Lord willing, I’ll be preaching over Mark 6:1-6 this Sunday. Here is a truncated version of the sermon I hope to preach:

Christ returns to his town. According to archeological digs, Nazareth was a town of only around 500 when Christ lived on earth and encompassed only 60 acres of land. Compare that with the 5,120 acres that is Commerce, and you have one small town.

This was Jesus’ home for most of his life, since he was approximately 2 or 4 years old. Plenty of time for the Nazirites to get to know a thing or two about this man and his family.

So after leaving to preach and teach and heal for the past several months, Christ returns. Apparently, news traveled home before him. His teaching and his miracles spread faster than he could walk. They had to begin to wonder if this was really the Jesus they watched grow up. This Jesus now performed all these mighty works.

But he doesn’t return alone. The text says his disciples followed with him. Not only did this Jesus, who was either a carpenter or stonemason (either way, not a glamorous job), leave their town to preach, apparently he now travels with an entourage.

Who were these disciples who decided to follow a man from such a small town as this? Seven out of the 12 were fishermen, one was a former tax collector, and another a Zealot (a small extremist organization that sought to violently overthrow Rome). Not exactly the “cream of the crop.”

But how do these men and women of Christ’s town respond to Christ and His teaching? They were astonished.

How can anyone not be astonished when Christ peels back a layer to reveal more of who he is? Especially ones who had watched him grow up! Count the amount of times people respond with wonder, marvel, fear, or astonishment when Christ heals, casts out demons, calms a storm, or raises the dead. The natural human response when confronted with the divine is astonishment.

But after the astonishment comes the questions.

Where? What? How?

Where did this man get these things? He lived his life in Nazareth, and it wasn’t one of them.

What is the wisdom given to him? He teaches a way of life different than the Pharisees.

How are such mighty works done by his hands? Not anyone’s hands performed these miracles, but his hands. The very man who worked this lowly position in town left and returned a few months later, claiming to bring along with him the kingdom of heaven. His hands did these marvelous works? His?

Then their questions began to bite.

The son of Mary? That question doesn’t really sound strange in our ears, does it?

But a son was always the son of their father, even after their father had died. To say Jesus was the son of Mary was not the Nazarites being theologically astute. They weren’t affirming the Virgin birth of Christ in this. No, this was them engaging in the age-old thing we are often known for – gossip.

This statement revealed they doubted the legitimacy of Jesus’ parentage. They put up with this if Christ made their tables and other odds and ends, but when he returned, preaching repentance as entrance into the very Kingdom of Heaven they had hoped for all this time, that was too much. This Jesus, this son of Mary, claims to be the one to usher in the Kingdom of God. Who does this man think He is?

Notice this. They did not deny the teaching, the wisdom, or the mighty works done by his hands, they simply denied the one who said and did them.

They wanted the Christ of Isaiah 64, who would rend the heavens and come down, not the Christ of Isaiah 53, who had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. They wanted the ruling king of Psalm 2, not the suffering servant of Psalm 22.

In other words, they wanted a half-Christ, the one who would come in glory not in shame, a ruler not a servant, one who conquered by might, not one who taught that weakness is the way.

So, when Christ came in humble form as prophesied in Isaiah 52 and 53, they denied him. They denied him because they thought they knew him. And, denying the part of Christ they did not want, they denied the whole Christ.

And so, the text states, they took offense at him.

Skandalizo, from the root word Skandalon. The Greek word here for taking offense has a few meanings. One, it was the stick that held up a trap to catch animals. A snare. Something to be avoided. One can also see where we get our word for scandal. So they were scandalized by this man and his message.

But there was another meaning, too.

When he wasn’t wielding num-chuks, fighting crime, eating pizza, and shouting cowabunga! the sculptor/ninja turtle Michelangelo would go to a quarry to pick out a quality stone to work from.    

He would sift through each stone, examining each to see if it measured up. If one did not, it was tossed aside, rejected; it was worth nothing more than to be a skandalon, a stumbling stone.

That’s what Christ was to them, a skandalon, a stone of stumbling.

These people in Christ’s town thought they knew Jesus, and rejected him when he revealed his true nature.

“And He marveled because of their unbelief.”

The only other time the gospels portray Christ marveling at someone is when the centurion displayed such faith as was not even seen among the Israelites. Now, he marvels at the opposite. A town so caught up in taking offense at Christ they would not accept even his miracles.

It’s easy to construct a Christ in our image. We can be like Thomas Jefferson, reading the gospel accounts with scissors in our hands, keeping the parts we like but cutting away the parts we don’t, the parts we find uncomfortable.

Do we know the whole Christ? The one who created all things and rules and reigns at the right hand of God? He is also the one who was born in a manger, who is gently and lowly, whose kingdom is not of this world and whose citizens are called to suffer in this world as Christ suffered.

As I said earlier, the Nazarites thought they knew Christ. And they rejected him when he proved to be different from what they thought.

May we know this Christ whom we have believed, and may we live and speak in such a way that causes others to ask for a reason for the hope that is within us; and to live, knowing that if we are rejected by the world we are still accepted by its creator, who came to live and die in our stead, rescuing us from death and giving us life in His Name.

Amen.

Joseph Hamrick is a semi-professional writer and sometimes thinker. He lives in Commerce and serves as a deacon at Commerce Community Church C3).

He can be reached at jhamrick777@gmail.com

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