Who the fjörk does he think he is?

Posted: 27 June, 2011 in Messages given in church
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We have been looking at the question, ‘What’s so good about the Good News?’ and, strangely enough, we have been sort of working our way through Mark’s Gospel.  We have noticed that Mark seems to run his stories into each other and that there is a  larger and deeper meaning from reading the stories together rather than reading them individually,  (see the the last couple of posts for examples).

Today we have not two but three stores that collide into each other.  However I am only going to look at two of them today due to available time.  

The first story is of Jesus return to his hometown of Nazareth, you can read it here — Mark 6:1-6.

Jesus has begun his been teaching his disciples and preaching to crowds, both large and small.  he leaves the immediate area around the lake and heads into the hill country to the west to his hometown of Nazareth.  We don’t know why he went there; perhaps it was to preach and teach, perhaps it was just to get some rest among family and friends.  his disciples go with him.  Mark tells us that while he was there he followed his usual practice and went to the local synagogue on the Sabbath.  Being a  visiting rabbi he was given the opportunity to speak.  Mark, in his usual manner, does not tell us what he said.  he does, however, tell us the reaction to what he said.

“Who does this bloke think he is?” would be our rough colloquial equivalent.  “Isn’t he the carpenter?  Isn’t his mum one of us?  Aren’t his brothers and sisters living in the village?”  Mark sums it all by saying he became an offence to them.  A stumbling block is the actual word he uses.

The only words have from Jesus are, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”  He was amazed at the lack of faith and was unable to do many might works among them.

The story that follows is often taken as a stand alone episode.  I am of the opinion that it is there because the fiorst story sets the scene for the second and, in turn, the third story follows it up following the same theme.

The second story tells us about Jesus sending out his twelve disciples (apprentices) to preach, teach, have authority over unclean spirits and to heal; much the same sort of thing that he has been doing.  You can read it here —  Mark 6:6-13.

Jesus give his disciples soem instructions on how to go about their ‘mission’ —

“Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

Much has been said and written about these instructions.  Some of it has even been good.  Basically I think it is fairly simple and practical; but there are a  couple of bits that get overlooked by us because we are not all that familiar with the culture.

Firstly he sends them out two by two.  Company and accountability are part and parcel of preaching the Good News.

A staff was a necessity for any journey between villages.  It helped to keep your footing on rough roads and paths and  it also offered some protection from the wild.  Jesus is not expecting his disciples to take unnecessary risks.

Every Jew would carry a  bag with food, usually bread, in it.  There were  no McDonalds in Galilee in the first century.  Even if there were most Jew lived within some well defined dietary rules and could eat  a whole heap of things.  However, Jesus tells his disciples to forgo the basket and bread and even any money and to rely on the hospitality of those to whose towns and villages they will go.

We are not so familiar with the ancient middle eastern requirement to provide hospitality.  There were no McDonalds nor were there hotels or motels or even inns as we know them.   Hospitality was to be offered to strangers by ordinary people.  There was to be no cost for it and no obligation on the guest.  In fact  a stranger could stay at your place for three days before they were asked any questions as to where were they from and where were they going.   Jesus is asking his disciples to rely on the hospitality of faithful people.

Next he tells them to ware shoes but not an extra shirt.   While this one sounds practical in the same way the staff is practical there is  little bit of culture behind it.  The only people who went with out shoes were the religious ascetics; people who had renounced worldly pleasure to the point of embracing deprivation to the pint of pain.  They thought that holiness was achieved by their self discipline and endurance.  Pretty much they were religious nutjobs.   Jesus is telling his disciples that they were not to be religious nutjobs.

As to shirts (more of a  tunic really) one was sufficient, two was luxury!    Jesus is simply saying don’t under do it (asceticism) and don’t over do it (luxury).

Jesus tells his tells his disciples to accept the hospitality of whomever welcomed them and not to flit from one house to another for a  more comfy bed or better food or whatever.  They are to share the Good News with whoever will hear them and to not waste their time with those who won’t.  Shaking the dust off their feet was not necessarily an action but a  symbolic way of saying if they won’t listen just walk away and don’t carry it with you; not even anger or resentment.

Above all remember that you have a message to share and share it.  That is the reason for which you have been sent.  Whether across the world or across the street take the Good News with you and make it known.

As Christians we often talk about our mission and our outreach to others for the sake of the Good News.  There are a few things we can glean for ourselves from these two stories.

First up, as disciples and followers of Jesus we too are expected to be involved in mission of some sort or another. Our churches are to be sending churches, if not sending people to the other side of the world we could at least be sending people to pray for the sick kids of  single mum, or to fix the broken door of a young couple after a break-in, or to take a stew to the old bloke who has just come out of hospital.   We no longer exist for ourselves.  We are a  servant community.

Working in company is more productive and more accountable.  We actually flourish when we are held accountable for our actions in a supportive and encouraging way.

We should not take unnecessary risks.  The necessary ones are sufficient.  be wise and plan ahead.

Trust that God has gone before you and there are people prepared to welcome you.  Don’t be bitter if they don’t  listen.

Don’t be a  religious nutjob!

Don’t offend others by desiring to be treated to luxury.

Accept  the hospitality of others.  Your message may be great but your rudeness will be what is remembered.

Share the Good News about Jesus, which begins with the bad news that we need to change.  You will find there are a  lot of people who want to change but don’t know that they can.  You may be more good news to them than you think!  Also be prepared to confront evil and tend to illness.   The word that Mark uses in this passage which we translate as ‘heal’  is a word more akin to ‘therapy’  which means ‘practically serving  so as to relive sickness or distress’.   It can also be translated as ‘worship’.

Lastly, reflecting on the first story of Jesus going to his own village, his own people and his own family, when Jesus sends out the disciples it potentially to exactly these people that he is sending them.   Just about all the disciples came from Galilee.  As they went to the various villages and towns there is no doubt that would have been among their own people, their own relatives and their own families.  What they had seen Jesus endure in Nazareth they had to be prepared to endure themselves in Capernahum, Nain, & Bethsaida.

And so it will be  with us.  People will say of us exactly the same as what they said of Jesus; “Who does he think he is?”  “Who does she think she is?”  They will take offence at us.  We are not to be bitter or angry.  We may be amazed at how little faith they have.  None the less Jesus still sends us out and go under his direction.  We go with a message that is Good News.

  1. avonbrandt says:

    As always Brian, I really, really appreciate your regular encouragement to people to live in community with each other. Not necessarily to all live in the same place, but to always be ready to help each other, like visiting people, praying with them & preparing meals. We’re working on that up here too 🙂

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