Up to this point, Mark has been writing stories that almost sound like propaganda for God, Jesus and the power behind all these stories, the Holy Spirit. Jesus calling his disciples, miracle after miracle, healings, resurrections and all that kind of good stuff.[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/347882-speaking-the-truth-seems-like-a-problem.mp3]
(Please note – the audio and the manuscript text never match exactly but this week’s audio is different even more than usual – if you have the option, take a listen to the audio)
All of which comes to something of an abrupt stop when Jesus goes back to his hometown of Nazareth. Jesus shows up with the disciples that he has called on to follow him and starts doing some teaching and preaching in the hometown synagogue. Apparently the people in his hometown found it difficult to take him seriously. Even beyond that they were offended that he could display such knowledge, wisdom and power in the things he said and the things he has done.
And really, take a minute and think about all of your family members. Your kids, your parents, siblings, cousins, all of them. And imagine one of them coming up to you and telling you they were going to be a pastor. How would you react to the news? No really, how would you REALLY react to the news? I mean, family members KNOW stuff about you. That was the hardest part about becoming a second career pastor, that telling family thing. My family knows me!
Now step it up a notch or 14 from being a pastor and here Jesus is in Nazareth teaching and preaching with the power of God inside him. Here Jesus is in Nazareth not as the son of Mary but as the son of God! How are people supposed to be taking him seriously?
Turns out that they don’t. They reject him. And then all he can do in response is a cure a couple of people. Mark puts it in v5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. What? Curing a few sick people is of no consequence? Kind of highlights the idea that we talked about last week. Our understanding of prayer and healing may be a little off what Mark is actually trying to say.
Anyways, the people of his hometown reject him. They just couldn’t handle someone they knew speaking the truth.
John didn’t have much luck in today’s story, either. It’s a flashback scene that we have because it is talking about John’s unjust execution that has already happened. Seems that John was using his prophetic voice and calling out Herod’s marriage practices, Herod being married to his brother’s wife. I’m not entirely sure how all that worked out but Herod was up to no good and John called him out on it.
Not surprisingly, Herod doesn’t take this news well. Calling out a King for what he does wrong is dangerous business so John is arrested. And the story goes downhill from there, at least for John, as he ends up beheaded.
Anyways, the people in power reject John. They just couldn’t handle someone calling them out and speaking the truth. That’s kind of scary isn’t it? Rejection for speaking the truth of God? That doesn’t bode well for us, does it? It makes it sound a little dangerous.
So we have Jesus rejection on the front end and John’s rejection on the back end of today’s story. Bracketed between Jesus rejection at home and John’s rejection, and ultimate execution, at the hands of Herod is guess what? Service. Outreach. Sending. Now THAT sounds dangerous. People might see us living out our faith!
And the way Jesus sends them out is downright scary as well. From v8, “8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. No cooler filled to the gills, no suitcases that need sat upon to close and shut, no stops at the ATM on the way out of town. Just put on your flip flops and whatever you’re wearing and go. Go tell people to repent and share in the Good News.
Yeah, about that. Being a follower of Christ is a lot more about going out and sharing the Good News in the way we live our lives and serve the people we serve than it is gathering all the things we convince ourselves we need and all the planning and preparation we believe is necessary.
Jesus’ message isn’t all that complicated. Love God and love neighbor. Say the words, live the words, share the Good News. But that is kind of counter-cultural. People won’t understand and some people will not like the idea at all. Hearing Jesus and following him challenges the status quo.
And it’s likely there will be rejection involved. Jesus is rejected. John is rejected. And if we follow Christ, some people will reject us also. In between the narrative of all this rejection is a sign of hope. The hope of going into the world and letting people know about Jesus Christ. The hope of forgiveness. The hope of eternal life.