Unbelief, Rejecting God’s Messengers – Mark 6:1-29

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Unbelief, Rejecting God’s Messengers – Mark 6:1-29

Good morning Church. It is great to be here with you this morning. My name is Mark Penn and I am the Community Engagement Pastor here at Chatswood Baptist Church. As the reading suggests we will be looking at Mark 6:1-29 this morning as we continue our series in the Gospel of Mark. As we come to God’s word, lets pray.

Introduction

Last week Pastor Philip took us through the last two miracles in Mark 5. These were two examples of people accepting Jesus and showing this through their faith in him. Firstly we had the synagogue leader Jairus who in Mark 5:23 we read “He pleaded earnestly with him , “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” Jairus believed that Jesus could heal his daughter. Faith in Jesus is what is important here. We know this because later in the story upon hearing that Jairus’s daughter had died, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Jairus showed his faith. Then we see a woman whose name we don’t know, but she had suffered from continuous bleeding for 12 years and she believed that Jesus could heal her. She just needs to touch his cloak and she is healed. Jesus says to her. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Faith is at the centre of these two stories. In this week’s passage, the three events all speak of unbelief, a lack of faith, of rejection. We are shown different reasons that lead to rejection of Jesus. Now at first I was feeling the weight of having the ‘negative passage’, the passage that is all about rejection.  But the words of Paul in his second letter of Timothy came to mind, “All scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This passage has much to say to us today and so I thank God for this.

 

There are many different ways that we can reject something. The current COVID-19 pandemic has meant that the federal and state governments have had to put in place measures to ensure that as a country we flatten the curve, that is we ensure that the number of cases is manageable. Through this process we are able to save lives. I am sure that we are all well aware of these measures. We are not meant to leave our house unless we have a good or essential reason. Which may include working, shopping or exercising. Then when we do go out we are meant to keep 1.5 metres away from others and ensure that we wash our hands and don’t cough on others. Yet, even these logical measures to ensure the safety of others are broken by many people. The news each night has examples of people holding parties in hotel rooms, going to the beach where they are sunbaking next to other people, and breaking the strict rules in other ways. By doing these things, the people breaking the rules have rejected the government’s message. I can imagine that this has been done for many different reasons, yet the truth remains that the governments message has been rejected. The Cambridge dictionary says that to reject is to refuse to accept. We see a similar idea of rejection today in the passage that has been read for us. For in two of the three episodes we see the Good news of God that “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” is rejected totally and undeniably.

Today we will start with second story first and while we don’t actually see the rejection of the Gospel message in this episode. Jesus explains to his disciples that it is to be expected, that there will be people who reject God’s message.

  1. Rejection is to be expected if you follow of Jesus

6bThen Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

  • The disciples sent out to do continue Jesus’ mission

After Jesus had been rejected from his hometown, he and his disciples leave there and go from town to town where Jesus continue to proclaim the good news of God. He then commissions and sends out his disciples who have been with Jesus watching what he had been doing, learning from their teacher. And now they will be doing the work that Jesus had been doing. This is after all what Jesus had called them for in the first place (3:14-15)

14He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15and to have authority to drive out demons.

Look down at verses twelve and thirteen of Mark 6 and we can see that this is exactly what the disciples went and did.

12They went out and preached that people should repent. 13They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

So they preached, healed, and cast out demons, just as Jesus had done. His mission was their mission. But before Jesus sent them out,

  • Jesus gives instructions to his disciples

8These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.”

The disciples were being asked to trust fully in God. Not to rely on themselves. Proverbs 3:5,6 is a good reminder of this for all of us “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” Jesus was not only sending out the twelve to continue his mission, he was continuing to teach them. The instruction to take nothing for this missionary journey is probably not meant to be taken as the norm for all mission. But Jesus in Luke 22:35-38 reminds the disciples and us here today that trust in God means that you lack nothing.

  • Jesus speaks about rejection and how the disciples are to react

Let’s remember that the disciples weren’t just 12 random men sent out to do what Jesus had done. They were his chosen representatives. They acted for him. They went out and did what Jesus had done, they preached what Jesus had preached. But in verse 11 he gives them one final instruction.

11”And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

This wasn’t an afterthought; this was an important instruction.  Essentially Jesus is saying, some towns will reject them and there will be unbelief. Jesus is not just warning the disciples but instructing them on how they should react and what the consequences of unbelief are.

In the context of Jewish culture in the first century, shaking the dust off your feet was normally associated with devout Jews removing the dust from their shoes and clothing upon re-entering Israel from non-Israelite land so as not to a bring pagan pollution into Israel. This symbolic act by the disciples was to show that a village had rejected God’s word and so become like the pagan villages. Rejecting the message of Jesus means judgement and death. But faith in Jesus means salvation and everlasting life with God. As Christians that is what we read in the Bible and what we believe. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Accepting Jesus, having faith in him means life.

Verse eleven is also a message to believers, to Christians that we are to continue to preach the Gospel and we should not be discouraged by rejection.

It wasn’t only Jesus’ disciples that they could be rejected, the first account in our passage shows us that Jesus was himself was rejected, at home by his own people.

  1. Jesus rejected at home, by his own people

At the beginning of Mark 6, Jesus took his disciples to his hometown of Nazareth.

1“Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.”

While Nazareth is not named here, we know from chapter 1 verse 24 this is where he is from. We know that this is a Jewish town, therefore this is the Messiah coming to God’s people. Jesus comes home, but not in a sense as we would to be with family and catch up after a long time away. Jesus doesn’t return for a family visit.

2When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

Jesus returns as a Rabbi, a teacher, with his disciples in tow and so he goes into the temple on the Sabbath and teachers, just as he had in Capernaum as we read a few weeks ago in Mark 1:21. Visiting Rabbis were often invited to preach in the synagogue, and this is what is happening here.

  • They were amazed at his teaching

It seems that just like when Jesus had preached in Capernaum the people were amazed at his teaching. In fact the ESV says that “many who heard him were astonished.” We know that they were astonished in a good way, for the next half of verse two makes this clear.

2b“Where did this man get these things?” they asked.

“What’s this wisdom that has been given to him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?

The hometown crowd understood that the words and deeds of Jesus were incredible. What Jesus was doing they marvelled at.  He spoke wisely and they had heard of his remarkable miracles. So did they accept his message?

  • They rejected him

Jesus himself is questioned. In fact Jesus isn’t just questioned, he is mocked, and the people are offended by him.

3“Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us? And they took offense at him.

In the people’s minds these words and actions can’t be coming from Jesus. They know this man. He can’t be a Rabbi, he’s just a carpenter, a common man. He is saying the right words, but they cannot get past the fact that Jesus is someone that they are familiar with. The expression ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is front and centre here. They’ve watched Jesus grow up and now their amazement has turned to contempt. We know this because they call him Mary’s son. Now for us today, this might not sound unreasonable. You could call me my mother or fathers son and I would be perfectly happy with that. But if you were a Jew 2000 years ago and someone called you the son of your mother rather than your father. They were insulting you.

They reject Jesus purely on the basis of familiarity. They can see the proof. Their lips attest to all that Jesus has said and done. Yet, they refuse to believe in him.

4Jesus said the them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6He was amazed at their lack of faith.

  • Jesus amazed at their unbelief

There was a little faith in the village, they were resistant to God’s message. Jesus therefore would not do miracles. However, his compassion is always on display and we see that Jesus lays his hands on a few sick people and heals them. The word amazed is normally used to describe Jesus in a positive way. Yet here, Jesus himself uses this word. The lost sheep of Israel in Jesus’ hometown have no faith. They have rejected God’s anointed one, God’s own Son. Jesus is amazed at their lack of faith.

  • A danger for us as well

There is a real danger that many who have heard of Jesus could fall into this familiarity trap as well. I have heard many who grew up in Christian churches or schools say to me that they respect the morals and teachings of Jesus, yet don’t believe. Hudson Taylor, who was a missionary to China in the late 1900’s is quoted saying “Christ is either Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.” If you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that through his death and resurrection you can have life. Then you reject Jesus. Like the people in Jesus hometown this account teaches us that not accepting is rejecting and shows that there isn’t faith.

This is also a warning for those who do already trust in Jesus. Don’t let familiarity become a stumbling block. Scripture always has something to say to every one of us. Be careful not to think that you are so familiar with God’s word that you don’t need to read it, or worse, you need not follow it.

  1. Rejected by choice

The final account of rejection in our Mark 6 passage is an account of rejection by choice of another of God’s messengers. Herod Antipas was son of Herod the Great and ruled Galilee and Perea from the time of his fathers’ death in 4BC to AD 39. In this final section we see that Herod has indeed heard about Jesus and the work that he was doing.

14King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15Others said, “He is Elijah.” And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.” 16But when Herod heard this, he said “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”

Quite possibly due to his guilty conscience Herod thought that this Jesus who was preaching repentance and performing miracles was John the Baptist come back to life.

John the Baptist was God’s messenger. He was the messenger sent ahead of Jesus to prepare for Jesus’ arrival (Mark 1:1-8). John’s message was one of repentance. Herod may have liked listening to it. But in the end his actions confirmed that he didn’t have faith, that he refused to repent. For as we will shortly read in verses 26-28, he rejected God’s messenger in the most horrific way and confirmed his unbelief. Herod made a choice to reject God’s message of salvation. There were two stages. Initially Herod arrested John for upsetting his wife. As we read in verses 17 & 18 John told Herod that he was sinning by living with his brother’s wife. Herod had chosen adultery over God. That was his first choice. Then on Herod’s birthday we read that he “gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee.” So we can see that with this group it was political, it was social and there was family. Herod’s whole world was represented at this banquet table. As the story continues Herod’s niece/stepdaughter does a dance and Herod offers her a reward, a prize. And then she asks her mother what she should do, and the result is John the Baptists head on a platter. This is the moment. This is where the truth comes forward. We know that Herod liked listening to John. In fact even though Herod had John arrested we also know that he has been protecting him, for we read in verse twenty:

20Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

Herod had protected John. He had been able to do that because it hadn’t cost him anything. He didn’t need to make a choice between listening to John and his life choices. He had John on tap in his prison. Yet that didn’t last. Herod finally had to make a choice between God’s message and the world’s message. Now this choice for Herod right at that moment, might seem easy. But that is not what we read in verse 26

26The King was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother.

I don’t know about you, but the fact that Herod was greatly distressed jumps out at me. If nothing else it means that Herod had to think about what he was doing. Charles Spurgeon the great 19th Century Christian preacher once said:

“Many are troubled because the gospel interferes with their sin.” – Charles Spurgeon.

What we see in King Herod is what ensnares most in our world today, it is loving the world instead of loving the creator of the world. Putting their trust in creation rather than the God who spoke creation into being.

In the passage we see that Herod makes his choice. He rejects God’s message and his messenger in the most horrible way. Herod would rather reject God than be embarrassed at his own banquet.

Now I take it that none of us watching this sermon this morning has had anyone beheaded to maintain their standing in society. But we have to ask ourselves who are we trying to please. Are we more concerned about what people think of us, as Herod was, or what God thinks of us?

Conclusion

There are a growing number of reasons why people choose to reject the governments coronavirus message: boredom, stress, home-schooling and the need for sport (especially in Australia). As we have seen this morning there are also reasons why people choose to reject the message of the Gospel. But in both cases while rejection leads to death, acceptance leads to life. And in the case of excepting Christ, this is life everlasting. The Bible maintains that belief in Jesus is what God requires. The creator and sustainer of all things has sent his Son for you and me. To die for our sins and to be raised for our justification. So if you don’t know Jesus this morning, then can I urge you to read one of the Gospel accounts in the New Testament. There are many reasons people can find to reject Jesus. Yet none of them will count on the day that Jesus returns. Let’s pray.