notre dame montreal


Sermon for Ordinary 14

Jesus Rejection at Nazareth

Lots of Bibles will preface the passage from Mark’s Gospel this week with the words
Jesus rejection at Nazareth
We remember the words of Jesus that
‘a prophet is not without honour except in his home town’
and we think that what Jesus is saying is that he is just being rejected because he is in his home town where everybody knows him too well.

It is true and obvious that easier it is easier to be a saint the less people know about us. It is impossible to pretend with people we live with, you cannot have some ‘holier than thou’ pretence because people will see through it.

I doubt that this is the case in this instance with Jesus and I doubt that the people of Nazareth just took offence at what he was saying and doing because they had seen him drunk after a local football match or heard him swear when he wacked his thumb with a hammer. There is much more going on here so let’s look at what it was. To gain the full picture we will have to look not just at the record from Mark’s Gospel, but the other Gospels as well, because they all record different part of the story.  

Jesus has been around healing folks, he had calmed the stormy sea and saved his disciples when they feared they were going to drown, he had healed and even raised a little dead girl back to life. Now he was returning home with news spreading about his great exploits.

We reasonably expect that Jesus returning home could have been a success story. If somebody ‘makes good’ and achieves notoriety for some talent, then their home town is usually proud of them. Sadly as Jesus returns we know that there is a lot going more on behind the scenes. Some of the Jewish leaders  already want him dead and they are undermining his ministry. In his previous return home he had healed on the sabbath and they told people that Jesus was only able to do so as he was possessed by Satan. His own family we know were unsure about Jesus and whether his mind was stable.

We know that as part of this episode Jesus had been to the synagogue and he read from the Jewish scripture, from Isaiah and attributes to himself the role of the Messiah. He then goes on to describe this role in terms of a Messiah who will go to the Gentiles, just like the prophets Elijah and Elisha before him.

So when Jesus says that he is not surprised that people reject him because they had rejected the prophets before him, Jesus is saying that not only is he the Messiah, the Messiah is opening up the kingdom of God to gentiles. The Jews were no longer going to be the special ones with the only way to God, God was seeing everybody as his children, there were no favourites.

There would have been steam coming out of the ears of the Jewish leaders as they listened to Jesus assuming for himself not just the role of messiah, but significantly interpreting that role in terms of bringing salvation to all people, not just the Jews.  

If Jesus had preached a different message

If he had said that salvation was only coming to the Jews

If he had not set himself up as a challenge to the Jewish authorities

If he had not been a teacher who broke the Jewish laws such as the sabbath himself.

If his ministry had been different in these ways, then I very much doubt that his homecoming would have been such a terrible affair.

People have got to hate you a lot to want to kill you. Imagine the hate which caused the people of Nazareth whom Jesus had grown up with to be prepared to commit murder on a sabbath. Religion and nationalistic pride are powerful forces and these are turned on Jesus, on this occasion he just escapes with his life.    

So perhaps this morning we can ask, what does success look like? What does religious success look like? For Jesus it looks very often like defeat. Today we see a Jesus who faces this rejection and defeat. He is not able to do miracles because people have been poisoned against him. We were told by Mark that Jesus had healed a woman with bleeding who had faith to just touch his clothes, in this place of his home Jesus loses his ability to work miracles.

Faithfulness to God is not always rewarded with good fortune or what the world might be regarded as the trappings of success. The prophet Jeremiah, one of the prophets that was clearly in Jesus mind, was rewarded for his faithfulness by loneliness and despair, depression and suffering. Do we expect that, or do we think that as long as we do our bit then God will bless us with the expected symbols of success, popularity, good fortune etc.?

The fact that the Gospel writers record this happening is interesting because they might be forgiven for being embarrassed about it. Jesus being hated by his village and Jesus loosing his power to do his good works. However for Jesus it becomes not a time for considering defeat but rather a time for advancement of his mission.  

If we thought that Jesus would have the wind taken out of sails by this rejection then we are mistaken. Jesus takes his disciples aside after this shocking episode and he increases his ministry activity by sending them out to spread the word even more. They are given authority, they are doing God’s will and work, and yet Jesus tells them not to expect an easy ride, they too will be rejected, just as he has been rejected.  

Rejection is not nice, it hurts. When people tell you that something which you are doing is rubbish, or something which you believe is complete nonsense then it is clearly upsetting. But Jesus prepares his disciples and of course us for failure and rejection. Jesus tells his disciples not to become agitated, they are simply to wipe the dust off their feet and move on. They will have done their duty to God, the outcome was in God’s hands because it was God’s kingdom and not theirs 

So what can we learn from this

· That being faithful to God is neither easy or popular, this must not surprise us

· That we might be misunderstood deliberately or simply because of ignorance and unbelief. 

· That the outcomes and results of our faithful willingness to be God’s messengers of his kingdom are to be left in the hands of God. 

Most importantly that the message which has been shared with us is important, like so many Christians who have gone before us we have to appreciate that it is worth dying for and we perhaps need to consider that more deeply and ask God how we can best speak his words to people who may be unwilling to hear.