There is a certain blessing in being stripped of acceptance everywhere else and having nothing left but God’s acceptance of you. It breaks the habit of needing man’s praises.
I take you around the world this morning to the Middle East, in the home of a devout Muslim family. Behind a locked bathroom door a young teenage girl just flushed two pages of the Bible down the toilet. The rest of her Bible is hidden under her mattress in her room – minus two pages. Her plan was to tear out two pages of the Bible, take them into the bathroom, read them, then tear them up and flush them down the toilet before her parents discover her secret. Then one day, the cousin who supplied the Bible, led her to pray and receive Jesus Christ as her Savior. The change swept over her: peace, a deep sense of being loved, freedom, confidence of heaven. Her changes did not go unnoticed and her mother wanted to find out what was going on. An appointment with the witch doctor was made. Looking up from turned over coffee grounds the witch-doctor said, “Your daughter is a Christian.” The new Christian girl quickly discovered the cost of accepting Christ. Her mother and father beat her and locked her in her room for 3 years. She was not allowed to be around anyone. According to Islam she was unclean, a traitor, and could be beaten and even killed by her father without anyone to help, not even bat an eye. This is not the exception, but the rule for those Muslims who leave their faith to accept Jesus.
In the most radical Muslim families, a convert is locked in a room and given three days to return to Islam. If they refuse, they are slaughtered. If they escape, they will be hunted by family for years. If children are involved when a husband comes to Jesus, they are considered bastards because they no longer have a Muslim father. They are either given to another family member or killed.
In a less religious family, the convert may be taken to the imam, who may lead the family in beating the believer. If the convert is a woman, her family may force her to marry a Muslim cousin to avoid shame and scandal. Many have been restrained with ropes, burned with acid or hot oil, and subjected to electric shocks. Sometimes families commit converts to mental institutions, thinking that leaving Islam is a sign of insanity. Others are forced to leave the home, family, and the community they know. (see article Facing Family: When A Muslim Becomes A Christian)
Such filial persecution is not exclusive to the Muslim world. Jews, Catholics, Hindus and others will find if they leave their faith then their devout families and friends will not be understanding.
But Jesus is understanding. Jesus was rejected by his family and hometown too, as we see today in our text. Today, I want to take us through this incident in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, another experience Jesus had of rejection by those closest to Him. But whatever rejection He faced from men, two things remained certain in Jesus’ heart: 1) what He had to do on earth, and 2) His Father’s acceptance of Him.
Let’s go through this text today under THREE HEADINGS: 1) The FAITHFULNESS of Jesus, 2) The REJECTION of Jesus, 3) The AMAZEMENT of Jesus
#1: The FAITHFULNESS of Jesus (1-2a)
Don’t let the repetition of this scene dull you to the importance of it. I know we are seeing over and over again Jesus teaching in synagogues, by lakes, in the temple, on a hill side and so on. But let yourself be impressed by His Faithfulness – His Faithfulness to carry out His mission. Revelation 1:5 calls Him “the Faithful Witness”. This is why Jesus is called “The Servant of the Lord”. He keeps moving. Everywhere Jesus goes there is work for Him to do. From the moment He started until the moment He ascended back to Heaven Jesus was single-mindedly devoted to His heavenly task. When you find Jesus in the Gospels you always find Him preaching and teaching and doing miracles. It was the most efficient, effective and energetic career you’ve ever seen.
Application: Make your life on earth about your life in heaven. Jesus’ work on earth was always motivated by and pointed towards heaven.
#2: The REJECTION of Jesus (2b-3)
What makes this rejection so baffling and amazing is that they seemed so impressed by Him at first. They seemed to be eating up everything He said and did….and then all of a sudden they turn on Him. Look at what they say:
- What’s this wisdom that has been given Him?
- He does miracles!
- Is this the carpenter?
- Isn’t this Mary’s son?
- Isn’t he the brother of …..
- Don’t they all live just down the street? (“..who are here with us”)
They seemed so impressed, but, you also see some confusion. The confusion is this: They thought they knew Jesus. The problem however is that they only knew Him from an earthly perspective. But his reality went far beyond what T hey knew of him. When His spiritual reality was presented they rejected Him. When the fullness of all He was started to show, and it didn’t fit with what they already thought He was, they turned on Him. They were not going to accept that He was anything more than a carpenter and the son of Joseph and Mary from down the street.
Application: See Jesus for Who He is as He is Revealed. Don’t see Him as you want to see Him, or, as you would imagine you like Him to be. Let the Scriptures – God’s Revelation – shape your understanding of the glorious Servant of the Lord.
Application: Don’t expect to be understood by earthlings. Don’t expect your heavenly realities to be accepted by those who are of the earth. You have accepted spiritual truths that are misunderstood and rejected by earthly minded people. You were once alienated from God and at home with earthly minded people. Now you are at home with God and alienated from them (1 Peter 4:1-4; Col. 1:25).
Application: This is why Christian fellowship is so important. Being with believers means being with people who understand the truth, who’ve accepted it, who know what you’re talking about, and who have Christ in common with you. They (we!) are our new family – a spiritual family, like Jesus spoke of. We are related by blood – the blood of Jesus Christ. We are a heavenly family, as opposed to an earthly family.
This scene is another development in the rejection Jesus was facing from those closest to Him. In chapter 3 we saw His family come to do a citizens arrest and bring Him home because they thought He was out of His mind. Now, not just his family, but His hometown is refusing to accept who He really is. Eventually it would be the whole nation in His crucifixion.
Back in chapter 3 I made the point that Jesus while Jesus was losing His earthly family as His ministry grew, He was finding His spiritual family growing. An earthly family is based on blood, a spiritual family is based on a commitment to God. Anyone who is committed to Jesus is part of God’s family. That may, or as in Jesus’ case, may not include your earthly family.
Application: Perhaps the sense you are accepted by God doesn’t happen until you are rejected by man. Not that Jesus had any confusion whether He was accepted by God. But, think about those brothers and sisters who are rejected by their families when they accept Jesus. An inner juxtaposition happens: deep feelings of rejection by people make for more powerful feelings of being accepted by God. There is a certain blessing in being stripped of acceptance everywhere else and have nothing left but God’s acceptance of you. It breaks the habit of needing man’s acceptance.
Application: Being expelled may be God’s way of setting you free. There is a danger of hometown affirmation and the danger is this: home is so comfortable that you aren’t willing to leave it to go where God calls you. Notice the flow of Mark’s text: Jesus is rejected at home and the very next passage says He sent his disciples out. Remember that the early church didn’t go out into the world until it was expelled from its home of Jerusalem (Acts 8).
It is worth noting that Luke’s gospel records this same scene and adds some details missing in Mark’s gospel. Combined they give us a fuller account of Jesus’ visit to Nazareth. Luke, like Mark, has Him visiting Nazareth, teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, the initial amazement of the people ending with their rejection of Him. Luke, however, tells us things Mark does not, like what Jesus actually said, and, that they actually tried to toss Jesus off a cliff. So what was it that Jesus said that turned the tide against Him? Turn to Luke 4:22-30 and lets read.
EXPLAIN LUKE 4:22-30
Before he spoke they praised Him and as soon as He was done they were trying to kill Him. The praises of men mean nothing to Jesus. He saw right through them. Like Herod they were impressed with his power to do miracles, but, there was no faith in Him for who He was. They were gitty He could do amazing things, but, they were not about to accept Him for anything more than the Carpenter they always saw Him as. So He speaks prophetically, and with judgment – of them, but not only them. He enlarges the context of His judgment to the whole nation, including his hometown friends. He refers to the OT stories where God blessed Gentiles and not Israel. During the famine the great prophet Elijah didn’t go to Israel, but to a Gentile widow and blessed her. Then, during Elisha’s career as a prophet many Israelites had leprosy, but none were healed but a Gentile leper. Jesus’ point? These are illustrations that Israel will be rejected because they are rejecting Jesus – and the Gentiles will be brought near to God after Israel is rejected. They will be brought near to God through the very Jesus the Jews despised. Jesus’ audience was not dull. They knew He was speaking against them. And at this point, in the moment of rebuke, their pride comes out swinging. Their true spiritual state of rebellion and unbelief come flying out and in a fury they try to hurl him off a cliff. But it wasn’t his time. So off He goes untouched.
The AMAZEMENT of Jesus (4-6)
There are two ways to amaze Jesus. The first is by having great faith (Mt 8:10). The second is by having no faith, “And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” This passages starts with how amazed they were with Jesus, and ends with how amazed He is with them.
Surveying their lack of faith in Him Jesus utters those famous words, “Only in His own hometown, among His relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He uttered a teaching iin Matthew 10 that is very difficult to digest when He said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother; a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” Does Jesus want to split up families? No. He was stating the fact that not everyone in the same family will see Jesus the same way, and, it will cause trouble. Then He says don’t let the pressure of family cause you to deny Him, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me….
Jesus understood personally the price that would be paid to be part of God’s family in this world. Many Christians won’t feel a cold blade at their neck for their faith. But, many have and will feel the pain of their loved ones cutting them off.
In refusing Jesus they forfeited any real presentation of His power. It says, He could not do any miracles there except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them. So they got the crumbs of his power because they didn’t have faith.
Let’s talk about this for a moment. Notice the words: it does NOT say that He “would not” do miracles, it says He “could not” do miracles. In what sense was Jesus prevented from doing miracles? He had the power to do it, so, what “tied his hands”, so to speak? I can only think of two possible answers:
One, His Father in heaven made the decision against any miracles being performed there
Two, faith engages God’s power, so without faith there would be no miraculous powers on display for them.
God moves for us when we have faith in Him. Do not lose sight of this.
Well what about people who didn’t have faith and Jesus did a miracle for them? There is the feeding of multitudes and the demoniac, where faith wasn’t a factor. Then there was the guy in Mark 9 whom Jesus did a miracle for and the guy admitted he didn’t have faith. But notice that this guy’s missing faith (and the disciples in the feeding miracle) was born more out of ignorance of who Jesus was and it was not necessarily a rejection of who Jesus was. The people in Nazareth however made a deliberate rejection of Jesus, they were offended by Him and they were not about to have any of this Messiah talk from some “carpenter”. See the difference in attitude? The Mark 9 guy was desperate, hoping Jesus could do something, and frankly ready to believe whatever Jesus told Him. He wanted to believe “Help my unbelief!” The town of Nazareth did not want to believe. They made themselves enemies of Jesus. These are two different categories – one is hostile the other is ignorant.
Let’s not get confused. Faith is the only thing God will work with. What offends God is lack of faith, distrust in Him, skepticism of His power and integrity. That will not be blessed. God will respond to faith (Mk 7:29; 9:23; 11:23-25
God will not respond to skepticism and scoffing and unbelief. The Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign, they got none (Mk 8:11-12). Then they asked Him to tell them by what authority He was doing the miracles, and He didn’t tell them (11:33). Herod asked Jesus to do a miracle and to answer His questions, and Herod also got nothing (Lk 23:8). They were enemies and would get nothing for their hostile unbelief. How terrifying – the silence of the Lamb is His statement of His rejection of them.
By asserting that faith is what makes God move, are we being presumptuous? Or do we think that we can “make” God do something for us? No. Let me caution us against saying things in prayer like “And we thank you ahead of time for doing these things we’ve asked.” Intentional or not is is manipulative.
First of all, the Bible repeatedly commands us to ask in faith. Second of all, asking without faith is sinful and double-minded. Third, asking in faith means we believe God can do something and that He has power. Fourth, asking in faith means we respect God’s prerogative to answer us however He wants. Fifth, asking in faith means anything God has promised in His word we can ask and know He will do it for us. Sixth, asking in faith means God may answer that request and fulfill those promises in ways we never thought. Seventh, asking in faith means that God will answer us in His time, and sometimes that means in the afterlife.
- Make everything you do on earth count for heaven
- See Jesus as He is revealed, not as you wish Him to be
- Accept the fact you won’t be praised by the world for your faith in Jesus
- Put a premium on Christian fellowship
- God may use rejection to bring you into a deeper experience of His acceptance of you
- God may use rejection in one place to lead you to another place He has for you
- Live fully convinced that God is God, that He is able, and that He is trustworthy. Period.
Jesus had no more home in Nazareth. But He wasn’t homeless. He had a home in His Father’s house. When we come to Christ we no longer call this world our home. Like the great people of faith throughout history, who “admitted they were strangers and aliens on earth”, may it be said of us like it says of them, “they are looking for a country of their own…they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Heb. 11:13-16).