Seward United Methodist Church
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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God's Work Through Ordinary Lives

Mark 6:1-13

 There were no newspapers in Jesus’ day.  But if there had been, we might expect the front-page headline of the Nazareth Post to read something like this:  “Hometown Boy Makes Good:  Heals the sick, casts out evil spirits, preaches good news.”  Instead, it seems it would have read something more like this:  “Know-It-All Comes Home:  Who does he think he is?!?”  

 Has anyone ever looked down on you because of where you came from or who was in your family or what you did for a living?  Most likely the answer is yes.  That’s probably an almost universal experience.  I mean, unless you happen to be the child of a President or have the last name Rockefeller or something like that, the chances you’ve been looked down on at some point.  

 Why did it happen to Jesus?  Why was he rejected so soundly by the very people who had known him all his life, who had seen him grow up?  

 Perhaps some thought to themselves, “This is just Nazareth.  This place is nothing special.  No one special or important could ever come out of here!”  

 Perhaps they thought, “He’s just a carpenter.”  Or maybe a stonemason.  The word basically meant “builder.”  We assume that means carpenter, because that’s mostly what we build with in the Western world.  But in Israel in the first century, there weren’t a lot of trees, so most building was done with stone.  Regardless, Jesus was “just a common laborer,” just a working man.  He had no great education.

 Perhaps some thought, “He’s just the son of Mary, brother of James and so on.  There’s nothing special about them.”

 Perhaps Jesus was even a disappointment in their eyes.  Joseph is out of the picture.  We have to assume he has died.  And as the oldest son, the responsibility to care for Mary would fall on Jesus.  Maybe that’s why Jesus waited till he was 30 years old before he left home to begin his ministry.  Maybe he was waiting till his brothers were able to care for her.  Even still, he might be seen as a disappointment for “abandoning” her.  

 Regardless of the reasoning, they rejected Jesus.  I think that reassures us that Jesus was a real person.  He also experienced failure and rejection.  Everything didn’t “come up roses” for him.  

 Perhaps it also speaks to the experiences that most of us have had.  At some point, we have tried to share our faith with those who are close to us, our family or our close friends.  And we have also experienced rejection, just like Jesus did.  

 Because of their unbelief, Jesus couldn’t do any miracles there.  Now this was not a limitation of Jesus’ power or ability, rather this was a limitation of Jesus’ mission.  Jesus mostly did miracles in response to genuine faith.  Jesus didn’t do miracles to create faith where it didn’t exist or to draw attention to himself.  

 I think that’s a scary thought for the American Church today.  Because I don’t think the American Church, by and large, is expecting God to do the miraculous among us.  I think God still does powerful miracles in the Church, but I don’t think we really expect him to.  And maybe that’s why we don’t see many miracles.  

 Jesus moves on.  He goes to other villages.  Since there is only one of him, and he can only in one place at one time, he sends out the Twelve.  

 They are sent in pairs, which was common for messengers in both Greek and Jewish society.  Especially in Judaism, it was important to send them in pairs so that the message could be validated by a witness.  

 Jesus tells them to travel light.  They are to be committed to the mission, not to their own comforts.  They were not to take any food or money or extra clothing.  They were not to take a bag with them.  Most likely that refers to a bag that would be used to collect alms.  Many traveling preachers carried such a bag so that they could be paid for their teaching.  But Jesus tells them not to.  Their mission is the Kingdom of God, not their own enrichment or comfort.  

 They were to trust in God to provide.  If they were welcomed into a home, they were to stay there until they left town.  They were not to “move up” if a better offer came their way.  

 And if they were rejected, they were to shake the dust from their feet as they left town, which is what a Jew would do as they left pagan territory.  Even though they were traveling to Jewish communities, they were to treat them as pagans if God’s message was rejected.  

 It reminds us that if our message about Jesus is rejected, we too should move on.  There are others out there who will listen.  And perhaps those who reject our message will be ready to hear it at some point in the future.  

 And so they went out and did as Jesus commanded.  And people repented and turned to God.  And the sick were healed and demons cast out.  Even though the disciples were also “ordinary men.”  They didn’t come from extraordinary families or places or occupations.  They didn’t have extraordinary education.  But they did extraordinary things because they were given authority from God.  

 Here’s the crux of the matter:  It is not about who we are.  It is about what God can do through us.  

 Don’t look down on other people.  Don’t doubt what God can do through other people.  Think back to the people you grew up with.  Think back to the people who lived in your town, with whom you went to school.  Did any of them surprise you?  Did any of them do a great work through the power of God?  I’m willing to bet that most of us know someone that we never thought much of who has done great things through the work of God’s Spirit in their life.

 And whatever you do, don’t look down on yourself.  Don’t say things like, “I’m just the son or daughter of ___________, just a ____________, from _____________.”  That’s not how God sees you.  The pages of the Bible and the pages of history are filled with ordinary people who did extraordinary things because God worked through them.  And if God could do it through them, God can do it through you.

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