Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:1-6)
What would we think about Jesus if He walked among us today as He did in among the people in first century Palestine? The answer isn’t difficult—I think we would be amazed by Him. That’s what Mark tells us over and over in his gospel:
- The people were amazed at His teaching . . . (1:21),
- People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well” . . . (7:37),
- The disciples were amazed at His words . . . (10:24),
- The whole crowd was amazed at His teaching . . . (11:18),
- And they were amazed at Him . . . (12:17).
That makes sense because there has never been anyone like Jesus. Among people and gods, He is absolutely singular. And while being amazed by Him is a very healthy and necessary thing, it alone is an inadequate basis for discipleship.
We know this because of what happened when Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth (Mark 6:1-6). On the Sabbath, He and His disciples went to the synagogue where Jesus began to teach. Mark tells us, “Many who heard Him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given Him? What are these remarkable miracles He is performing?’” (v. 2). We’re not surprised by any of this because this is the reaction people have when they are around Jesus. We expect no less.
And yet, it wasn’t enough.
After their initial amazement, the people try to process what they have seen, and it isn’t pretty. They begin with the question, “Isn’t this Mary’s son?” (v. 3a). “Mary’s son” could be a reference to the questionable (in their eyes) circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. At the very least, their failure to mention Joseph indicates he is deceased, and they don’t see how the Messiah could have come from this single parent family. Their reasoning seems to be that since there wasn’t anything exceptional about Mary or any of Jesus’ siblings, there couldn’t be anything exceptional about Him. As far as they were concerned, He was as ordinary as the rest of them.
God came as a carpenter? They remembered Jesus standing in sawdust and wood shavings and balked at the incongruity of Him being the Son of God. The nerve of Him! He grew up with our children, worshipped in our synagogue, chose to leave our community and now He’s back here with His “disciples” claiming to be the Messiah—He might get away with that with strangers, but we know better!
And with this, they’ve done what we are so often guilty of doing—they’ve put unhealthy boundaries on what they believe about God. We often hear the phrase putting God in a box, but perhaps it’s more accurate to say they’ve placed themselves in a box. We do this when talk ourselves into believing we and our loved ones are somehow “more special” than others (where do we get such an idea?). We do this when we decide that someone is beyond God’s ability to be reached despite the examples of Saul, Matthew Levi, Zacchaeus, the Ninevites, etc. We do this when we tell God what we want and how we want Him to answer our prayer.
Mark’s concluding words to this incident? “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (v. 6). Maybe the question isn’t, “Are we amazed by Jesus?,” but “Is He amazed by us?”