For three and a half years Jesus continually taught and preached. He performed wonders and drew people to him. Obviously the gospels are not a daily diary of his entire ministry. They are not a transcript of his every word. They are a highlight reel, capturing the essence of the Good News, the platform of the New Covenant, the record of our redemption. But with so much ground to cover in sixteen chapters, why does Mark include this account of Christ’s rejection by friends and neighbors?
What is Jesus telling us? What should we learn from this gospel?
There are two parts and at least two lessons in this brief gospel. In the first part, we learn not to take things for granted. There is a phenomenon of perception that we tend to fill in the blanks in what we observe. We look for patterns, recognizing the familiar and fitting it into the context of our prior experiences. We process much of our information by reflex rather than by discernment. And that is exactly what the hometown folks are doing when they see and hear Jesus.
They are astounded by the message, but they reject the messenger. They marvel at his wonders, but they just can’t accept the source. Who is Jesus to tell them what to do? He’s got some nerve coming back to town and preaching to them. Never mind the wisdom he speaks… never mind the miracles they witness… their pride sees only a guy from the neighborhood… someone they don’t rate very highly in their personal pecking order. And so they’re not open to the word of God. What a tragedy. They have lived in expectation of the Messiah and yet they can’t see him standing right in their midst.
What do we take away from this passage? Be open to the Lord at all times. You’ll find him in the most unexpected people and places. Make him such a part of our lives that we can regularly recognize him moving in and around us. Develop Christ-like reflexes. Try to see things through the eyes of Jesus. Be prepared to recognize need and offer help. Overlook slights and be ready to forgive. Seek every opportunity to proclaim him and witness his love. We are Christ’s hometown crowd now. Let’s welcome him home every chance we get.
Let’s also learn from how Jesus handles rejection. It doesn’t ruin his day. It doesn’t put him into an inert funk. It energizes him. He accepts it as a challenge and he passes that challenge on to us. This lesson is one that is very close to my heart. Jesus tells me not to get side-tracked. Stop getting ready to get ready. Get on with the business of building the kingdom. Stop planning to plan. Start living the gospel.
There never was a keener student of human nature than Jesus. His Father created our nature with all its quirks and foibles. Jesus shares it with us. He is both God and man. From first-hand experience, he knows our proclivity for distraction. He instructs us to: Seek ye first the kingdom of God. Sure we must make our way in the world. We have careers and families. But they should not be distractions. They should be integral to a life that proclaims the gospel. Our jobs, our family obligations, every encounter of the day… they are all opportunities to witness the love of Christ alive in the world. That’s the reason we were made. That’s the reason we were saved.
And so Jesus tells us not to be distracted, not to be discouraged. Never mind: What will people think? What should I wear? What should I take? He tells us to keep life simple… to keep life focussed. Travel light. Take a friend. Take the Word. Don’t get detoured by rejection. There is so much work to do. Get on with it. Keep at it.
This is perfect advice for a day trip or for the journey of a lifetime. Beyond his word and the grace of God, no special equipment is needed to live a Christian life. In fact it only gets in the way. His grace is sufficient for all things. Don’t get bogged down with stuff. The stuff we own, owns us. The things we spend our time on become who and what we are. So spend your life in Christ… resilient to rejection. That’s the only reason we’re here.
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.