July 8, 2018: 7th Sunday of Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, human unbelief is the most powerful weapon You had to come up against while You worked out our salvation during Your ministry. And it still is today. The fact that we all possess vestiges of unbelief within should shake us to the core. So, today, empower each of us to recognize our own unbelief, to resist it, to embrace You with thanksgiving, and give You the honor You deserve to Your glory and our benefit. Amen
TEXT: Mark 6: 1-5
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
After trying to foment a revolt in heaven against God and being hurled from its lofty heights, Satan immediately set about looking for allies in his cause of evil. What better source than Adam and Eve, God’s crowning creation achievement? And when he seduced them into evil, he gained immediate allies!—Not just two people, but all their progeny from all future generations. Dr. Luther often talked of “the unholy trinity” arrayed against us. That being: the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. So, we really face a three-headed dragon as we go through life. Satan is at one end of the spectrum, we’re in the center, and the masses of sinners stand at our other side. Look at the peer pressure being exerted on people today via social media and you begin to see just how horrible the power of that three-headed dragon is…..
Our lesson is fairly familiar: Jesus returning to His hometown of Nazareth and being rejected by the people as their Savior. He goes to the synagogue and preaches on the Sabbath. We’re told: “many who heard him were amazed.” He wasn’t the little boy they remembered from 20 years before. “Where did this man get these things? What’s this wisdom that has been given to him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us? And they took offense at him.”
In growing up there, Jesus never lied to anyone. He was and is the sinless Son of God. Obviously, none of the neighbors recognized this fact then, or now. To them, He’s gone away and “gotten too big for his britches.” He’s putting on airs. And they just can’t handle it. Apparently He even does a few miracles which really seems “over-the-top.” And so, “they take offense at him.” They harden their minds and their souls against the Gospel He’s preaching. They get angry. And they reject Him and all He stands for. Folks, this is one of the saddest passages of the Bible. In those words of a famous movie: “They can’t handle the truth!” so, the Truth could not set them free…..
Then comes this insight from Christ: “Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” Familiarity breeds contempt. It did here. People close to you always seem to judge you by some past event in your life instead of who and what you are today. This is especially true when it comes to unbelief. Ask any Pastor. If they go back to their hometown and preach an amazing sermon there will be people there that will skip right over what he said and remind him that when he was 5 years old he did some stupid thing that was embarrassing! Why do they do so? Because it’s there way of coping with the fact that unlike him, they haven’t grown up yet.
And now we come to a tantalizing verse. “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” That’s a “wow” verse! We tend to focus on the fact that Jesus has almighty power. Armed with that power He can overcome anything and everything. No human can ever stand in His way.—Right? But here, their unbelief and rejection prevented Him from working miracles apart from some slight ones. What are we to make of this?
The Bible commentators don’t have much to say on the matter. It’s a bit of a mystery. So, I’ll take a stab at it. I believe it has to do with Christ’s two natures: the joining of the divine with the human. He was 100% both. We always elevate the divine, as is natural. We also tend to overlook or downplay the human. Think of yourself. Any teacher will tell you that they do their best work when the students are engaged, excited, and pay attention. The same is true with preachers. Things flow, truth comes out, new thoughts are exposed when people truly want to learn and are focused. The students energize the teacher and vice-versa. It’s part of being human.
Likewise, negative emotions and apathy, if not downright hostility, are a huge blocking mechanism when it comes to any productive interaction. Unbelief is maybe the biggest negative emotion of all. It breeds hostility. It fosters apathy. It’s the old adage: “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink” played out in human terms. And finally, as in this case, the human nature of Christ simply gave up butting His head against that wall of unbelief. It was an exercise in futility, and it dissipated His powers. To me, this whole section is a huge lesson in how much our human natures can thwart Christ’s Godly power. And quite frankly, it’s a bit scary, isn’t it? Yes, the three-headed dragon is all too alive and well—in us. For if His hometown folks could act this way, so can we.
That being said, there is a positive ending to all this which should buoy your spirits. Recall Mark talking about Jesus’ brothers and sisters and even naming some of them. We know from Scripture that for most of His ministry, they acted just like the “townies” in that they didn’t believe Him to be the Son of God and their Savior, either. But, later on, after He died on the cross to pay for their unbelief and rose from their graves to give them a new life, some of those siblings came to faith. In the end, the power of God broke through their veneer of hardness and worked repentance and faith within them. Your presence here today says that the same has occurred, by grace alone, in each of you. So learn from your Lord when you attempt to help save a loved ones’ soul. Sometimes you must walk away from them for a while and let the Word percolate within them. Then when you come back to them later on, it might well have made them porous enough to drink in some of that water of eternal life! Amen