Read Mark 6:1-6

Think about what we have seen along the way as Mark has taken us on the Miracles of Jesus tour. How many places could claim that “Jesus taught here – and with authority.” Capernaum - A home with a hole in the roof testifies to a miracle – “Through this hole four friends lowered their paralyzed companion and Jesus healed him.” A synagogue in Capernaum “On this site Jesus cast out an unclean spirit.” Beside the sea of Galilee “On this site Jesus preached of seeds and the kingdom of God.” Somewhere out in the middle of the sea of Galilee one could float a buoy with a sign reading “It was here that Jesus commanded a storm to silence.” Next stop a graveyard in Gerasa: “On this site, the Son of the Most High God won a victory over a Legion from hell.” Nearby is a marker commemorating the death of 2000 pigs. Back on the other side of the sea are two marker’s: one in the marketplace “Here a woman touched Jesus’ robe and was healed.” The other at Jairus’ house: “On this site, Jesus raised a girl to life with the words Talitha Koum!”
And now we stop in Nazareth. It should be the greatest of all stops on the miracle tour. It should be the site of the most wonderful event yet testifying to the identity of Jesus Christ. But there are no markers except for a rusted one hanging near a carpentry shop that reads in faded print: “Hometown of Jesus, son of Mary.” Our tour guide Mark explains to us that we have stopped here because this is the site of an un-miracle. Nothing happened here. No one in Nazareth was amazed by anything. Except for Jesus. He was amazed by the greatness of their un-faith. As for the people, they could not be amazed because they were too offended.

They were offended by Jesus. Offended by Jesus? How could anyone be offended by Jesus? We wouldn’t be offended by Jesus – would we? No. Certainly not. Jesus is our neighbor, our business partner, our pal. But the folks in Nazareth knew Jesus, just as we claim to know Jesus. He was just as familiar to them as we claim he is to us. And there’s the problem: Jesus’ authoritative teaching didn’t fit with the sort of familiarity the folks in Nazareth had with Jesus and his family. They had heard talk that he might be out of his mind. They knew his history. They knew his family. They knew all about him. And they are offended that he could claim to be more than what they knew.

Now we claim to know Jesus quite well. And we get offended, but we don’t get offended at Jesus do we? We are offended by many other things, but not Jesus. We are offended by song leaders, teachers, and preachers. We are offended by elders and deacons and ministry leaders. We are offended by rude people and false doctrine, but not Jesus.

No, we are not offended by Jesus because we have domesticated and tamed Jesus. He is friend of all, but Lord of none. Sometimes in the church we have reduced Jesus to nothing more than a spiritual Colonel Sanders – his image and memory are everywhere, but we know he’s not running the company. But Jesus isn’t a corporate logo for the church – he is the LOGOS, the living word of God.
Our language betrays us. When we are confronted by the authority and power of Jesus and maybe even intimidated by it. When we consider the implications of his lordship and how that might make us uncomfortable we try to tame Jesus so we can get him on our side. I have heard people say: My Jesus wouldn’t do that. Okay, but what would THE Jesus do? More importantly what IS he doing?

Don’t misunderstand, it is good that we know that “Jesus Is With Us” and it is good to know that he has drawn near. May we ever sing with serious conviction that “Jesus Loves Me This I Know For The Bible Tells Me So.” But if Jesus is so domesticated and tamed that he is only the figurehead of our Christian company, or the rubber stamp signature for our particular church crusade, then he can no longer amaze us. There’s no mystery, there’s no surprise, there’s no faith required.

All of us have seen historical markers that commemorate important events. Sometimes when you stand near one of these and read the description you are aware of a sense of awe that something significant has taken place there and that sense is magnified if there is any hope that it might happen again.
Some of you may have seen one of these novelty markers. They look just like a historical marker but they commemorate the ordinary and mundane. “On this site in 1898, nothing happened.”
The closest experience of good news for Nazareth is that they haven’t been totally forgotten. Mark includes them on the tour of important places. “On this site, nothing happened.” Come and see the place where the “un-miracle” happened, or didn’t happen. Why include such a place on the tour Mark? What are you trying to tell us?

Let’s be clear about one thing he isn’t telling us. It’s the question everyone of us ask the tour guide when we stop here: “Is God refusing to answer my prayers because I don’t have enough faith?” Americans like to ask that question more than anyone. We have heard it said so often that “If you have enough faith, God will ... heal you, bless you, save you, make you happy, etc. etc.” And that often leads to another statement that I have heard too often: “The reason you weren’t healed, the reason you are poor, the reason you are unhappy, the reason your marriage fell apart, the reason your loved one died is because YOU didn’t have enough faith.” This isn’t the message. You can only come up with a message like this if you tame Jesus to the point that he is our genie in a bottle who grants all of our wishes. This reduces to Jesus and the Holy Spirit to something like “The Force” and if we can muster up the training and the discipline we can lift mountains – or X-Wing fighters. But faith isn’t will power of wishful thinking. It isn’t the power that resurrects Tinkerbell from the dead if we all clap our hands and believe in fairies. Faith is trust, surrender, suspension of our need to be in control. Faith leads us to give honor to the one we have faith in.
The message that Mark want to impart to us on the stop in Nazareth is this: Jesus was unable to do anything wonderful among his people not because their quantity of faith was lacking, but because they had an abundance of “un-faith.” So much so that it amazed him! They had the opposite of faith: disbelief, dismissal, dispassionate detachment. They were offended and they rejected him. Some thought him insane. Some thought his power came from the devil. And some just thought he was the next-door neighbor.

Now to be fair, there were a few who were healed. Just a few. I am sure for those individuals it was wonderful, but for the city it is a sort of a consolation prize. I would like to think that more could be said of us than this. I don’t want to place a marker among us that says: “Among these people during their worship and ministry, nothing happened.” I don’t think it is worthy of Jesus that we should commemorate the ordinary and mundane. I would like to hope that we can have faith. Not faith so that we can command the power of Jesus, but the sort of faith that allows the power of Jesus to command us.

Thought Question: How might Jesus be involved and leading us into the future he gives? How might He be working more than all we can ask or imagine in our ministries? Will we be amazed or do we want to be in charge? Will we be amazed or will we be offended?

There’s no call for faith in Jesus if we have lost the capacity to be amazed. Why have faith in Jesus if we are convinced he cannot do anything?
We will not trust Jesus if we are too busy being offended by everything that doesn’t meet our expectations – including Jesus.

When a prophet has no honor he leave for another town. Whom do we honor and trust?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 31 July 2005

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