July 08, 2018

Pastor Mark F. Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; Ezekiel 2:1-5         

Epistle Lesson; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Sermon Text; Mark 6:1-6


The text we will look at today is taken from Mark, chapter six, verses one through six.  This is in Jesus, our Savior's name.


Jesus left there and went to His hometown.  His disciples followed Him.  When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue.  Many who heard Him were amazed.  They asked, “Where did this man learn these things?  What is this wisdom that has been given to this man?  How is it that miracles such as these are performed by His hands?  Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon?  And aren't His sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at Him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own house.”  He could not do any miracles there except to lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them.  He was amazed at their unbelief.  Then He went around the villages teaching.


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



A couple of weeks ago, I walked into a store, as I was going to return something, I walked up to the Return Counter, and looked up at the woman who was going to take my return.  All of a sudden I thought, “I know her”. 

I could tell she knew who I was, and I was trying to remember who she was.  All of a sudden, it hit me.  I knew who she was.  So, these thoughts went through my head, just in an instant.  I thought, “Oh yeah, that is a lady who grew up going to Holy Cross.  She was baptized at Holy Cross.  Her  family went to Holy Cross.  She went to Sunday School, every Sunday at Holy Cross.  She was confirmed at Holy Cross.  She got married at Holy Cross.  Her kids got baptized at Holy Cross.  They all got confirmed at Holy Cross.  They all went to Holy Cross Lutheran School.  Her family was so faithful.  They knew Jesus, and they knew His Word.” 

But then, something happened many years ago, where she had started to stray down a path she should not be going.  As a pastor, it was my loving duty to go, and talk to her, and call her back to the right way.  When that happened, she got very upset, and left Holy Cross.

So, there I was at the return counter, looking her in the eyes, and she was looking me in the eyes.  What do you say to somebody like that?  Maybe it has happened to you.  I know something similar happens to me very often, during the course of a year.  I will be out in public.  Maybe I am at a store, or at an event, or maybe it is somebody else's house. And, there is somebody who I run across, who grew up at Holy Cross, was baptized, confirmed, went to our school, and perhaps went to Lakeside Lutheran High School.  That person knew Jesus, knew His Word really deeply, and then just faded away.  What do you say to somebody like that?
Before we look at that, it is important to recognize that scripture is laying bear a truth that all of us should be very aware of, regarding our own self.  It is a truth we look at in today's scripture reading.  If you have been Christian for a long, long time, if you have known Jesus for a long, long time, if you have known His Word, and you have known Him very well, there is a danger that every one of us should be aware of, when it comes to our own sinful nature.  Jesus lays bear about each one of us that it is the very nature of our sinful nature.  It is just in our sinful DNA. 

Familiarity with Jesus breeds contempt. 

The more you know Jesus, the more apt we are to have this strange phenomenon happen where we begin to resist Jesus, even though we know Him really well, and we are really familiar with Him.  I am going to show how that displays itself in today's scripture reading.  Then, I want to apply it to our own lives. 

In today's scripture reading, Jesus had been in His public ministry for about a year.  He had left His hometown Nazareth.  He had not been back there since He began His public ministry.  He was preaching.  He was teaching.  He was doing miracles.  He was being well received by people everywhere.  Now, in today's scripture reading, it is the first time Jesus, after He began His public ministry, went back to His hometown.  Our scripture reading says, “Jesus left there, and went to His 'hometown'”.  The Greek word is 'a place where He was nurtured'. 

So, He is going back, and it says, “His disciples followed Him”. 

You can imagine Him taking all of His disciples, and He is telling them, “You are going to get to meet the kids I grew up with.  You are going to get to meet the kids I went to school with.  You are going to get to meet my best friends.  You are going to get to meet kids I camped out with, and kids I played sports with.  And, you are going to get to meet my relatives.  You are going to get to meet my mom.”  Mary was there, but the Bible doesn't mention Joseph, so he had probably died by this time. 

“You are going to get to meet my brothers”.  We even know their names.  James, Joses, Judas, and Simon.  They were very common names back in those days. 

“You are going to get to meet my sisters, and their husbands.  You are going to get to meet my nephews, my cousins.  We are going back to my hometown.” 

And so, Jesus and His disciples go back.  These were people who knew Jesus very well.  The people in His hometown knew Him for thirty years.  They had known Him since He was just a little, little guy.  Some of them were relatives – cousins, uncles, aunts, mom.  Some of them knew Him maybe from being a neighbor.  It was a little town, and everybody knew everybody.  He was a carpenter.  Many of them had been to His carpenter's shop, and probably bought a piece of furniture He had made, and it was in their home.  They had a conversation with Him about how they wanted it made. 

He goes back home.  It is the Sabbath Day.  It is Jesus' custom to go to church, and so, He and His disciples were in church.  Everyone in His hometown came to church.  The Bible tells us He stood up, and He began to teach. 

Can you imagine this intimate setting?  Best friends, uncles, aunts, cousins, people He went to school with, people He sold furniture to, they were all there.  He begins to teach.  And, because Jesus loved these people, we are sure He would have preached about sin, and about salvation.  He loved them.  He wanted them to know about sin, and salvation. 

And then, look at what the Bible says happened next.  It says, “Many who heard Him were amazed.”

Now, there are two types of 'amazement'.  The Greek word here actually is, “Many who heard Him were 'at a loss for words'.”  Now, there can be two things that can cause me to be at a loss for words.  It could be something spoken so positive; “Wow!”  And, said with amazement; “I don't know what to say!  I have never seen anything that amazing before!!” It could be something so, “WOW!”, and be so amazed, “I don't know what to say!  I have never seen anything that amazing before!”
Or, it could be just the opposite. I see something so bizarre, and so shocking that, using a negative, or sarcastic tone say, “I am astonished.  Like, what in the world just happened here? I am at loss for words.” 

When it says, “Many who heard Him were amazed”, it is not a comment that is positive like “Wow!  That is really amazing!” Instead, it was sarcastic, “What is happening?”  They were shocked at what was going on. 

How do we know that?  Because of what they said next. 

By the way, one of the problems with sending emails is it is just the written word, and nobody can tell the tone of your voice, or the inflection of your voice.  I could say a sentence, and depending on the tone of my voice, I could mean totally different things.  For example, if there was a sentence, “That was a great idea”.  If I said,“That was a GREAT idea!”, with excitement and enthusiasm, well then, I mean that was a great idea. 

But, if my tone of voice was sarcastic, “THAT was a great idea”, I really mean the opposite, don't I?  It was not a great idea.  You have to know tone of voice. 

One of the great things about Greek is sometimes we can tell tone of voice.  Technically, here is what it says.  Our sentence says, “They asked, 'Where did this man learn these things?'” 

Technically, in Greek here is what it says.  “Where did THIS, THESE...” That is all it says.  “Where did THIS, THESE...”

The emphasis is on this guy.  “How did this guy learn all of these things?”  “How did this guy get all of this wisdom?”  “How did this guy go all around doing all of these miracles?”  “Isn't He the carpenter?”  “Don't we know His brothers?”  “Don't His sisters live with us?”  

What were they saying?  They were saying, “Look, we have known this guy since He was a little guy.  When He was here for thirty years, He didn't do any miracles around us.  He is just an ordinary guy.”  “I went to school with Him.”  “He's my cousin.”  “He didn't go to seminary.  Nobody taught Him God's Word more than we know it.”  “Who in the world does He think He is to stand up there, now in front of us, and speak with authority, as if we are sinners, and He is telling us how to be saved.” 

The people who knew Him best were 'offended'.  It says they were offended at Him.  The Greek word is they were 'scandalized', scandalized.  What is happening?  Think about that.  The people who knew Jesus best, His own family, His uncles, His cousins, His brothers and sisters, His neighbors, they were offended at His teaching.

It goes on and says, “Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in His hometown and among His own relatives and in His own house.”' 

There Jesus is telling this axiom that we all need to be aware of.  The axiom is the more familiar you are with Jesus, the more apt you are to have this strange resistance, where you begin to push Him away.  That is just an odd reality of our sinful nature.  We say familiarity breeds contempt.  The more you have been around somebody, the more you know them, the deeper you know them, sadly the more we know the Word, the more we know Jesus, there is this strange, strange reality there is this tendency to become at arm's length from Him. 

In fact, it says here, “He couldn't do any miracles there except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them.”  It is not that Jesus didn't have the power, and abilities to do miracles, because He is God.  What we assume this means is nobody brought their relatives to Jesus to have Him heal them, in His own hometown.  They probably thought, “I am not going to Him.  I mean, I played soccer with Him.  It would be crazy to think He could heal them.  Who is He to heal my daughter?  All He does is know how to make furniture.” 

And so, nobody even brought their loved ones to Jesus to have Him heal them.  Look at what it says. 

“He was amazed at their unbelief.” 

There is only one of two times in all of scripture where it says Jesus was amazed.  This is one of them.  We are back again to that word, again, 'amazed'.  Now it is Jesus who stands there kind of with His mouth agape, like, “Wow.  Wow!  You guys had it all.  You know me better than anybody.  You have known me for thirty years.  You know I loved you.  You know I would not say anything that would try to deceive you..  You know that.  You have had it like on a golden platter.  You have had the Savior with you for thirty years.”  He stands there with His mouth agape.  Wow. 

That is the cold, hard reality of our sinful nature.  You can imagine Jesus, where He would run across someone at a store, and He would look at them and say, “You know, you have known me all of your life.  I know you were baptized at Holy Cross.  I know you went to Sunday School there, and learned all about me.  I know you got confirmed, stood up in front of the church, and confessed your faith.  I know you went to grade school there, and learned all kinds of history about the Bible, about me, how much I love you, and how I build you up in the faith.  I know how you went to Lakeside Lutheran High School, and learned all of those things.  You had the privileges of the first born.  There are so many people who don't have all of those privileges.  There are so many people who don't even hardly begin to know me the way you knew me for all of those years.  You mean you have walked away from all of that?”  To Jesus, that would be stunning.  It is like He is there with His mouth agape.  How could that happen? 

Again, it shows the depth of what can happen to us, when we are really familiar with God's Word.  It happens in our hearts.  I will tell you, if there are people who are brand new Christians, they are 'on fire' to hear the Word.  “I want to hear the Word.  I can't get enough of it.  I just want to drink it in.  Tell me more.  Tell me where the Bible studies are.  I want to be there.  I want to come to them.  I can't wait to hear.  And, if somebody persecutes me, I don't care.  I am coming!” 

And then, there is us.  We have been Christians all of our lives.  It is like, “Do I have to get up this morning again, and go to church?”  “It is the same old, same old.  It is boring.”  “I know all of that.  Why do I have to learn more?” 

Here we have everything on a silver platter.  I mean, we have the right to the first born.  We have had the great privilege, and mercy of God.  By His mercy and grace, many of us have known Him since infancy.  We are as familiar with Him, as anybody else in the whole world is, and have been immersed in His Word and yet, our sinful nature's tendency is to, kind of, strangely keep this arm's length, and begin to take it all for granted - this pearl of great price, and take it all for granted.

Now, what is the Lord's reaction to all of this?  This is what I love.  Here is the awesome thing!  Jesus knew when He went to His own hometown, He knew they were going to reject Him, and push Him away.  But, that did not stop Him.  That did not stop Jesus.  Jesus loved them.  He loved His family, His relatives, His friends.  And, He wanted them to hear about their own sin, and about their own salvation.  And, even knowing that they would reject Him, He still wanted them to hear it, so He came to tell them. 

Jesus knows it is our tendency, (everybody in the whole world's tendency) to reject Him, and yet He came.  Think about that.  He came to this world, and what happened?  In the end, the whole world rejected Him, the whole world.  Pilate rejected Him.  Herod rejected Him.  The religious leaders rejected Him.  His disciples rejected Him.  Everybody rejected God.  God, in the flesh, came to be their friend. 

And what do they do, (and we included, because the Bible says),

“Our sins nailed Him to the tree.” 

We all rejected Him, and He went to the cross.  There you see the mercy of Jesus.  He would come to a world He knew was going to reject Him.  He knew it. 

Why would He do that?  He wanted to redeem the world.  He wanted to save sinners.  And there on the cross, He bore the wrath of God against our sin.  The Bible tells us now the Father's heart toward us is reconciled. 

“He reconciled the world to Himself,

in Christ,

not counting men's sins against them.” 

That is an awesome passage!  That means that while it is our heart's nature to resist God, God's nature, now through Christ, is to reconcile Himself to us.  He says, “I love you.  I care about you.  You are my friend.  For Jesus' sake, I forgive you.” 

That is the Jesus we have.  It is a Jesus who so dearly loves straying people. 

He told several parables.  One of them is the parable of the lost sheep.  He said, “Who of you, if you have a hundred sheep, if you lose one of them, aren't going to leave the ninety nine, and go look for that one lost sheep, until you find it?” 

That is Jesus' heart.  He is always looking for those who strayed away.  

He talked about the lost coin.  He said, “There was a widow who had ten coins.  She lost one of them.  She swept, and swept her house, lit candles, and looked, until she found that one lost coin.” 

That is the heart of Jesus.  The heart of Jesus is to call back those who have a natural tendency to stray away.
I want to encourage all of us to recognize that because many of us have been immersed in The Word all of our lives, it is our tendency that familiarity breeds content, take it all for granted, and not think it is that big of a deal.  It is the most huge gift you could ever have.  So, repent and run to Jesus.  And especially, if you are a young person, I encourage you.  It is our tendency, after we have walked those old paths for a long time, to start going down a different path.  That is our tendency. 

One of the sermons that was preached on at the founding of our synod was based on this Bible passage, from Jeremiah 6:16.    Jeremiah 6:16 says,

“Stand at the crossroads and look for the old path

and ask where they are that you may walk in them and live

and you will find rest for your soul.” 

I encourage all of us, as we stand at that crossroad, to ask ourselves, “Which path am I going to walk down?”  There is a temptation to go down a new path, a different way, something fun, or something exciting.  But those old paths do not mean they are outdated.  They are old, because they stand true.  It is the true Word of God, where it shows we have a Savior who loves us.  Our sins are forgiven.  Walk in those paths that you may live in them.  Cherish, cherish what you have!  Cherish it! 

And then, lastly, what do you say to somebody who has gone down a different path?  They had it all their lives.  They were walking down this path, and then they took a different direction. 

When I was standing there at the counter, and I looked at that lady, and she looked at me, I said, “Great to see you!  Haven't seen you in a long time.”  And then, we had a good conversation.  I asked how her family was doing.  She filled me in on all of them.  She asked me how my family was doing. 

Then, I thought, “Jesus loves her”.  So, I looked at her, and asked, “Were you aware Holy Cross is building a new church?” 

She said, “Yeah, I have even driven by it a few times”. 

I replied, “You have!”  

And she answered, “Yes”. 

Then, I said, “We would love to have you come inside”.  I told her when our Open House is going to be, our dedication service. 

This is the prime opportunity, prime opportunity, as we build a new house of worship, to invite people.  Tell them, “Hey, we are dedicating a new church.  Come and visit on September 23rd. 

Thank God so many here have been brought up in the Christian faith.  God help us to never take it for granted.  And, God help us to reach out to those who maybe have begun to head down another path, and pray that by God's mercy they come back.