Musing on Mark 6, 1 to 13.           Do you believe and trust……..?

Jesus returned to Nazareth, where he was brought up and worked, only to find that there was some truth in the saying ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. What’s your experience of ‘going back’ – to a school reunion, a former workplace, a ‘home town’? Was the expectation that you/people would still be exactly the same? Did you feel people didn’t want you to have ‘moved on’?

As a good Jew Jesus went to the synagogue on the sabbath. Everyone went as it was a social time, a place to discuss civic matters as well as the scriptures and to share the gossip. There could be up to six readings, the leader of the synagogue picking the scroll to be read from and inviting people who could to read from it. As it was written in Hebrew there was also someone who translated it into Aramaic as it was read. Visitors were sometimes invited to read from the last scroll, and that is why Jesus was invited to read. His reputation as a story-teller, healer and miracle-worker would have preceded him.

To the people of Nazareth Jesus was a boy with dubious parentage who’d grown up in the town and taken over the family business as a local builder after his father had died like a good elder son, but then walked off from his responsibilities leaving his younger brothers to look after family and business. Then the rumours of his new activities started to trickle into the town. And then he arrives with a posse of disciples like a wandering rabbi.  So I expect no-one wanted to miss out on meeting this prodigal son.

But when Jesus started to speak after reading the scriptures he didn’t follow the customary practice of commenting on the scriptures by quoting other Rabbis and authorities. Instead he spoke from his own authority as if he was God! This was scandal! Blasphemy! Who did he think he was, this bastard  tradesman (referring to him as Mary’s son and not Joseph’s son implies this was their opinion). And the people ‘took offence’ at this upstart. They saw no reason to believe that this man they’d known from a baby could be a new prophet let alone Messiah!

Why do you think their unbelief prevented Jesus from carrying out his ministry of healing and miracles? It seems that unless we are open to receiving what Jesus has to offer he won’t force the issue. That’s not the way God wants to work. The people of Nazareth did not believe and trust in Jesus so nothing happened and he walked away from them, perhaps shaking the dust off his sandals?

In contrast the disciples did believe and trust in Jesus so when they were sent out they were able to imitate Jesus ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit to minister to those who were wanting help. God was able to work through the disciples because they were open to him (the use of oil to anoint was as a symbol of Gods presence and favour, as if they were chosen kings – see 1 Kings 1,39). Like John the Baptist they call people to ‘repent’, to change or (lit.) ‘go beyond their minds’ and believe in Jesus. They were to take no food, no money, and no extra cloak to wrap up in at night, but to rely wholly on the expectation of receiving hospitality (as was required by religious and social norms). They were to imitate Jesus humility and never force themselves unwillingly on their hearers. If they were not welcome, like Jesus in Nazareth, they were to walk away, shaking the dust off their sandals.

Is this our conception of evangelism? (Interesting contrast: Jesus calls us to be persistent in prayer but not to waste time on those who don’t want to listen).

The disciples believe in Jesus and want to follow his example and teaching. They trust in him so are willing to set out in pairs to imitate him (but I bet they were scared of being humiliated by rejection and being left cold and hungry, that’s only natural!). And because they believed and trusted in him, however imperfectly, the Holy Spirit was able to work though them and they returned rejoicing from their very first mission.

In the Profession of Faith in the Baptism and Confirmation services the bishop asks the candidates three times ‘do you believe and trust…..’(in God the Father, in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit).  Neither the the bishop nor Jesus ask how much we believe and trust. However poor our belief and trust might be, the Holy Spirit can still work Gods will though us. But if through meeting and worshiping together, studying the scriptures, praying for and encouraging one another  we can grow our belief and trust in Jesus then we will be of greater use to him as he grows his kingdom here in our town. And we too will be able to rejoice at what God is doing here.