The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the
Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
1 Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and His
disciples followed Him. 2 When the Sabbath came, He began to
teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished,
saying, “Where did this man get these things, and what is this
wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His
hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of
James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not 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 hometown and among
his own relatives and in his own household.” 5 And He could do no
miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people
and healed them. 6 And He wondered at their unbelief. And He
was going around the villages teaching. 7 And He summoned the
twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them
authority over the unclean spirits; 8 and He instructed them that
they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no
bread, no bag, no money in their belt— 9 but to wear sandals; and
He added, “Do not put on two tunics.” 10 And He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 11
Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out
from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony
against them.” 12 They went out and preached that men should
repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were
anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. (NASB)
A few short weeks ago, I pointed out that we are in series B in the Scripture
readings, which means the assigned Gospel lessons will usually come from the
Gospel of St. Mark. I also stated that one of the distinguishing marks of the Gospel
of St. Mark is the question, “Who is this?” or in the case of this morning’s Gospel
lesson, “Who does Jesus the Nazarene think He is?”
1 “Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and His
disciples followed Him. 2 When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the
synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this
man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles
as these performed by His hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here
The people of Nazareth, the people who had known Jesus throughout His
youth and early manhood, thought they knew the answer to the question. “Who is
this?” Their answer, “He’s one of us!” He’s no one special. He’s not some great
preacher and teacher. He’s the carpenter son. He’s Mary’s son. He is the brother of
James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. He is the brother to His sisters who stand among
us. Who is He kidding? He’s one of us.
Admittedly, He seems to be teaching a kind of wisdom that escapes us, but
still He’s just a poser. They even acknowledge that He is able to work miracles or
so people who don’t really know Him say.
We have a saying, it’s a truism. “Familiarity breads contemp.” The more we
know someone and get comfortable with him or her, the less we respect them. It’s
It’s church officials are reluctant to send a son of a congregation back to the same
congregation to serve as pastor. The people tend not to respect the man as they
ought. It’s also why some professionals, pastors included believe it is best to keep
a “professional distance” between the professional and the people they serve.
Jesus understood the principle, especially as it related to God’s preachers
and teachers. On the one hand, pastors are ordinary men, sinners like everyone
else. On the other hand, they have been placed into the holy office and have been
ordained by God to speak and teach His Word and administer His sacraments.
So Jesus shows up in His hometown and it didn’t go well, not even for
Jesus. “They [the people in Nazareth ] took offense at Him. 4 Jesus said to them,
‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own
relatives and in his own household.’ 5 And He could do no miracle there except
that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He
wondered at their unbelief.”
The Gospel lesson, like so many others Gospel lessons selected for Sunday
morning is a study in contrast. That is what we have here. The first part is the story
of Jesus’s homecoming, a homecoming that is one of unbelief and limited works.
The second half of the Gospel reading is the sending of the twelve, which resulted
in the exact opposite. 12 “They went out and preached that men should repent.
13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many
sick people and healing them.”
The first part of the lesson was Jesus, the unbelief of those who had grown up with
Him in one town, and the limited number of works done in Nazareth. The second half of
the reading is the disciples going out to several towns and villages, preaching and
teaching the Word of God, and the great number of works that they did through the Word
of Christ. They preached repentance, that is sorrow over sin and faith in the promised
Messiah and healed many.
Much is made by some Christians that it is the innate power of faith that
does the healing and they often point to this text wherein we read, “He could do
no miracle . . . 6 And He wondered at their unbelief.” These people think and
teach that as a result of people’s lack of faith, Jesus’ ability to heal was restricted.
They think that faith, not Christ’s Word is where the power for miracles lay.
It is true, the vast majority of people in Nazareth lacked faith. The real
reason Jesus didn’t do many miracles in His hometown is that the people there
didn’t believe, therefore they did not want or seek His help. They aren’t bringing
sick and crippled people to Him so that He could heal them. He is not surrounded
by people who believe.
Remember last week’s Gospel lesson? Jairus believed and sought out Jesus
and asked Jesus to heal his daughter who was at the point of death. There was also
a woman there who had been bleeding for 12 years. All she wanted to do was just
to touch Him and she knew that she’d be healed.
That is not the kind of thing taking place in Nazareth. The reception He got
in His own home town was different that the reception He got in other towns.
Even His own disciples got a better reception, that is were greeted by people of
faith went He sent them out to all the villages and towns in the area. But in His
own hometown “He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on
a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He wondered at their unbelief.”
He “couldn’t” perform a lot of miracles because a lot of people weren’t
coming to Him to be healed. They didn’t come because they didn’t believe, thus
Jesus marveled at their unbelief. Familiarity breads contemp.
Have your even marveled at a person’s stupidity? I do and the old I get the
more I marvel. A local talk radio station has a daily feature they call, Nimrods in
the News. They read a report of someone, usually a criminal who went about their
crime or deed in an incredibly stupid manner leaving the listeners to marvel at just
how stupid some people are. Well it’s the same idea only applied to faith. Jesus
marveled at how strong and deep their unbelief was. They were to deeply rooted in
their unbelief they didn’t even act out of a sense of desperation to be healed. Thus
there weren’t many applicants.
No where in the four Gospels does Jesus seek someone out to heal them.
They always come to Him. They are always brought to Him. People come to or are
bought to Jesus because of faith. Thus, Jesus sometimes tells such people that
their faith has made them well. The saying does not mean that their faith had the
power to heal them. Their faith made them well because their trust in Him caused
them to seek Jesus out, petition Him for help, and receive from Him the
forgiveness of their sins.
Faith does not invest Jesus with power. His Word has all the power to create
faith, to move people to seek Him out for help and forgiveness. Faith doesn’t give
Jesus power any more than your faith joins the body and blood of Jesus to the
bread and wine there. It is the Word of Christ that. It is His Word that even brings
you to the altar.
Jesus had grown up with these people. They knew what kind of boy and
young man He had shown Himself to be. They all should have known, especially
His family members who He was and what He came to do. But unbelief blinds a
person. They can’t see Jesus for who He really is and what it is He has and
continues to do for us and for out salvation. Jesus does not force His mercies on
anyone. He gladly gives grace to all who receive it; but if people do not want His
help, He will not force them to be helped.
Angels may have sung praises at His birth, but Jesus looked pretty ordinary.
Jesus stood among family, friends, and neighbors and preached a wisdom from
above. But to them He’s just . . . Jesus – no one special.
It’s a common problem. People tend to disregard, ignore, and devalue the
Word of God because it is being spoken by a man who is just as ordinary as they
are. In fact he is often regarded as a greater sinner than they are– mostly because
they find something offensive about him. So also the people of Nazareth were
offended by Jesus. These people could only see Jesus’ humanity. They could not
grasp His divinity.
That’s one of the problems with American Christianity. It over emphasizes
the humanity of Jesus at the expense of His divinity. Jesus is often portrayed more
as a friend and a causal one at that than the Almighty Son of God. This is part and
parcel of the whole agenda of making churches less churchly, of devising worship
services where even complete unbelievers feel at home and can relate to what’s
going on. “Come as you are!” goes the invitation, because Jesus is your friend.
He’s just like you. And the pastors of these kinds of place, they dress in common
and often causal attire to stress the point, we’re all just friends here.
It is true that Jesus calls us friends as opposed to strangers. but we dare not
forget that Jesus—our friend—is also the Almighty Son of God, who sits at God’s
right hand and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
We worship no less than God Himself—and, even more, that God Himself
is present in this place to give us forgiveness and salvation. That’s why the church
service is to be a reverent place. Remember, the Lord still comes to visit you.
Instead of coming to you in the appearance of a man, He comes to you veiled in
His Word and Sacraments. He visits you, saves you, and strengthens your faith for
eternal life in His Word, in Baptism and in Holy Communion.
We ought not forget that the men called and ordained to shepherd His sheep
hold a high and holy office and that the office, the message, and even the man, no
matter how familiar he may be, ought to be respected, protected, and cared for as
the right thing to do for his service to the church.
You will be tempted to treat these things as too familiar and ordinary. When
you hear me say “I forgive you all of your sins” do you hear it as God’s very own
pronouncement or just something I say. The pastor does not say, “I personally
forgive you.” He does not stand before the congregation as a private citizen of the
congregation. He stands and says, “In the stead and by the command of My Lord
Jesus Christ, I forgive you all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Ghost.”
Just as the disciples were sent to preach Jesus’ Word in town and villages,
faithful pastors today speak Jesus’ Word and people are forgiven. Pastors have no
power in and of themselves. They simply speak God’s powerful Word. If a person
rejects that absolution because they reject the messenger, then they’ve just rejected
the Word of Christ. To reject the Word of Christ is to reject the Word made flesh.
The same it true and more of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.
Absolution, Baptism, and Communion are the ABC of God’s grace. The Lord
comes to give you forgiveness, life and salvation in these means. People who
reject these things of Christ, do so at their own risk. This is no different than the
rejection of Jesus in Nazareth by people who only saw Jesus’ human nature.
Jesus comes to you. He comes to you with forgiveness and life and
salvation. Perhaps on rare occasion God works a miracle of physical healing. But
His common everyday works is to cure your soul of sin, so that He might raise you
up, body and all, on the Last Day to everlasting life.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep our minds and hearts in
Christ Jesus. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the