It is said that familiarity breeds contempt. Familiarity only breeds contempt where contempt already exists. It’s like an incubator. Incubators breed germs but they also hatch chicks.
As we see in our Gospel reading, Jesus returns to His hometown of Nazareth; not as the son of a carpenter, but as a rabbi and teacher. This synagogue Jesus had attended as a boy, a teenager, and a young man. The worshipers that day were all people who knew Him well. He had now come to share the Gospel with them, but they were not ready to receive Him as the One who embodied the Gospel.
The synagogue audience was amazed at Jesus’ teaching and at His miracles of which they had heard. However, in their eyes, He was no more than a carpenter, “the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon.” Jesus was just “one of them,” an ordinary fellow who once had made a living with His hands. How could He be a prophet and the fulfillment of Scripture? It was more than they could stomach. They rejected His claim and then in their wrath attempted to cast Him off the cliff at the edge of town according to Luke.
Why was contempt bred amongst Jesus own family and townsmen? It was because they already had contempt for Him as He did not stroke them just the way that they wanted. He called them to repent of their sins and be forgiven just like everybody else. Like the Jewish religious leaders, they were looking for someone to accept what they were doing, to give them their blessing. Jesus didn’t do that. He “came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Instead of being proud of their local boy made good, “they took offense at him.”
What a sad day for the people. Jesus comes to bring healing and forgiveness and instead of the people flocking to Him to receive what He has to offer, most choose to stay away from Him. They were so offended that only a few people brought the sick and injured for healing. Even for as few that came to Him, He “laid his hands on [them] and healed them.” How sad! Even Jesus Himself had to marvel because of their unbelief.
Unfortunately, things haven’t changed much since the time of Jesus. Even today, when given the opportunity to come to Jesus through His means of grace to be forgiven and healed, people shy away from Him. What a lesson this is for the servants of Christ’s Church. There are people who resent it when they are encouraged to come to church to receive God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament. Paul tells us, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” How dare a pastor lead a person to Jesus! Our text tells the baptized to accept nothing less from their called servants of the Word to preach and teach according only to the Scriptures, but pastors are criticized for not giving them what their itching ears want.
This is what our Lord faced in His own hometown. If Jesus cannot bring the people of His own town the Gospel, bring to them Himself, what hope does He have with the outside world? The fact of the matter is that we are not much different from those people of Nazareth. The message that Jesus has for us is still offensive to many, but it is what they need to hear. The people need to hear that they are sinners. The people need to hear that without Christ, there is no salvation. The people need to hear that solely because of Christ do they have the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. As much as you may not want to hear it, you are a sinner. As much as you don’t want to hear it, there is no salvation apart from Christ Jesus our Lord. As much as you don’t want to hear it, it is solely because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that you have everlasting life and not because of anything that you have done.
In spite of the opposition that Jesus faced, He continued to go into all the world and bring them the saving Gospel that comes from Him. He continued to go preaching and teaching to the people, even if they didn’t want to hear it. He sent forth the twelve to preach and teach, to cast out demons and anoint with oil those who were sick and heal them.
Even today, our Lord continues to bring His gifts to you. He continues to bring to you the declaration that your sins are forgiven, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” He continues to feed you with His body and blood, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” Jesus does not do this because you are nice. He does this because you are a sinner in need of forgiveness. St. Paul tells us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” He does this for all people, for everyone is a sinner. He died for those who rejected Him in Nazareth. He died for those who sought to put Him to death. He died for those who believed in Him as the promised Messiah. He died for you, those who gather around His means of grace this morning and for those who choose not to avail themselves of the gifts that Christ brings.
Jesus doesn’t use anything special to deliver this forgiveness and His means of grace. Rather, he uses the ordinary to deliver them: water, bread, wine, men. After Jesus goes teaching among the villages, He calls the disciples and charges them to go and minister to those they encountered. These weren’t supermen, but rather your plain, old, simple, sinful men called by Jesus to do great things. They were fishermen, tax collectors; nothing special about them at all, yet Jesus sought to use the ordinary to perform the extraordinary.
Why did Jesus do this? Why didn’t He just go preaching and healing everywhere Himself? It was a matter of life or death – eternal life or eternal death. He sought to take the Gospel to as many as possible, in order that as many as possible would hear the saving work of Jesus Christ and be saved. In order for the disciples to be accepted, Jesus gave them authority over the unclean spirits. The reason why was this: they were Christ’s official delegates. Their listeners would not accept them as representatives of Christ unless they had the same ability to do what Jesus could do. And so, He gave them the authority over demons and the ability to heal in order to establish that they were indeed from Jesus.
Mark tells us the main duty of the apostles: “so they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” In English: they went out bringing the Law to sinful people so that they would recognize their sin, repent of it and receive the forgiveness that is granted in the Gospel. That’s the exact same thing the Church does today through her called servants of the Word: to preach the Law and Gospel, to forgive and absolve people of their sins.
This account from Mark may seem like two separate accounts, but rather, they are more connected than you think. Both Jesus and the disciples go into the world to proclaim the mysteries of God, to preach the Gospel, to forgive sins. Both face adversity in their work of proclaiming the Gospel. The same difficulties Jesus and the apostles faced then, the Church continues to face today. Regardless of the adversities that we face, we continue to bring the Gospel to a world that is in desperate need of it. We continue to preach and forgive, because we have been forgiven. We continue to preach the saving work of Jesus Christ because He has died to save us and desires to save all.
Jesus loves you enough to give His life for you. He wants you to know Him and the love that God the Father has for you. He has given the Church the command to teach the nations to hold fast to all the things that He taught. Take advantage of this command. Learn about the Christ who loves you and gave Himself into death for you. Learn about the Savior who delights in giving you the things that are best for you. Learn about the Lord who rose from the dead in order to give you the promise of eternal life. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.