Following a Hometown Boy: Reflections on Mark 6:1-6
All these guesses have a common focus on themselves. When we are focused on ourselves, on maintaining our superiority and control over our surroundings and others, we are not open to the truth God seeks to speak to us, sometimes through people we know and in places we thought we knew like the back of our hand.
I guess there is a reason that prophets are never honored in their hometown and among their own kin and in their own houses.
As a parent of young adults I try hard not to think of them as children. I still weigh in now and then with unsolicited and sometimes, solicited, advice. It is free at least. But I try to learn from them too. They have taught me a great deal already, and I have a feeling we're just getting started with the lessons!
As a teacher, I try hard not to think of those I've taught as my perpetual students. They move on and, while I'm happy to offer sermon feedback, encouragement, and resource advice when asked, I try to be open to learning from them as well.
I like to think that if I had been one of Jesus' hometown folks, I would have heard him gladly and changed my ways in any way he thought I should. But I guess I'll never know what I would have done then. The question is, what am I going to do now?
There was once a young American who got a job as a tour guide for church groups from the U.S. touring the Holy Land. He would stand at the front of the bus with the microphone and point out the sights as the bus rolled through this town and that. He studied hard to learn every place name, every historical detail, and every geographical factoid. He wanted to be prepared for any and every question. He lived in fear of the question to which he would have no answer. One time, as the tour bus was going by Nazareth, he pointed out the window and said, "This may well be the hill from which the people of Nazareth in Luke chapter 4 tried to cast Jesus off." At this an old Catholic priest who had seemed to be sleeping at the back of the bus, raised his head and asked, "What is it called?" The young man searched his memory wildly for a moment and then blurted out "It's called the 'Mount of Jumpification."
Jesus is good but not safe. Not everyone wants to take the leap of faith to believe he is the Son of God and then to follow him along the hard and narrow path of discipleship depicted by Mark. Not everyone is willing to allow Jesus to work deeds of power through them (6:5). Many refuse to welcome and hear him (6:11).
We all have our own internal "Mount of Jumpification." Either we hurl Jesus over it or we follow him with a leap of faith.
The hometown boy is on the move. He is good but not safe. And he is coming to bring the message. The question is, are we ready to hear it and act on it?
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.