Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
~ Mark 6:1-6
Jesus comes to preach in the synagogue, the gathering place of his native community. Yet the people reject his words. Throughout Jesus’s ministry, he’s experienced rejection but perhaps the most painful moment was when his own community, with whom he’d grown up, worked and laughed, turned their backs on him. “Where did he get all this” they say “Isn’t he not the carpenter, the son of Mary?”
They want to put Jesus back in his place, remind him that he’s only human- not God. When some encounter the person of Jesus Christ, they reduce him to a mere man or a good teacher. This shows desire to bring the supernatural down to our level. We wish to deny that there is a divine wisdom so we all may appear wise. We say our own technology and cleverness works miracles. “What mighty hands are wrought by his hands– but we can do them too!” When the supernatural is denied, we aren’t subordinate to any but in control of our world. We decide our fate and eventually decide what’s right and wrong.
In families where only one believes, the rest are made uncomfortable. One who speaks of God and the divinity is unsettling. He must be silenced and thus families can be torn apart by conflicting beliefs. This is what Jesus meant when he said “a man’s foes will be those of his own household (Matt 10:36). The church’s role in the world is also pushed aside, ignored and rejected. A hierarchical church with dogma and creeds is viewed as oppressive, monstrous, and hardly capable of saving souls, if we admit to having souls. In fact, without a church to tell us different, we do away with the notion of having souls.
The thing about creeds and dogmas is that they are not self-made. They claim wisdom above mere human wisdom. A self-made existence seems comfortable, free and without limits but indeed, it becomes a lifeless struggle, a mere survival. When we eschew all teachers, being ignorant is a badge of honor. Jesus’s home community didn’t want “one of the guys” telling them what to do. They couldn’t be taught. The church exists to save us whether we like it or not. Truth and morality, right and wrong still stand, even if we choose to ignore it. Whether we reject them or not, the teachings still stand. We want to deny sin so as to give power to our majority votes. Religion is only convenient when we can put it in its place, preferably to the side, unnoticed or as some curious object of fascination. So we cast out things which remind us of a higher power.
But irreligion can even exist in countries with you may see several churches on one street. The buildings are there but the fire grows cold in men’s hearts. Where the Gospel has grown old, where Christianity has existed for centuries, churches are silenced, while the light spreads to developing countries. Europe and North America yawn and laugh in the face of the Gospel while Africa and Asia reach out with hungry hands. In the religiously saturated climate of Jerusalem, the Savior of the world was crucified and in courtrooms where the Ten Commandments hang, morality is quashed underfoot. Where people should know better, corruption runs rife. “A prophet is not without honor except in his homeland” But our homeland should indeed once again open its doors to the Church’s prophetic presence- to Jesus Christ. Human means such as laws, diplomacy and constitutions cannot protect us without fear of God. The divine element must be there as leaven for all law and order. An unbelieving people will make their own laws and run themselves to terror.
We see that in his homeland, Jesus couldn’t perform great works. Why not? Jesus had all the power. Surely he could have forced his way to the people and delivered them? But this is not how God works. God is a bridegroom, not an abductor. He finds us asleep where we are yet does not awaken love until it so desires (c.f Song 8:4). His gifts cannot be forced on us as he respects our free will. Jesus could have taken the peoples’ hands but their fists were closed. This is why despite the presence of religion, so many remain unconverted. Souls are unwilling to come to terms with themselves. Hearts must be softened, sometimes broken, in order for God to enter in.
The most striking passage of this Gospel is by far: “He was amazed at their lack of faith”. Jesus looked upon the people he’d loved and was amazed. He wanted more than anything to deliver them but they would not have it. Again we see the theme of faith. Our ability to experience Christ’s life changing presence depends on faith. We must want a change. All the miracles of the Bible happened because someone hoped for better than a meager existence. Healing happened where it was allowed.
When our beloved reaches down, we are free to look up and trustingly take his hand. Nothing stops us but us. We were made for more than the cold rationalism and materialism of this world. No matter how much the divine is pushed aside, something in our hearts will ache. Despite the evil and turbulence that abounds, we must again take up God’s laws. Maybe we can open up our fists which are balled in anger and give God another try? Jesus’s earthly family rejected him but even those forsaken by their families can find the church. Through it, Jesus accepts us into a bigger family, a bigger homeland. This way, we can leave our homelands on the earth and find our eternal home in heaven.