Series: The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Seventeen
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 3, 2018
This morning we are starting Mark chapter 6 and we’re coming to The Practicum. A practicum is a practical real time application - a doing in real time - of what it is that we’ve been studying. Taking it out of the classroom and into the real world.
Kinda like graduation. Welcome to the real world.
In past Sundays we’ve seen Jesus teaching His disciples - and others - about the kingdom of God being “at hand.” Jesus teaching about Who Jesus is in the flesh and blood of our humanity and how we need to respond to all that.
To help His disciples understand what it is that He’s been teaching them we’ve seen Jesus take His disciples on a field trip - across the Sea of Galilee and back. We’ve seen Jesus raise a little girl from death and heal a women who’d been hemorrhaging for 12 years. All the while Jesus is teaching His disciples about Who He is and their need to trust Him and follow Him wherever and whenever and whatever He leads them into.
Jesus teaching His disciples.
This morning we’re coming to The Practicum. Jesus sending His disciples off into a real time “they get to try it for themselves” opportunity to do what the disciples have hopefully been learning.
If you’re able, would you stand and read with me as we come together before God’s word.
He went away from there and came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him. And on the Sabbath He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to Him? How are such mighty works done by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary and brother of James and Joses [Joseph] and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.
And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”
And He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. And He went about among the villages teaching.
And He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.
And He said to them, “Whenever you enter a house and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”
So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
Part one of what we’re looking at this morning is Jesus coming home which will lead us into part two and Jesus sending the disciples on the practicum.
Verses 1 to 6 record Jesus coming home to Nazareth.
Jesus was born in… Bethlehem. The incarnation. About 2 years after Jesus was born an angel warns Joseph that they're in danger from King Herod and that they should go to… Egypt. Then after Herod dies Joseph is told to take his family back to... Israel. Which he does. But again being warned - Joseph takes his family back to the region of Galilee and they settle in the town of… Nazareth. Which is where Jesus grew up. So - Mark tells us - Nazareth is Jesus’ home town.
Some back fill on Nazareth.
Nazareth is located about 20 plus miles southwest of Capernaum. It sits on a bowl in the mountains overlooking the Jezreel Valley at about 1,000 plus feet up in elevation.
This is a picture of Nazareth looking south towards the Jezreel Valley - which was taken by one of the disciples while they were there with Jesus. [just checking]
In Jesus’ day it was a town of about 200 plus people - maybe up to 400. Today it’s a city of about 60,000 people. But in Jesus’ day everybody knew everybody. Which meant probably everybody knew more about everybody than most of us would feel comfortable with. Small town mentality.
Let’s be clear. Jesus isn’t in Nazareth because He’s hoping to reconnect with old friends and family. Jesus is in Nazareth because He’s engaged in kingdom work. Jesus has brought His disciples with Him to Nazareth because Jesus is engaged in training His disciples to do the work of God’s kingdom and the practicum is coming.
Probably this wasn’t Jesus first trip home. And, it probably wasn’t the first time He’d taught in their synagogue. The other gospel writers record different events that took place in Nazareth.
Mark - in these verses - Mark doesn’t record for us any of that or what Jesus taught or from what passage of Scripture He taught from. That’s not important to what Mark wants us to see here.
For Mark - Jesus coming home is about the response of the town to Jesus and Jesus’ response to the town responding to Him.
Imagine the place or places you grew up and the people you grew up with. People who could say something like “I knew you back when…”
I don’t know about you but there’s a part of me that kind of cringes when I hear those words. Sometimes those words lead to a story about something I’m not especially proud about. Or something pretty high up on the scale of personal embarrassment.
People from back then remember when we were more foolish than we are now. [hopefully] They remember our flaws and short-comings. They remember our childhood years and our teenage years - all those humbling learning experiences. We’re tracking?
People who knew us back then are probably not all that impressed with who we are today so much at they’re shocked that we’re still alive.
These people knew Jesus.
Jesus didn’t have an embarrassing past. Jesus never did anything wrong. Never. But He did grow up - in Nazareth. The reality is that sometimes people can’t see past who we were back then to see who we are now Even if who we were back then wasn’t all that bad. Jesus never doing anything wrong perfect.
Its very probable that the people of Nazareth had heard about what Jesus had been doing - His ministry. They’d probably heard about the healings and the castings out of demons - His command over nature. Heard about Jesus as being a dynamic speaker. Maybe some of them and even seen that first hand.
They were probably proud of Jesus - local boy makes good. They’d even invited Him to speak in their synagogue.
But bottom line - as Jesus comes into Nazareth - as Jesus’ is teaching in their synagogue they’re not getting past their “We knew Him back then…” understanding of Who Jesus is. They expected Jesus to fit into their version of Jesus - who they knew Jesus to be - and not Who Jesus actually is.
So, as Jesus begins to teach, their jaws hit the floor. They’re astonished.
Notice that what they took offense to wasn’t what Jesus taught or the things Jesus did. They were impressed by all that. What Jesus taught they called wisdom. What He did they called mighty.
Their question is about the source. Where did this man get these things? How are these things done? What’s the source of Jesus’ wisdom and authority and ability to do these things?
As they’re asking the question they come back to the Jesus they knew: “Is this not the carpenter?”
The word in Greek for “carpenter” is “teknon” which covers a wide range of skills. We often think that Jesus made furniture. Because that’s the common portrayal of what Jesus did. Which isn’t necessarily wrong. Just potentially incomplete.
A “teknon” is someone who works with wood or stone or metal. Jesus could have been making plows or yokes or even houses - and the description could apply.
Point being - the town’s people are looking at Jesus and thinking that Jesus is blue collar. Working class. A carpenter who works with his hands. He’s one of us. He grew up here.
“We know this kid. He’s a man just like the rest of us. He doesn’t have the education that a rabbi would have after years of training and study in Jerusalem. So where is He coming up with all this stuff? Who does He think He is teaching with such authority and assurance about God’s word and about Himself?”
What we’re seeing is a small town closed minded mentality gone really really bad. The good towns folk of Nazareth closing ranks against Jesus. And what comes next is knife twisting in the heart cruel.
“Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary…” To a Jew the implication is pretty in your face.
When Joseph and Mary got back from Bethlehem via Egypt that whole story about her pregnancy probably was a source of a ton of small town gossip. Apparently no one has let go of that.
Let’s be clear. Their accusation goes even beyond lineage. The Jews wouldn’t have spoken so publicly and so out there about Jesus’ birth if they’d thought that Jesus was living life pleasing to God. But their accusation is that Jesus’ virgin birth is a cover for sin and that Jesus is living in sin and that the source of what He’s teaching and doing isn’t God.
“How dare He teach us with such arrogance. The bastard.”
Mark tells us that “they took offense to Him.” Their response to Jesus was to be offended.
“Offense” translates the Greek verb “skandalizo” which is where we get our English word… “scandalize.” The verb has the idea of deliberately putting something hazardous in the path of someone else so that they stumble over it and that stumbling causes their injury or even death. Purposely causing the downfall of someone else.
We’re in an election season. “To scandalize” is sadly a political tactic. Scandalize your opponent. Bring them down.
What’s sobering here is that the way Mark uses the verb - who’s scandalizing whom and why - the one’s being offended are the one’s stumbling.
Meaning - the good people of Nazareth - in their own unwillingness to set
aside their prejudice about Jesus and to accept Him for Who He really is - the God’s kingdom in the flesh Messiah - means that they all are the one’s stumbling on the way to their own injury - maybe even death.
It’s to their own bad that they’re offended by Jesus and rejecting Him.
Which is like the world in miniature. The world is scandalized by Jesus.
Isaiah writes of Jesus. “He was despised and rejected by men… and we esteemed Him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)
A child born being born in Bethlehem happens. Makes a good holiday story. Someone teaching good moral teaching - spiritual wisdom. That’s all good. Even the “so called” miracles we can sort of understand. After all, what did people know back then about science and medicine. The whole death on the cross and resurrection thing may have happened. But it was probably tweaked by the disciples.
Because Jesus can only be a man like us. If He’s more than that - well that’s something different. And we’re not going there because it doesn’t fit how we can process things for ourselves.
Hear this: It’s to our bad when we try to squeeze Jesus into what we understand and what we want Jesus to be.
Put simply - familiarity breeds contempt.
The town’s people - like Jesus’ relatives - like members of his own family - they identified Jesus so closely to themselves that they were incapable of appreciating Him - respecting Him - honoring Him for Who He actually is. Jesus’ response to them implies that He is a prophet with the right to be honored as such.
Mark comments on the consequences: Jesus could do no mighty work there.
Not in the sense that it was physically impossible for Jesus to do miracles there. God is God and can do whatever God wants to do wherever and whenever God wants to do what whatever God wants to do. Jesus did heal a few sick people.
It’s not Jesus’ power that was limited. It was Jesus’ purpose that was limited. Morally and spiritually it would have been inconsistent for Jesus to respond by sharing the new life and joy of the kingdom with people who are rejecting it.
Mark tells us that Jesus marveled at their unbelief. Jesus was astonished at their lack of trust in Him as their Messiah and Savior.
They had so many advantages - even over us. Imagine seeing the whole Joseph and Mary and Jesus growing up reality first hand. Hearing Jesus teach with our own ears. Seeing with our own eyes Jesus at work bringing healing and casting out demons. The power of God’s kingdom was on display and yet they’d responded with cynicism and rejection.
Following this hometown visit Mark never records any other visits by Jesus to Nazareth. Perhaps - probably - because He didn’t return.
Let’s be clear: Jesus isn’t despairing. He hasn’t lost heart. He’s still on task. Jesus responds by going on to other villages to share the good news of the God’s kingdom being at hand. Rejection is never a reason for a servant of God to stop serving God. All that just opens up new opportunities.
Verse 7 leads us into Jesus sending out the disciples on their practicum.
Mark doesn’t tell us where Jesus sent the disciples. Luke records that they went to villages. Matthew clarifies that Jesus gave instructions for them to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and to avoid Gentiles and Samaria. (Luke 9:6; Matthew 10:5,6)
To Mark “where” Jesus sends the them is not as important as “how” Jesus sends them.
First: Jesus sends them With Partners - a travel buddy. In pairs - two by two. For two reasons.
Reason one: Companionship.
Three Dog Night: “One Is The Loneliest Number.”
Rejection can get discouraging. Jesus knew rejection. Jesus’ followers will know rejection. They will need each other. To pray with each other. To hold each other accountable. To lift each other up. To encourage each other. To watch each other’s backs.
In the face of cruel hearted rejection - like we just saw - two is way better than one.
Reason two: Credibility.
Over and over again in the Bible we’re told that there needs to be two witnesses - or more - in order to establish credible - this needs to be believed - testimony. To convict someone of a crime. To confront sinful behavior. To accept a charge made against an church elder.
My word verses your word doesn’t cut it. The testimony of two or more witnesses gives credibility to what’s being testified.
We see that pattern of witness at the baptism of Jesus. God the Father and God the Spirit give testimony of Jesus - God the Son.
We see that pattern of witness going forward in church history. Peter and John - Paul and Silas - Paul and Barnabas - Barnabas and Mark.
God can use a one and He does. Philip and the Ethiopian. He can use us as a one.
But here - in the face of hard hearted rejection and opposition - testifying to Israel - Jesus sets a wise pattern. Two - or more - is decidedly more credible than one.
Second - Jesus sends them out With Authority - His.
In verse 7 - the word for “authority” is “exousia.” Try that with me, “exousia.” [gazuntite]
“Exousia” means more than just the ability to do something - having the right to do something - but it speaks to the source of where that ability - that right - the source of where that authority comes from.
When we see that little red light behind us and a police officer speaks with us about our driving skills and gives us a little slip of paper to remind us of that conversation - the officer’s authority to do that isn’t the officer’s authority alone - but his or her authority comes that officer is representing a governmental authority.
In Jewish law the one who was sent out by another carried the authority of the one who sent him or her. It was just as if the sender himself had come. So to accept or reject the one being sent was the same as accepting or rejecting the sender himself.
Meaning that these disciples would have been recognized as representatives of Jesus in the fullest possible sense. And those accepting or rejecting them would have been accepting or rejecting Jesus.
The reality of that is sobering. We represent the King of kings and the Lord of lords and our testimony is the message of His kingdom in the flesh and blood of Jesus crucified and risen and our need to repent and believe.
That authority is spiritual. It’s discharged in a spiritual battle. And it requires of us sacrificial obedience and faith and openness to His ongoing work in us and through us - regardless of the response.
Praise God for those who accept the good news that we share. Which is about God and not us. God alone has the ability to save people - not us.
And when we’re being rejected people aren’t rejecting us they’re rejecting Jesus. We can be sad about the consequences of that rejection for them. But it’s not about us personally. Rejection should prompt us to compassion and not a fear of sharing - to boldness and not fear.
That is huge for us to hang on to for ourselves. We represent Jesus. We witness under His authority.
Third - Jesus sends them out With Purpose.
First that purpose means they need to Pack With Purpose - meaning travel light.
Take a staff - which was something a traveler could use to steady themselves or as way to defend themselves. And take sandals and one tunic. Which was like underwear - a close fitting undergarment. Otherwise no food, no change of clothing, no money.
Most of us - packing for a trip - are going to load up the old ox cart with lots of stuff. Fill the saddle with snacks. And make sure we got funds for the fun - money for motels and whatever the equivalent of Starbucks was back then.
But the disciples aren’t going on a vacation. Jesus is sending His disciples out on a practicum - ministry in motion. Travel light.
Second they are to Stay With Purpose.
There were false teachers in those days - as there are today - who are in the ministry for themselves - not the message - not Jesus. They have a reputation for enjoying the well-intentioned hospitality and support of others.
The practicum isn’t about finding the most comfortable home in town - entertaining more attractive offers of hospitality - trying to find out who makes the best kebab or who has the most comfortable beds. All that is distracting for the disciples and it detracts from the message.
Going into a village they’re stay in one house until their ministry work in that village is done. Stay with purpose.
Third - Leave With Purpose. Preach boldly and if people won’t listen to you - leave.
To “shake off the dust that’s on your feet” was like when we step in something disgusting and we’re trying to get rid of it.
The devout Jews would shake the dust off their feet when they left a Gentile or Samaritan area in order to symbolize that they weren’t associate with “those” people. “Those” people are outside the covenant God had made with Abraham. It was a witness to “those” people that they were just waiting for God’s eventual judgment.
For the disciples - that dust shaking as they’re leaving town - that was like a final testimony to the people rejecting their message. “You’re not rejecting us. You’re rejecting Jesus your Messiah. You’re no better off than some pagan waiting for God’s judgment.”
Jesus sends out the disciples kinda like the chicken laying an egg on the freeway. You gotta have a quick delivery and you gotta lay it on the line.
There’s an urgency to the message. The kingdom of God is at hand. Now is the time to repent and believe. Judgment is coming. Don’t waste time arguing and trying to convince people who are dug in and committed to rejecting the message - the messenger - and the One Who sent you.
They’ve made their choice. When it’s time to leave - leave. Move on to the next opportunity.
Bottom line - the disciples - as Jesus’ representatives - sent by and under His authority - they are to do as Jesus would have done.
The tone of their conversations. The style of their lives. Everything about them is to reflect Jesus. All that they’ve been following Him around watching Him do - especially on the field trip - and watching His rejection in His hometown and how He handled all that. Everything they do is to reflect Jesus and His on task seriousness and the urgency of the message they’re bringing from Him.
In verse 12 Mark tells us that Jesus sent and they went.
They preached repentance.
Repentance isn’t just feeling sorry about our sin. Repentance is a deliberate - radical - redirection of our life. Choosing to reject and renounce our sin and life apart from God and to turn to what is right and to give ourselves by faith to life because of God.
The disciples called people to decide - to trust Jesus alone and to trust themselves no longer.
They cast out demons - what is a demonstration of supernatural spiritual authority. And they anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. Which has the idea of working by natural means to bring healing and also the idea of supernatural healing.
Mark is making a comparison - the ministry of Jesus and what the disciples did on the practicum. They became imitators of Jesus and multiplied His ministry 6 times over - going out two by two.
Processing all that…
Whether we’re graduating of we’ve been graduated - all of us in one way or another are on a practicum - real time living out what God is teaching us about life with Him - living by faith and obedience - following Jesus.
One take away for us in all of that is for us to hold onto the significance of Who we represent and the urgency of the message we carry.
If you’re like me - and probably like most of us here - in the day-to-day of doing life it is way too easy to go brain numb and loose touch with the immensity of all that God has done for us and all of what God calls us to in serving Him.
That God saves us - enables us - and calls us to follow Jesus into the world that is desperate for Jesus and yet indifferent if not hostile towards Him and is facing judgment leading to eternity apart from Him in never ending punishment. There is an urgency to how we live our lives as “sent out” followers of Jesus.
Thinking through what Mark records here about how Jesus sent out His disciples…
Each of us needs to keep vigilant - to keep working at letting go of anything - possessions - position - money - commitments - anything that drags on us and distracts us and keeps us from being “all in” while we serve Jesus and share His good news.
And we need to work at staying on task - whatever the rejection or opposition or even the personal struggles we have - because the opportunities are there to partner with others - to serve together - to reach out as God’s representatives and share His good news with people that need to know the God Who loves them.
Each of us - you - me - we represent God in this world and the message He has given to us to carry is urgent. May each of us go out of here in the authority of Jesus and may He use us to make a significant impact in this world for His glory.
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.