(for the Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, July 5, 2015)
He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On 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? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If 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.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6:1-13, NRSV).
People have been ‘astounded’ by Jesus before.
In the Gospel of Mark Jesus calls four Galilean fishermen and then immediately enters the Capernaum synagogue. The response to his teaching and healing: they were ‘astounded’ and ‘amazed’. At ‘sunset’ the ‘whole city’ swapped the house where he was staying. A mass healing. A new level of fame.
The above account opens in a similar fashion. Another sabbath. Another synagogue. Another listening crowd. They too recognise Jesus’ wisdom and power. In short, as our author suggests, they too are ‘astounded’.
From here, however, everything is different. This is the village Jesus and his family grew up in. Their amazement quickly turns to cynicism: ‘ ‘…Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.’
Here people associate Jesus with timber, hammers, chisels. He made and delivered their shelves, repaired their broken benches. In short: Jesus is their labourer.
And despite the initial impact of his teaching they cannot get around it: ‘Who is Jesus to teach us?’ Few are healed. Power does not flow.
It is Jesus’ turn to be ‘amazed’.
Not, however, before a timely warning: ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ I hope the disciples are listening carefully.
After all, they are on the cusp of their own mission. Two by two they are given authority, sent, instructed. With so little they will travel with considerable speed. Their message is urgent.
Such simplicity also makes them dependent on others. They will enter homes. Some will become places of welcome. Others will not.
And they go – echoing loudly the mission of their master. Repent. Cast out demons. Anoint the sick.
Just like their master.