"Local Boy Makes Good" (Jesus goes home and then sends out a bunch of Disciples)

4th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9)
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 or Ezekiel 2:1-5
Psalm 48 or Psalm 123
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6:1-13

Mark 6:1-13

The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth

1He left that place and came to his hometown,[a] and his disciples followed him. 2On 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?[b] What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is not this the carpenter,[c] the son of Mary[d] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.[e] 4Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief.

The Mission of the Twelve

Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey[f] except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals[g] and not to put on two tunics.[h] 10He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11If 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.” 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.[i] 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Notes and comments for a sermon

On the first section (Mark 6:1-6a), where Jesus goes home, but is rejected. It’s tempting to say that Jesus was returning home to start his ministry there, but—since he was rejected—he instead returns to the itinerant ministry of the desert. Who knows what the Gospels might have looked like had he stayed there?

“The point of the episode is precisely the derogation of Jesus’ honor from his own people—the ultimate put-down. The name that Jesus was making for himself scandalized the neighborhood, upset the status quo (6:4). Without their cooperative faith (6:6)—that is to say, their openness to a new order—Jesus can accomplish none of the ‘mighty works” that have aroused the hometown crowd’s suspicion. (Myers, p. 212). There’s no way to prove it, but it’s tantalizing to wonder if the story of the Gospels would have been dramatically different if Jesus had been received just a little bit better by his family and friends when he finally went home.

On the second section (Mark 6:6b-13), about Jesus sending out the disciples on their first missionary journey, the most important thing to note is that these words were probably not written for the missionary trip, but for the local congregations that Mark was writing to behind the gospel.
  • For one thing, the story shows up six times in the Gospels. That either means that Jesus sent them out numerous times, or that the story was repeated often because it was important to the early church communities. (Either way it is important.)
  • Also note how much time is spent on the preparation for the journey, and how little on the journey itself. That is because what resonated to the readers of these stories is the advice on preparation on how to follow Jesus.
  • Also, notice the phrase, “the Journey,” eis hodos in Greek. Elsewhere in the NT and especially in the book of the Acts, this was a technical term for the early Christians. There it is translated, “The Way.” They were people of the way of Jesus. Followers of the way of life modeled by Jesus.  So, this story is something of a parable for Christians of how to follow in “the way” of Jesus. It’s interesting to note in this regard that in a number of occasions in the early chapters of thee book of acts, the disciples were not called “Christians,” as one today might expect, but “followers of the way (of Jesus).”

Three points for a possible sermon on Acts 6:1-13 (especially vv. 6b-13):
1.     Travel together: “He began to send them out two by two.”
We need community. We cannot survive on our own. There are some who have to live alone and that is a tragedy, but it is not the way that God intended. Story of movie where stay-at-home sister says, I am so grateful that I had them to love. Not that they loved me, but that I had them to love.
2.     Travel light. “He ordered them to take nothing for their journey”
      Jesus would not drive a hummer.
      “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
              and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2).
3.     Accept the hospitality of others.  no bread, no bag, no money in their belts.”
They were forced to accept the hospitality of others because they weren’t allowed to take any food with them. We live in a world that doesn’t accept hospitality very well. We say, “oh, let me pay you something for that.” We have turned generosity into commercial transactions.

[a]Hometown” (patrida, n. acc. sing. fem.). Probably not a country, as in the traditional translation. More like one’s native region, sometimes even a fixed abode or home. a city. Cf. Mark 6:4, Luke 4:23-24, John 4:44, Heb 11:14, Matt 13:54, Matt 13:57. Nazareth was about 20 miles southwest of Capernaum.         
[b] “Where did this man get all this?” (Pothen toutō tauta). Or, “These things,” or “These ideas.”
[c]Is not this the carpenter?” (ouch houtos estin ho tektōn). Matthew 13:55 calls him “the carpenter’s son.” The discrepancy can possibly be explained by the discomfort in the early church with calling Jesus a “Carpenter.” And another example of Mark was at ease with the humanity of Jesus and Matthew (etc.) was not, Several ancient manuscripts harmonize Mark’s designation to make it fit Matthew’s.
“The word tektōn comes from tekein, tiktō, to beget, create, like technē (craft, art). It is a very old word, from Homer down. It was originally applied to the worker in wood or builder with wood like our carpenter. Then it was used of any artisan or craftsman in metal, or in stone as well as in wood and even of sculpture.” (Robertson, Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament.)
[d] The son of Mary.” “It may be that here the locals are accusing Jesus of economically abandoning his family (see 3:34f.), for if his mother is a widow, she would likely be dependent upon her oldest son….Though there is textual difficulty with the phrase ‘the carpenter, the son of Mary,’ it is possible that it is intended as a slur, for the identification of Jesus by his maternal side could have suggested illegitimacy” (Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man, p. 212).
[e] “And they took offense at him” (Kai eskandalizonto en auto). Literally, to put a stumbling block or some kind of impediment in the way of someone or something, possibly causing a trip or fall. But metaphorically, it means “to offend.” The root, skandalizō, is the word from which we get “scandal.” Robertson suggests that they were offended “because they could not explain him, having been so recently one of them.” (Word Pictures in the New Testament (A. T. Robertson [1930]).
[f] “For their Journey” (hina mēden airōsin eis hodon). Its literal meaning is a travelled way, a road. But metaphorically it can also mean a course of conduct, a manner of acting or feeling. This could well mean their way of life, their discipleship lifestyle. “They are allowed the means of travel (staff, sandals) but not sustenance (bread, money bag, and money, extra clothes). In other words, they, like Jesus who has just been renounced in his own ‘home,’ are to take on the status of a sojourner in the land.” (Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man, p. 213.)
[g] “to wear sandals.” Possibly a Markan metaphor for discipleship. They were the clothing of choice for walking long distances. Note that it was absent in both Matthew (Mt. 10:10), who forbids them, and Luke (9:3) who omits the reference altogether.
[h] “Two tunics” (dyo chitōnas). Two was a sign of comparative wealth. Most people of the era only owned one.  
[i] “That all should repent” (hina metanoōsin). This was also the message of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus earlier (Mark 1:15). “Repent” (metanoeō). The root of this complex verb is to change dramatically one’s walking direction. In practice it usually meant to think differently, that is, to reconsider something. Morally, it could mean to feel compunction. That’s why it usually--though not always--is translated as to repent. Louw-Nida adds this interesting clarification: “Though in English a focal component of repent is the sorrow or contrition that a person experiences because of sin, the emphasis in μετανοέω and μετάνοια seems to be more specifically the total change, both in thought and behavior, with respect to how one should both think and act. Whether the focus is upon attitude or behavior varies somewhat in different contexts.” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), p. 509.