Having raised the daughter of a prominent synagogue leader, Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth and was given a chance to speak in His own synagogue. Those who had gathered were amazed at His teaching and were beginning to question His origins. Where had He learned everything? Isn’t he the son of the carpenter? Isn’t He the son of Mary, the brother of our friends? What gave Him access to such knowledge or the right to preach in our synagogue?
Access to scriptures in those days was a novelty. The people who had seen Jesus grow up would have surely wondered how the son of a carpenter can attain such knowledge. They were perhaps not only jealous of His scriptural knowledge, but of His oratory skills and how He was able to articulate His message.
People have a predisposition of who should be a minister or how should they live. And when their perception of that person is not met they reject their message also. This has led to many preachers, diluting their message, many youth leaders grooming, their looks and modernizing their teaching techniques in order to keep hold of their flock. People have great expectations from their pastors, not regarding the word of God, but for the theological degrees that they must hold.
Rather than the Shepherd, guiding the Sheep this trend has led to the Sheep, choosing their own Shepherd. Out of fear of losing the flock, the leaders have to accommodate the perceptions of their congregations. We see traditions that have no place in the church but are happening only because the pastor does not want to offend his parishioners. Youth Bible studies have to take place with a certain ambience or in a coffee shop or over a barbeque to help retain the attention span of the youth.
In all this, we are ignoring the leading of God and accepting the leading of the flock. Ministers go into depression when they see their Sunday service numbers dwindling. People like John the Baptist just did not fit the mould of what a minister of God should look like and had to live away from the citizens of his country. Jesus did not alter His message for His hometown but told them the truth, which they all ignored just because they did not agree with who was giving them that message. Here Jesus is the victim of His hometown having a specific perception about Him.
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”Mark 6:4
People have a habit of not listening to their own. They take for granted the leaders that are among them and would rather give importance to a big-name pastor who is led by satan. The Nazarenes were fine with listening to the pharisees who preached in their synagogue every week but one day, when the author of the scriptures Himself came to their town to preach, they flat out rejected Him. Jesus had been rejected by His own family and now by His entire town as well. The scripture says that because of their lack of faith He was not able to perform any miracles in that town.
But how is it that the Creator of the world is not able to perform miracles? The hostile crowd had no intention to witness any miracles from Jesus. We have seen this before also when Jesus’s Miracles were credited to beelzebub by the pharisees. Jesus had no desire to prove Himself to the ones who had already made up their minds. Jesus asked the paralysed man “do you want to be healed” and then proceeded to heal the man. He asks us do we want to be changed and then only transforms our lives, else leaves us to our free will. He left the Nazarenes to their own free will and moved on to the neighbouring towns.
Sometime later while travelling from village to village, Jesus sent out the twelve to different towns. Two by two He sent them to preach the Gospel in different villages. The disciples had to leave the familiarity of their hometowns for unknown towns but like Jesus, they and their message would have been more readily accepted in those villages than in their home state.
While sending them on their journey, Jesus gave them strict instructions to travel light. They were not to carry bread, bag, belt or even money to buy the aforementioned necessities. Imagine we are packing for a trip and someone telling us to not carry the first ten items on our travel essentials checklist. Jesus did not want His disciples to suffer during their journey but wanted them to learn to completely depend on God for all their needs.
If a sales executive of a prominent corporation is asked to go on-site, his company will not simply send him. They will ensure everything is planned and provide for his accommodations, travel and food. Companies have forex cards and per diems to allow flexibility and comfort to their travelling employees. If a corporation takes care of its employee at these great lengths then just imagine how much planning Jesus does for our travel that we take for His Company. Jesus will not simply tell you to go but plan everything ahead of your journey. Like the disciples, we need to learn to completely depend on God to be our sole Provider.
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.Mark 6:11
Jesus is referring to a Jewish tradition that was exercised upon returning from a gentile village. One would shake off the dust of the ‘corrupted’ land to signify their purity. Jesus was now applying this tradition to Jewish towns who by rejecting the Gospel were no better than their gentile counterparts.
Faith is the most crucial part of our journey with Christ. It was because of their lack of faith that the people of Nazareth could not receive healing. It was because of the trust that the disciples had in Jesus that they were able to depend on Him to be the provider during their trips. In the end, they returned and recounted tales of great healing and transformations. Jesus does not want us to waste our time on folks who don’t want to listen (Matthew 7:6) as there are others who are desperately waiting for the word of God to reach them.
Quiet Time with Jesus
After His disciples had returned from their missionary journeys, Jesus sought to spend some quiet time with them. Perhaps He wanted to hear their stories and their learnings from their experience. Quiet time with Jesus is essential not only at the start but also at the end of our ministry. It helps us realign our goals with His and also keeps our pride and ego in check.
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.Mark 6:32
But the popularity of Jesus was at its peak to the extent that He could not even find a place of rest without being thronged by the mobs. By word of mouth, they passed on the news of Jesus’s arrival to one another causing the crowds to gather at the remote location where Jesus and His disciples were having their quiet time. Jesus had compassion on them and started giving them food in the form of His words. But soon they were hungry for the actual food as well and because they were in this remote location there was no way for them to find food on their own. Amidst the apprehensions of His own disciples, Jesus still provided for the multitude who followed Him to the remote place. When the disciples picked up the remaining pieces of bread and fish, they were left with exactly twelve baskets full. Not just for the multitude, Jesus cared for His disciples also, as they also had not eaten all day.
… because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eatMark 6:31
The Disciples Fail to Recognise Jesus
After spending time with Jesus He made them get into a boat and head for Bethsaida. Bethsaida was home to many of the disciples and perhaps they were on their way back home to rest from their missionary travels. That would explain why each one of them had a basket full of bread and fish. During the night, when they had made their way to the middle of the lake, they were straining at the oars as the winds were against them. Seeing them struggling, Jesus walked on the waters to reach them in order to save them from their struggles. But the disciples did not recognise Jesus and instead took Him for a ghost.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”Mark 6:50
The dichromatic cornea in dogs actually makes them blind to most colours. But that does not stop man’s best friend from being able to recognise even the silhouette of its owner from afar and rush to them at the sound of their voice. Such is the love and adoration they have for the hand that feeds them. The disciples were not able to recognise their Saviour and immediately fear took over them. What about us, are we able to recognise our Saviour? Can we recognise His voice?
They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.Mark 6:51-52
Even after witnessing so many miracles, the disciples were still not able to recognise that their teacher is the Promised Messiah. They were literally just returning from their most powerful ministry to date and yet they still had no idea who is their ‘rabbi’. We can be powerful workers for Christ, bringing many to His fold and even be able to heal the sick, but still not know ourselves about our Saviour. Let us not credit the work God is doing through us to our faith but honestly examine ourselves and work on moving forward in our relationship with God rather than straining at the oars in the Lake of our faith.
- How is it that the Creator of the world is not able to perform miracles?
- Why would Jesus instruct His disciples to not carry even the basic necessities during their trip?
- Why did Jesus want to spend quiet time with His disciples?
- Even after seeing what had happened in their missionary journeys and the feeding of the multitudes, why were the disciples shocked at the sight of Jesus walking on water?