7th Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Mark 6:1-6 Sermon 
July 23, 2006

Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
446 "Ye Servants Of God, Your Master Proclaim" 
473 "I Sought The Lord, And Afterward I Knew"
314 "O Zion Haste, Thy Mission High Fulfilling"
168 "O God Our Help In Ages Past"


TEXT (vs. 4): “And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.’”

Most of you are aware that my father, mother, brother, and I went and attended the 120th anniversary celebration at St. Paul’s in Emerson, Nebraska this past April. Even though I’ve seen and visited with various members from time to time, yet it was the first time that I had been amongst the whole congregation in a lot of years.

I was born in Dixon County, Nebraska, and I spent the first 12 ˝ years of my life in Emerson and at St. Paul’s congregation; and I still know a majority of the people in that congregation too.

The day was an interesting one in many respects. I enjoyed walking up to people, greeting them by name, and then smile as they would stumble and stammer trying to figure out who I was. Certainly a person changes a bit in 39 years, and it had been that long since I’d seen some of these folks. Naturally I didn’t keep them in suspense for too long. But of course there were those who knew me right off the bat, which I also appreciated. It’s kind of nice knowing that there are aspects of one’s personality that seem to transcend time and a couple hundred pounds.

Being amongst a group like that, one thing is going to happen as sure as the sun rises in the east, which I can only describe as those “when you were a boy” stories. And that day, I certainly heard my share of them.

As a pastor, I am sensitive as to how many “when I was a boy” stories that I use to illustrate sermons. I tend to use them on occasion, but I do so sparingly and very selectively. I know it’s sort of an esoteric joke amongst our members when I do use them; however I don’t think you really want to sit and hear me spin one yarn after another about my childhood all the time.

“When you were a boy” stories are an entirely different matter. When people related their stories about me, my reactions were mixed. Some were cute, some were funny, some were downright adorable, and some were more serious. Some things I had forgotten about, and some things I wish that they would have forgotten about. Suffice it to say that those personal anecdotes can sometimes be embarrassing and difficult to hear.

Now I don’t fault people for wanting to reminisce. I think it is part of our human nature. And for the most part, I really didn’t mind people talking about things I did when I was a boy. I’m not that sensitive, and I would never want to dissuade people from taking a little stroll down memory lane.

I do remember when I was in college and seminary studying for the ministry, and I would visit with Emerson people. More than once, I got the comment: “That’s great! When you are done, you can come back here and be our pastor!” Some people were probably teasing me a little, but I know that some folks were serious about it.

Imagine for a minute if that were to actually happen. Suddenly, I’d have some of my school teachers, and baby sitters, and people with whom I went to school and their parents sitting in my congregation. Now that wouldn’t always be a problem under normal circumstances. Many pastors will return to their home congregations and preach an occasional sermon, or be a part of a celebration, or fill in during a vacation, or just visit. That’s all well and good, and it happens all the time.

But can you imagine what it would be like having to sit down with one of your old teachers and counsel them because they’re an alcoholic? What if the parents of one of your childhood friends were to be having marital problems, and you had to go into the same house where you played as a kid and try to straighten things out? Would you be regarded as the pastor, as the messenger who brings God’s Word to them? Or would you be seen as the kid who used to eat peanut butter sandwiches at their table, and watch cartoons in their living room with their son? Would you be regarded as the pastor, or the kid who used to get into mischief all the time?

I have been in the position during my ministry several times where I’ve had the opportunity to counsel congregations on this very thing. The congregation sends one of their own off to seminary and wants to have them return as their pastor. Sometimes they can be pretty insistent about it too.

Now sometimes it will work out, especially if there are enough years and funerals in the mean time. But most of the time, congregations with this attitude are courting disaster. Pastors and congregations will find themselves in a big mess, and they don’t know how to get out of it. The pastor doesn’t want to offend anyone by accepting another call; and the congregation doesn’t want to risk offending the pastor or other members of the congregation by asking him to leave. And so they wind up in a catch 22 type of situation which nobody can really control.

In our text for today, we find Jesus addressing such a situation where he uses himself as the prime example. In fact, this is so important that God chose to address this issue in not just one gospel, but three of them. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recount this same incident.

Jesus returns to his home town of Nazareth. He is there during the Sabbath, and so he visits his home congregation. As was often the case in those days, former members were given the honor of being the lectors, or lay readers during worship.

Luke’s gospel has a bit more detail, and we are told that he was handed the Isaiah scroll. He unrolled it, and read a section of messianic prophecy. He then concluded the reading by saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4, 21)

This is the congregation that Jesus had attended as a boy, a teenager, and a young man. Those who were in attendance were people who knew him well. They were his teachers, his friends, and those who might have helped care for him in his youth. He had now come to bring the Gospel into their midst, but they were not ready to receive him as the Messiah promised in the Scriptures.

In the eyes of the congregation, this was just a simple carpenter, the son of Joseph and Mary. Four of Jesus’ half-brothers are mentioned here as well: James, Joses, Judas, and Simon, who the congregation also knew. Sisters of Jesus are mentioned too, who were probably married and living in Nazareth, and most likely would have been members of Jesus’ home congregation. They regarded Jesus as one of them, no more than a carpenter, just an ordinary person who made a living as a craftsman.

In other words, Jesus was one of them, just a regular guy. They were amazed at his teaching and the miracles they had heard about. How could this ordinary guy claim to be the Messiah and the fulfillment of Scripture? It was more than they could take. Luke records that they were so upset, they even made an attempt on his life.

Our text for today says that Jesus marveled because of their unbelief. Here were the people who schooled Jesus in the Scriptures. They studied their Old Testament. They definitely knew their Bible. And knowing it the way they did, they had no excuse for not acknowledging Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, and their Saviour.

Apathy and unbelief were running amok throughout the whole town. And why? It was because they had preconceived notions about Jesus. They refused to regard him in any other way than just the carpenter’s son who used to live there. Even though he healed a few of the sick people there, they still refused to believe.

I’m sure Jesus would have felt disappointment and dejection. And so Jesus says in verse 4 of our text, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” Rejection by one’s own people has to hurt rather deeply.

Certainly this section speaks quite directly to pastors and their relationship to their home congregations. But it also speaks in a much broader sense to all of us. People by their very nature tend to judge people on what they once were, and not on what they have become. I think that bears repeating. People by their very nature tend to judge people on what they once were, and not on what they have become.

Let’s take another example from the Bible. The Apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee. He was an important figure in the Jewish hierarchy. He openly persecuted Christians. He participated in the stoning of Stephen, the first person martyred because of his profession of the Christian faith. Paul, that high-ranking church official was a bitter enemy of Jesus and everything for which he stood.

But Jesus had other ideas for him. In the dramatic experience on the road to Damascus, Jesus calls him as an Apostle. Paul, that former enemy of Christ would become the chief theologian of the New Testament and the greatest missionary to have ever lived. The Christian Church would have not spread like it did without the Holy Spirit using the likes of Paul.

But Paul had a real challenge on his hands. The other Apostles were well acquainted with his past. In their eyes, he was not to be trusted. Simon Peter was especially suspicious of Paul. He had to convince them that he was a genuine Apostle and a true contender for the faith, and not just a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” so-to-speak. A definite example that people by their very nature tend to judge people on what they once were, and not on what they have become.

I think we all have that same problem. We tend to regard people in that same way. We’ll look at an individual and tell ourselves that there is no hope for them. They’ll never change. We’ve got them all figured out. They’ll always be the way they are, or once were.

But if we look at ourselves, we’ve had a change occur in our lives, and Jesus has brought about that change. Where we once were heading full steam down the road to perdition, we have now experienced the change brought about by the Gospel. We have found forgiveness through faith in our Saviour, and our lives have been transformed. We are no longer enemies of God, but members of his family through Jesus Christ. God has forgiven and forgotten about what we once were, and has brought us to where we are today.

I like the people in Emerson very much. They’re a great bunch, and I have many fond memories. I also know that they have a very high regard for the office of the public ministry. And most definitely they respect and appreciate the fact that I am a pastor. There’s no question in my mind about that.

However, based upon our text for today along with some common sense, I doubt if I could ever serve in my home congregation as their pastor. There would be far too many obstacles. Who I once was would always be in people’s minds, and I can’t really fault them for it. My teachers would always remember me as the kid who they dragged to the principal’s office by the ear, or the kid who was bent over the teacher’s chair getting his backside paddled with a metre stick.

The Bible says in I Timothy 5, 17: “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” It would be extremely difficult for anyone to regard me in that way who also knew me as I once was as a boy.

Jesus would have been the perfect child, which probably subjected him to ridicule by his peers as he was growing up. The Bible only gives us one picture of Jesus in his boyhood. He was 12 years old, and amazed the teachers in the temple with his knowledge of Scripture. Go figure, huh? That same section also tells us that he was obedient to his parents in every way. He never got into mischief, or stole anything, or talked back to his elders. There wouldn’t have been any bad things for which he would have been remembered.

But yet, people still rejected him. They still saw him only as the boy he once was, and not true God incarnate who would be the Saviour of the world. So not only did they reject him, but they rejected the message of the Gospel that he preached. That was truly a sad situation.

What happened to Jesus can happen to any of us as well. Just because we are Christians who know Jesus as our Lord and Saviour is no guarantee that the witness from our lips will be readily accepted. Not all of our relatives or neighbors or acquaintances will welcome the message of the Gospel. Those people might be our siblings or our parents or even our children. Sometimes we might be standing alone being ridiculed and mocked by those who know us best. People by their very nature tend to judge people on what they once were, and not on what they have become.

But we can remember that Jesus had to bear that same burden. In fact, it wasn’t until after his resurrection from the dead that some of his brothers came to faith.

So we can take heart, knowing that Jesus also faced rejection from those closest to him. Because Jesus faced that problem, he knows what we go through when we are rejected. He will certainly be with us every step of the way, and give us strength and comfort to carry on in the faith.

Therefore, let us always be faithful in bringing the Gospel to the world regardless of the consequences. That’s our mission as a congregation, and as individuals. What we once were is no more; and what we have become has a glorious reward both now and in eternity.