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Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Importance of Believing (Sunday School)

Mark 6:1-6
In Jesus' world, honor came in a limited quantity. Like the football polls, if someone moved up others moved down. This dynamic is on display as Jesus come home to His patris (father land, home country). We can assume that the folks had heard about what Jesus was doing elsewhere. We read that He teaches in the synagogue and garnered praise. The people were ekplasso (compound of ''out" +"smite" meaning literally to strike out or be expelled by a blow and might be paraphrased as "blown away"). This quickly shifts, however, as "His own" were unable to see beyond His social status--there is no extra honor to bestow. It was impossible for them that Jesus could be anything more than the nondescript carpenter related to some locals. A strong negative reaction (the verb scandalizo means cause to fall, stumbling block) follows. It may be noteworthy that He is called the "son of Mary," perhaps a veiled reference to illegitimacy? In the Gospel of Mark there is no mention of Joseph. At any rate, Jesus was in a box and the town could not let Him out. Jesus responds that prophets are not honored in their fatherland. (A rare staying found in all four Gospels; Matthew 13:57 Luke 4:24 and John 4:44). Note the word "honor." This is a strong declaration by Jesus.

Jesus (thaumazo) wondered/marveled at their (apisitis) faithless/unbelief. He can only lay hands on a few of them to heal. "Faithlessness" is two edged, meaning devoid of faith in Jesus but also disloyalty to Jesus. Faith connects the believer to Jesus, 'apisitis' cuts one off. The majority responded to Jesus with unbelief. It is easy to forget that. The text, however, is confronting us.  

Jesus generates the twin reactions "amazement" and "scandal" to this day. What are we to think of His miracles when our scientific world view negates the possibility. We "assume" it can't happen, and many have never seen such things. When someone reports an experience of "dynamis/work of power" it is written off as psychological or a biological mystery. Even more difficult, the claims He is the Savior, Incarnate Son of God and Lord. Unbelievers reject Jesus, but are there times that we who believe are also part of the "clan and kin" who are reluctant to accept Him on His own terms?

Since the early church, theologians have debated what "He could do no mighty work" means. Perhaps human faith is a necessary component of God's activity? Does faith open a door? Can unbelief foil God's work among us? Not to despair, however, as even in that context of unbelief, there are some whose faith (great need inspiring desperate trust?) received healing. One wonders about the village reaction to that. What is the church's response to an active healing ministry? What is the church's response to Jesus who stands alone as The Way and the Only Son of God?

This simple narrative confronts the contemporary Christian. Are we willing to be amazed by Jesus' words and deeds and respond in faith? Is our faith a trusting loyalty open to receive the Kingdom dynamis/mighty works? Will we receive health and salvation and then use the power for others? With that in mind, it is telling that immediately after this in Mark 6:6-13 Jesus sends out the apostles to proclaim the kingdom, cast our demons and heal the sick.

This is no otherworldly Savior. Jesus walked among us with a 'hands- on' approach to redemption and salvation. We need to trust Him. We also need to believe that He trusts us to do the same in the church ministry. Faith is the key!

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