“And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.’” (Mark 6:4 ESV)
The intrigue of Jesus spread around the regions of Galilee, but only now in the sixth chapter of Mark do we see him return to his hometown of Nazareth. What would be his reception? Would the people who remember him as a child, who know his family, who can identify with his upbringing welcome him? No, the Bible tells us that they in fact rejected him.
The Nazarenes were astounded. Jesus was speaking with authority. He seemed to put a fresh spin on things. But, wasn’t he the child that grew up in the home of the carpenter? Don’t we know him? Where in the world did he get these teachings? And how is he able to perform such works? The people were incredulous.
Mark goes on to tell us that they weren’t just surprised or unwilling to believe – they were offended (v3). Jesus’ message offended them. Jesus’ power offended them. Jesus’ nature offended them. He was not the Nazarene boy they thought they knew. His words and works challenged their thinking, but their stony hearts would not budge.
After Jesus quotes the proverb about a prophet not having honor in his own town and house, Mark provides two curious responses: Jesus could not do a work there and Jesus marveled at their unbelief. These reactions raise many questions and spurred much debate.
We will explore these questions when we open the text together. In the meantime, suffice it to say that Jesus was not powerless in himself merely because of their rejection. After all, not even rejection is an obstacle that Christ cannot conquer – just ask the Apostle Paul. What we do learn about, however, is the tragedy of unbelief. One cannot expect to get things from God is they are unwilling to receive his Son.
Many want the healing and the blessings but they don’t want their lives changed by Christ. Perhaps one thing about the Nazarenes we can commend is their honesty. How sad it is that even today folks will come near to Christ just to receive his benefits but they do not receive him by faith. May we know and understand the true Jesus, and embrace him as he is.