April 10, 2016
A reminder to readers: We’re in the thick of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will continue to cover the Gospel of Mark over the next few months.
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? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 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, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.
These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
Others said, “He is Elijah.”
And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.
The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”
“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.
At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
This is the time when Jesus returns to his home town of Nazareth. They all knew Jesus because it was a small town, probably no more than 500 people. Mark 6:3 is the only verse in the entire New Testament which directly states that Jesus himself was a carpenter, not just the son of a carpenter. The point is, they knew him. This is Mary’s boy. In fact, the phrase “son of Mary” only appears here in the entire New Testament. Can you picture the scene of a little ten year old boy running through the streets of Nazareth and someone saying, “hey look, there goes the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; to him every knee shall bow!” That would have been met with, “are you kidding me, that’s just Mary’s boy.” But, there’s also the natural pride when a hometown boy does good things. You roll out the red carpet with pride when they come home. After all, what runs thicker in the ancient world than geography and blood? It’s all here, and this should give him hometown advantage.
Up to this point, we have been riding a strong wave of messianic revelation and power. Jesus heals lepers, stills angry seas, commands the winds, appoints Apostles, cast out legions of demons, and raises the dead. It is one passage after another demonstrating his glory and power as God’s Son. Here, in chapter six, the tone changes. We come face to face with stiff opposition, hardened unbelief, and mean-spirited rejection. The chapter begins with those in Nazareth taking offense at him, and it all goes downhill from there.
This chapter puts us face to face with the rejection and unbelief which also accompanies the gospel. It begins here, but this is just a small anticipation of what awaits him in Jerusalem. This rejection, we see, is a shared rejection. Jesus prepared us, saying, “all will hate you because of me” (Matt. 10:22). It is not merely Jesus who is rejected, it is also those of us who follow him. Our identification with Christ works both ways. We share in his glorification and His rejection.
We must all expect rejection. In a world of marketed Christianity, which sets itself out to meet every felt need, fill every niche and, above all, cause no offense, this is a real wake-up call. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven.” Do you have room in your theology for that? We see it here in Mark 6 in the senseless beheading of John the Baptist. It is in the imprisonment of Paul and Silas. It is seen in the exile of St. John and the crucifixion of St. Peter. It echoes forth when the 22-year-old nursing Perpetua is being fed to the lions. We see it as John Hus is burning at the stake, and Sir Thomas More is beheaded in the Tower of London. We see it when William Tyndale is impaled for translating the Bible into English. It happens again when the five Chinese Christians, Wang Mingdao, Allen Yuan, Moses Xie, Samuel Lamb and Watchman Nee collectively spend nearly 100 years in prison. This same rejection is found as a naked Dietrich Bonhoeffer hangs by barbed wire in a Nazi camp. Do we have room for this? Because this is also the story of you and me if we are faithful to Christ. As Peter would later write, we are called to “fill up in our own bodies what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.”
- Are you prepared to suffer for the Name of Jesus Christ? It may come in small, subtle ways, or in big, costly ways.
- Can you think of examples in your life when you faced persecution for your faith in Jesus Christ?
The Sunday Daily Text through Mark’s Gospel is written by Timothy Tennent. Visit his blog here.