2010-10-03 (am) Mark 6.1-6a Familiarity Breeds Contempt
This week Wednesday, the GEMS, Cadets and Youth programs get underway. We offer these programs for many reasons, but the main reason is so that you can get to know God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It can be a challenge for the leaders, trying to teach familiar things. I can be a challenge for you, trying to learn something new about something that is so familiar. But as we’ll see in our text, familiarity can hinder faith and trust.
In chapter 5, great faith is demonstrated. The woman, who had been suffering for 12 years, who despite not receiving any healing at all, for her condition was such that doctors were unable to heal her, who thought to herself, “If I just touch his cloak, I’ll be healed.” And she was healed immediately. Then there was Jairus, the Synagogue ruler who asked Jesus to heal his dying daughter. Before Jesus could get there, men came and told him his daughter was dead. Jesus told him, “Don’t fear, believe.” Jairus did believe and Jesus raised his daughter from the dead.
We contrast their expressions of faith, their trust of Christ, with the people described here in chapter 6. Mark tells us that sometime after that restoration and resurrection, Jesus left Capernaum and went to his hometown, Nazareth. His family was still here. People recognised him, and remembered him, growing up as “the carpenter’s son.”
From Luke’s gospel, we learn a bit more information about what Jesus did in Nazareth. “On the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16b-21).
The people looked at Jesus in amazement. Their amazement turned into incredulity. Their incredulity turned into doubt, their doubt turned into contempt.
Their reaction is actually not so surprising. It would be as if one of our sons, like Hessel, for example, after going away for a while, came home during the summer, walked up to the front of the church, picked up a Bible, read from it, and said, “This describes me.”
That’s exactly what Jesus did. He was known, he disappeared, and when he came back, the synagogue leaders let him read the scriptures. By chance, the reading, which was scheduled, the passage picked out long before, happened to be from the prophet Isaiah, and it happened to predict what the messiah will do. It was a messianic promise. Every Jew was familiar with it. Like those who are familiar with the prophecies of Revelation, who can quote the wars, and rumours of wars, the earthquakes and so on, like those people who know exactly when Jesus will return, these people knew exactly what the messiah would be like.
So when Jesus pronounced to them, that the grubby little carpenter’s son was the messiah, they were amazed. They couldn’t believe it!
The biggest hindrance for the people of Nazareth was familiarity. In this case, familiarity really did breed contempt. They didn’t believe Jesus because they already knew him!
They just couldn’t correlate what they saw in the young man before them, astonishing knowledge, unfathomable wisdom, and God’s miraculous ability. It was like mentally trying to force a square peg into a round hole. This Jesus, this messiah wannabe just doesn’t match what we know of him. It doesn’t fit. It can’t fit.
So, no, Jesus can’t be right. We’re right. We know him. We know the truth. Jesus is just Jesus bar Joseph. His mother, brothers, and sisters are here saying the same thing. They think he’s crazy too.
And so they took offense to him. Jesus offended them. They got angry! They thought he was playing a joke. If he was joking, he was putting it on a bit thick. It was running a bit long now. Hardy har har, Jesus, very funny. Okay, you’ve had your fun, now go back to work.
They couldn’t belive it. They didn’t want to believe it.
To think otherwise, would have forced them to change their thinking. They would have had to renew their minds, conforming them to the scriptures revealed by Jesus to them.
Jesus really wasn’t so strange. They had the facts right there in front of them, if they had been willing to look. They had Isaiah’s prophecy which Jesus read to them. They knew what they prophets said about Jesus, where he would be born, what town he’d grow up in, in all, there are over 200 fulfilled prophecies about Jesus. All they had to do was check them off.
But familiarity breeds contempt. Jesus was so familiar to them; they were so used to him, that when Jesus told them exactly who he really is, they were offended. It turned Jesus own family and friends against him. It so poisoned the whole town, that from a lack of faith, a lack of trust in Jesus, he healed only a few people.
How does it go for us? Every week we meet with Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit. Are we experiencing the year of the Lord’s favour? Or are we struggling with familiarity?
What is really going on? God calls us here, and respond, in faith, by actually coming. We join millions of Christians all over the world, called by God into fellowship with Him and his body, the church. We enter the Father’s presence only, only on account of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross. Even before we get near the Father, Jesus imputes his righteousness to us. When God the Father looks at us, he sees not our lame, lousy attempts at worship, but rather, Jesus’ perfect sacrifice of praise, his obedient death on the cross. Every time, every Sunday, the Father sees the cross. Look at the book of Revelation, the cross plays huge, and it is sung about all the time!
We come on account of the Holy Spirit, working within us, moving us along in the process of sanctification, so that, every day, in some minute way, we’re closer to the likeness of Christ than we were the day before. He uses good times and bad times to this end, to make us more and more like Jesus. He uses the people we get together with, in order to teach us humility, grace, and love. Cause if we can’t get along with people in church, there’s a big problem. If we don’t love each other, then we don’t really love God.
Christ died for each person here. That makes each person here more special, more honourable than the Prime Minister. Each person here has been covered by Jesus’ blood. We ought to totally honour and respect one another, and be grateful for one another.
But how does it go? Are we more like Capernaum or more like Nazareth? Are we flocking to Christ to learn more about him, to see him for who he really is, hopeful to receive from him some amazing grace?
Or do we come to the boring, familiar, same old, same old church? Do we find contempt within? Contempt for the family of God? Contempt for his church? Contempt for Jesus? Contempt for our faith?
A few years ago I had coffee with one of my friend’s sons. He was going to Calvin College at the time. He had a big problem with his faith. In a way, he held it in contempt. It was too familiar! Could Christ have really died for him? The only reason he was a Christian, he thought, was because he was born into a Christian family. He was simply nurtured into the faith.
Have you ever thought that? You come here because your parents make you come. That’s a load of manure. You come here because God created you, he knit you together in your mother’s womb. Of all the millions, billions of mothers on the planet, God made sure you would be born exactly where he wanted you to be. He wanted you to be here! He wanted you to come to this church, so that you can really meet him, know him and believe in him.
God is here. He’s here every single Sunday, irrespective of the order of worship, regardless of the songs that are sung, the prelude music played, whether the scripture is part of a series or a special text tailored to the situation. God is here even if the sermon is good, even if it is absolutely terrible. God is here. God is here. We’re in Edson, but it could very well be Nazareth.
The question we have to ask ourselves is this, “Am I here to see God?” Am I prepared to reach out to him? Am I willing to set aside my preconceived notions aside and simply learn from God’s Word? Am I willing to allow myself to be conformed to the truth? Am I prepared to work hard to listen and learn and meet God?
Or will I treat this time, this hallowed time, with contempt? Will I seek God first, or myself first? It is not about you. It is not, certainly not, about me. It is about God. What he did in history, what he has done for you, for me, and why he is worthy all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength.
Come, in the grace of Jesus Christ, who died so that we might live, in the power of the Holy Spirit who unites us anyway, who sanctifies us patiently, in the love of God, who did not spare his very own, one and only son, who gives, and gives, and gives, who is here, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, come. Be focused, be attentive to God, be touched, be loved, be healed, be sanctified! Amen.