Read, Mark and Learn – Day 14

Jesus’ rejection continues as he returns to Nazareth. The villagers and his extended family can’t stomach his fame and extreme teachings.”Who does he think he is?” We must remember that Nazareth was a tiny agricultural community. The population was like a tribe–a large extended family made up the community. The people grew up together and Jesus was one of their number. To be rejected by the Nazareth villagers was like being rejected by his family and friends. This fits with his later warnings to his followers that to follow him they must be willing to “hate mother and brother and sister and father”. He warns that they will be rejected as he has been rejected and that he comes to “bring not peace but a sword–dividing even a mother from her daughter etc.”

Notice that the people are astonished by his wisdom, authority and power. They can’t make sense of who he is. On the one hand he is just Jesus–Joseph’s son. He is the carpenter and his half brothers and sisters and extended family are all here among them. On the other hand he is a man of mysterious power and authority? Where did this come from? They are astonished, confused and bewildered. In this passage Mark not only shows the rejection of Jesus, but he heightens the growing sense of mystery that the reader should also feel about Jesus. Can you get into the astonishment an the emotion of this story? Feel it at gut level. See it again with fresh eyes. Who is this stranger? What kind of being do they have in their midst?

The word for carpenter is ‘teknon’ this means carpenter, but can also be applied to a mason or builder. Jesus was more than a woodworker. He probably worked with his family members in construction and this would have included planning and execution of building projects. The fact that they refer to Mary ‘his mother’ may have been derogatory–implying that he was illegitimate. It would be more typical and respectfiul to refer to him as “son of Joseph”. That the villagers do not may be an indication that they are hinting at rumors of his unusual (and in their opinion) scandalous birth history.

They finally take offense at him and reject him. This is the problem with something new and astounding. God wants to do something amazing in our lives and we reject it simply because it is new and disturbing. We want to use our religion to feather our nest and make ourselves and our own people feel comfortable. God is always turning over the tables and presenting with something new and surprising. He is always taking us on and introducing us to something which disturbed our narrow minded and shallow ways of seeing.

Mark then says that Jesus can not do any “mighty deeds” there because of their lack of faith. This contrasts with the emphasis on faith in the previous chapter. Jairus’ daughter was healed because of his great faith. The woman with the hemorrhage was healed because of her great faith. Faith is belief in action. Faith is a willingness to go where you were not to where you did not envision going. It mean stepping out and trusting God with the new and disturbing thing he is doing. Faith has understanding. Faith has heart’s love. Faith has courage. The Nazareth villagers have none of these. They are stuck in their narrow mindedness, their comfort zone, their petty expectations. They cannot and will not see and accept Jesus for who he really is.

So he shakes the dust off his feet and begins to go around the local villages. At this time he commissions the Twelve. This passage is important because after calling and setting the apostles apart from the other disciples he now gives them specify instructions and a job to do. His instructions on their going out two by two and their style of dress and life is typical of the prophetic tradition for the Jews. The apostles (the word means ‘sent ones’ or ‘commissioned ones’) are sent out on a kind of preliminary mission. Mark uses this to hammer home the theme of rejection in today’s passage. Jesus warns them that they will be rejected. When this happens they are to do as he has just done in Nazareth–shake the dust off their feet and keep on moving on.

Notice that the apostles do what he does. They preach the truth, they heal the sick and they take authority over evil. This mission of the twelve shows Jesus establishing the apostolic ministry. He has full authority from the Father in heaven. He gives them a measure of his same authority. The ‘sent ones’ are to cast out demons, cure the sick and preach the truth. Notice the seed of the sacrament of anointing. They use oil to heal the sick. As the gospels develop we will see that Jesus adds to this authority the authority to forgive sins. It is implicit in the authority here to take control over evil and heal the sick (forgiveness is always part of the healing ministry) but it will become more clear later.

In this way the early Christians in Rome (for whom the gospel is written) would have seen the beginnings of the apostolic ministry and recognized the continuity of ministry from the twelve to their own church leaders through the succession from Peter and Paul. This same authority is experienced by Catholics today in solidarity with the successor of Peter and Paul–Pope Francis, and with the bishops and clergy of the church who exercise this same authority for the salvation of souls and the building of the church.