Mark 6:1-13: Jesus came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On 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 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.
Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.
He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If 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.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
The Gospel passage just read is not about Jesus. It is about us! And it’s not very complimentary. We have all heard this passage over and over and we all want to focus on how sad it is that Jesus can’t do miracles in his home town. And we are equally sad that the disciples have to be out on the road without any extras. It never dawns on us that the problems in this passage are caused by people, people like you and me.
So, why can’t Jesus do miracles in his home town. Because the people that watched him grow up, don’t believe that the son of a carpenter who was born under suspicious circumstances, could amount to much of anything. My guess is that we have all “judged” in this way.
So look around you. When you see a homeless person, do think it is their own fault they are in that way? Do you think they are doomed to a live of poverty, that they are just a drain on the resources of us hard working, “good” people? If you haven’t thought that at some time in your life, then I might suggest you are unique. Now how many of us know someone who has over achieved; someone who didn’t have support, didn’t get the breaks and suddenly has risen to the top in some area of their life? And is not our first response to doubt that could possibly be the same person?
In the second part of this passage, Jesus sends out the disciples two by two. Leave the extra clothes at home; don’t be packing a picnic lunch. If you go to people to help them they should feed you, house you, take care of you. This is much less about the disciples and much more about inhospitable people. The disciples went out and helped, healed, taught and consoled. The community accepted the help, but wanted nothing to do with the burden of looking after them.
A modern day example. We all say we want affordable housing, we all want people to be fed and cared for. But don’t you dare raise our taxes to do this. Don’t even think about building affordable housing on my block, or put a drug rehab center close to where we live.
What Jesus is doing here is talking about community. If you read the rest of Chapter 6 of Mark’s Gospel (we will be doing this in part in church in the next two weeks) you will continue to see Jesus talking about a lack of community. We read about people obsessed with their needs, while denying others the opportunities they need. Jesus has this very subtle way of pointing out the flaws of humanity in a way that isn’t in your face. But we need to recognize that if we are willing to listen, open our hearts and minds, Jesus will speak to us about the Kingdom of God. At the center is always community!
Rev. Keith Nethery