they saw the real Jesus, the Bible says that “they took offense at him.”
The problem is that a lot of us never see the real Jesus today because we’ve had over 2,000 years to cover him up. Many of the traditions the church developed over two millennia have not served to showcase Jesus, but to stifle him. A lot of us have become so engrained by what we think we know about Jesus that we miss the real Jesus.
Here’s a question every one of us needs to wrestle with…if you saw the real Jesus, not some redefined version but the raw, unfiltered, real Jesus, would you be offended?
Jesus offended people all the time. The way Jesus treated women raised the bar of honor and respect for the women of his day; this made him offensive to his culture’s view of women.
His love for children made him dangerous and offensive, because children were viewed as a commodity. They were mere possessions of their parents.
Jesus crossed the line of race by healing and teaching people who were not Jewish. That made him offensive to the deeply held racism of his day.
His treatment of the Old Testament Law and the Sabbath made Jesus offensive to the religious leaders of his day.
The real Jesus offended people all the time. And he still does today. If Jesus never offends you, it’s really possible that you’re seeing a redefined Jesus instead of the real Jesus.
Jesus offends me. He offends me when he reveals a sin in my life that I want to ignore. He offends me when he shows me that I value a tradition more than I value his truth. He offends me when he challenges something that I have believed for a long time. He offends me when he allows me to suffer consequences for my actions instead of swooping in to save the day. He offends me when he tells me that I have to conform, that I have to become more like him instead of him becoming more like me.
If you say that Jesus has never offended you, you’re either lying or you’ve never met the real Jesus. Because the real Jesus is dangerous. He is offensive. But there is a reason he offends us.
He offends us so he can move us. He is always pushing us toward a decision. He’s always calling us to make a choice. Fence-sitting isn’t allowed. You’re either with Jesus or you’re against him. And he’ll keep offending you until he gets you to make a decision, one way or the other.
The people of Nazareth made a choice. Jesus wouldn’t allow himself to be redefined, which offended them, which caused them to reject him.
And look at how Jesus responded to that. “Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6:4-6, NIV)
How can you amaze Jesus? How can you blow the mind of the Son of God? Reject him. See him as he really is. Know all the blessings he wants to give you. Realize that he died to pay the price for your sins. Understand that he wants you to be with him for all eternity. And then reject him. Jesus will think that is amazing.
Or, you could go in the exact opposite direction and amaze Jesus even more. There’s a great story in Luke 7. A Roman centurion had a servant who was sick and about to die. He heard that Jesus was in the area, so he sent some men to him, asking Jesus to come and heal the servant. Jesus agreed and headed for the centurion’s house.
Picking it up in verse 6, the Bible says, “[Jesus] was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Luke 7:6b-7, NIV)
Talk about a contrast. The people in the nowhere, hick town of Nazareth tried to redefine Jesus. They wanted to bring him back down to their level. And then in this story, a Roman centurion, a very powerful, influential man, knew that he wasn’t even worthy to have Jesus come into his house.
And look at how Jesus reacted to the centurion. “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” (Luke 7:9-10, NIV)
Two times the Bible tells us that Jesus was amazed. He was amazed at the unbelief in his own hometown. And he was amazed at the incredible faith of the centurion.
And the really interesting thing is that the people of Jesus’ hometown had known Jesus for years. The centurion had only heard of him. Never even met him. And yet he was the one who had the faith that amazed Jesus. The people of Nazareth…they were amazing because of their stubborn unbelief.
You don’t have to be a lifelong Christian to amaze Jesus. The centurion wasn’t. You know what amazes Jesus? When you have faith enough to follow him, even in the smallest things. When the porn addict goes a day without it because he is trying to follow God, Jesus is amazed. When the person with a bitter, unforgiving heart takes a small step toward reconciliation, Jesus is amazed. When the person who never reads the Bible starts reading, even for a couple of minutes every few days, Jesus is amazed.
Sometimes the church is guilty of setting the bar so high that we never achieve any success in our walk with Christ. The goal is perfection. And we’ll never achieve that goal. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a whole lot of wins along the way. And when we get a win, even a small one, Jesus celebrates it. In fact, he is amazed by it.
The only thing that the Bible says amazes Jesus is faith. He is amazed by lack of faith. He is amazed by faith that is strong enough to follow him.
One way or another, Jesus is amazed by you. Is he amazed by your stubborn rejection of him, his Word, and his ways? Or is he amazed that you are following him? Is he amazed at the progress you’re making, even if it seems very small at the time.
Today, we want to invite you to amaze Jesus, not like the people in Nazareth, but like the centurion. If you have never made Jesus your Savior and Lord, we invite you to come and amaze him. Come in faith. Come, let him forgive you of ever sinful choice you’ve ever made in your life. Come and let him give you a fresh start. You’ll be forgiven, pure, and perfect. And Jesus will be amazed.
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