Sermon by Martin James 08.08.2021

Sermon by Martin James



Mark 6:1-13


A young man who was hoping to become a preacher spoke with a man who had been preaching for many years to ask him for some tips. In reply the experienced preacher told him that a good sermon had three main requirements. It needed to be moving, soothing and satisfying. Some time later the preacher met the same young man and asked him whether he thought his sermons had met those three requirements. The young man replied that he thought they must have. He told him that he was preaching at a church and said this:- "Undoubtedly my sermon was moving because several people got up and walked out. It was soothing because I noticed that some of the congregation were asleep. And I know they were satisfied because they never asked me again."


Look at the way Jesus was treated in his own home town. Verses 1-3a:- He came to his home town and went to teach in the local synagogue. And the people didn't like what they heard this local boy doing. Where did he get it from? What is this wisdom? What about these deeds of power? He's only the carpenter.


And in v2b- "they were astounded". Other translations say they were "amazed". Mark frequently wrote about the amazement that Jesus' teaching and actions produced. But here in this situation at Nazareth it's more because of what he is known as. The people describe him as the carpenter. That's meant to be derogatory. They are kind of saying "Who does he think he is? He's just a common worker like the rest of us." They saw no reason to believe that he was any different from them.


And none of us in ministry here are either. When I was ordained a friend of mine asked what he should call me. Of course, I said the same that he always had - rude as he liked! I've been called father, pastor, padre. And they are the polite ones! But it does show something about peoples' perceptions.


So, those around Jesus saw no reason to believe that he was any different from them. But, they saw his wisdom - v2d - "What is this wisdom that has been given to him?" So surely there was something about him. Even so, they couldn't get out of their heads that Jesus came from the same lowly background that they did. So, v3, they took offence at him.


And in v5 he could do no deed of power there. Not even Jesus could heal or save people who were unwilling to trust him. However, the words here in the text "he could do no deed of power there" don't mean that he was powerless. I like that almost throwaway phrase except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.


Actually Matthew in his account maybe thought the words "he could do no deed of power there................" might be interpreted as weakness on Jesus' part. So he wrote (13:58) he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

"Did not", rather than "could not".


Then in Luke's account (4:29) they threw him out of the town. They rejected him.


During his ministry Jesus of course encountered both acceptance and rejection. The ultimate rejection was of course the cross.


What about us? How do we handle what others think of us? Acceptance is naturally just what we want. We want to be accepted and valued. And that's great.


But rejection? I'm thinking really of those who reject what we stand for as christians. Of course it's hard. But we need to keep going on with the Lord and the strength he gives.


Shortly I will be moving on to the second part of the gospel reading. But just one thought here for a moment.

In v11 Jesus said -  If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them. For those disciples it was a matter of them being ready to accept rejection. And not to waste time complaining when people refused to listen to them. What they were called to do was to attempt work for God. The result was in his hands.


So too for us.


Jesus never flinched from the ministry he was called to by God, even when he wasn't wanted. And even when people took offence at him. But Jesus had his loyal band of disciples and other followers. Yes, they let him down sometimes.


And I'm glad, with the really good friends I have, that I never feel let down. Always supported and encouraged. And I'm sure it's the same for you. We are all in it together. Proclaiming and living the kingdom of God here in this place, in this community.


But now, in the second part of the gospel reading, we come to what Jesus did next. v7 -  He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He called them and sent them on a mission. A mission to proclaim the word, also to drive out unclean spirits and to cure the sick.


They went empty handed in a physical sense - vvs8&9 - He ordered 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 to put on two tunics. But they weren't empty handed in a spiritual sense, because it was Jesus who was sending them and equipping them.


Incidentally, in v8 - "take no money" - the disciples weren't to rely on or expect charity. It was a matter of trust that there would be generous people who responded to the message and wanted to help in material terms.


So, they weren't empty handed spiritually.


Neither are we as we depend on the Lord as he calls us. As he calls us to exercise the vast range of gifts to build up the church. Not just those of us who stand up the front, but in so many other ways as the Spirit enables. Very often unsung and behind the scenes.


For the disciples who'd been sent out there was a result. v13 - They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.


For us too it's so encouraging to see results to our witnessing. And in answers to prayer. The Lord gives us power and enables us for ministry of all kinds. Even when we feel weak. Perhaps especially when we feel weak.


Look at St Paul. In the reading from 2 Corinthians we heard him writing about a thorn in his flesh - v7b.............. - Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh. There have been so many debates about what that so called thorn was. But no one knows. And in a sense it's just as well because any one of us can have our own thorns which weaken us in our faith and witness. But the vital thing is from Paul's response a couple of verses further on - vvs9&10  but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.


"My grace is sufficient for you."


"Power is made perfect in weakness."


Grace. We always need God's grace. But maybe more so at the moment with all the changes that lie ahead here.


And weakness. So with St Paul - vvs9&10 again -  the Lord said to him ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ .........whenever I am weak, then I am strong.


So, seek the Lord's calling in whatever form that may take. Be called by him like those disciples he sent out. Continue to support one another as I know you will. Above all remember that the "result" of our attempts for God is in his hands. He enables us. He is sovereign.


Martin James 08.08.21