They Took Offence at Him

The classic western “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” has a line that is repeated several times throughout the movie. Butch and Sundance are on the run, and no matter what they do to get away (including jumping off a cliff), the posse is always following them in the distance. One or the other looks back over their shoulder and asks, “Who are those guys?

We get that scene repeated in the story of Jesus as well. When Jesus calms the storm and saves the apostles, they ask, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41). When Jesus forgives the sinful woman who anoints his feet, the crowd asks, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (Luke 8:25). And that is also the question that is asked when Jesus preached in his hometown for the first time in today’s reading from Mark 6:2-3—

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, that he even does miracles! 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.

The homefolks at Nazareth aren't asking, "Who is this guy?" but "Who does this guy think he is" The hometown boy had gained a reputation all over the area as a miracle-worker and preacher, and when he finally comes home the home folks are amazed at him. But they aren’t amazed by his power and authority; they are amazed at his audacity. “How can he think he is anything so special? Why, we’ve known his family for years!” Remember the question that Nathanael asks when Phillip points him to Jesus, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" (John 1:46). It appears the people at Nazareth agrees with him; they refuse to take Jesus seriously because they all knew him and his family.

I preach at a church in my hometown among people who knew me when I was a kid. There have been times that were awkward, but I always felt that the homefolks were extremely supportive and helpful. But here, Jesus’ hometown folks were so close to him and his family (everyone knew everyone in small these villages) that they could not take his message seriously. They were so dismissive that Jesus was “amazed at their lack of faith” (v. 6).

There is an old saying that warns “familiarity breeds contempt.” That is the danger for some of us with the gospel story. We too grew up with Jesus; we too have known him and his family (the church) all our lives. How easy it is for us to take for granted his presence and miss his power. We have heard and reheard the story of the God who left the thrown of heaven, lived among us as a man, died for us on the cross, rose again to conquer death, who gives us his spirit to live within us and who will one day come back to take us to be with him forever. If we are not careful, that story can become what it must never be—ordinary.

May we be amazed all over again by Christ Jesus the Lord.