Ps. 123; Ezekiel 2:1-5; 2 Cor. 12:1-10; Mark 6:1-13.
Unbelief, [Jesus] was dumbfounded at their lack of faith (v. 6a).
Throughout OT history God recapitulated his prophetic word and mighty deeds; continually restating and demonstrating his love toward Israel; yet his prophets, purveyors of his word were roundly rejected; and in fullness of time, none was more despised than God’s crucified Son and Christ.
For unbelievers, man is a bit-player on history’s stage, hoping in the wax and wane of time, that by-luck, by-golly, and personal wit, to catch the flow of time’s atomic clock.
On the other hand, believers are oriented in Scripture’s revelation, comprehending man, not the product of random evolution; rather acknowledging, “God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth” has established a beginning and end of days. But what does this matter for us?
Jesus’ hometown congregation observed him, a “man” (Mk. 6:2b). Depending on unbelief or faith, Jesus is either bit-player in time’s cyclical permutations; or he is historical apex, Lord of time and object of God’s love for man; whose rejection already betokens judgment (Jn. 3:18).
Jesus’ return to Nazareth followed a proclamation of God’s dominion and new creation activity, calling for repentant belief in his Son’s person. Jesus taught with authority the equal of Scripture and wisdom exceeding Moses (Mk. 6:2c). Jesus had come to his hometown cloaked with a galactic array of end time signs (cp. Lk. 7:22, 23); having bound demons, released the blind to sight; restored abandoned bodies and spirits, re-capturing man’s wholeness in the world.
Nazareth’s failure to discern their favorite-son as history’s dénouement and Scripture’s final recapitulation of God’s love emblemized Jesus’ final rejection on the cross as God’s “man” for grace.
Israel lived in Egypt, Satan’s servile hell. God gave the Hebrews Moses, one of their own, for deliverer. Moses confronted Pharaoh, the Egyptian strong man, and at his command bound and plundered his house (cf. Mk. 3:27). God named the Hebrew slaves, “Israel”, and “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22).
Reminiscent of Jesus sending his Twelve in today’s Gospel, YHWH commanded Israel to leave all behind, except sandals and staff (Ex. 12:11); his people were to trust him for all provision. Now, here is a mystery of Israelites exiting Egypt; so many would reject their Savior-God and deliverer.
Once in the Promised Land, Israel again turned from God. The ten northern tribes, appropriated “Israel’s” name given to the entire people; for their apostacy they were delivered into Assyria’s thrall; the so called, “ten lost tribes”.
Judah, the southern kingdom, also refused to serve the Lord in faith, exiled to 70-years of captivity in Babylon. Ezekiel prophesied to Israel, “‘Thus says the Lord YHWH.’ … [W]hether they listen or do not … they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezek. 2:4b, 5).
Knowledge that a prophet is in your midst occasion culpability for not listening (cf. Mk. 9:7). This too is a mystery; that God’s people refuse to listen and see; still prophets proclaim the grace of faith and judgment for the lack.
A strange thing happened in Nazareth; Jesus’ teaching, wisdom, and power initially impressed; then of a sudden he was an offense. Jesus came to his own (Jn. 1:11), the rejected “man”; his neighbors joined those calling him agent of Beelzebul (Mk. 3:22). It is too facile to apply a worldly bromide, “familiarity breeds contempt”.
Something more was, and goes on today, something we call a mystery; not merely the rejection of indigenous of Israel, Nazareth, and Jerusalem; but much of mankind; but the rejection of God’s final recapitulation in Christ, continuing in these end times. In vein of God to Ezekiel, “[W]hether they listen or do not”, Jesus doubled-down against irrationality, sending his Twelve to surrounding villages, with his gospel.
He had warned his Apostles, “To you has been given the mystery of the dominion of God; but to those outside … in order that in their looking they may look but not see, and in their hearing, they may hear but not understand; lest they turn and it be forgiven them” (Mk. 4:11, 12). Thus, the mystery of rejected grace lays hold of judgment.
The scandal over which people stumble, is Jesus’ humanity in Divinity; no less today. Jesus’ crucified flesh and drained blood is the exclusive salvation for the world; it offends on the level of our sin.
“Christian” divines misapply to Jesus, his word, “the flesh profits nothing” when speaking of our sinful flesh (Jn. 6:63b), thus rejecting as inapposite, His flesh profits everything.
Is it any wonder those exposed to false teachers no longer worship in the Eucharistic tradition, the crucified risen and ascended flesh of Christ given to make us holy? Where the Sacrament of the Altar is deprecated, it is rejected; directing men to alternate means of “grace” (2 Cor. 11:4).
When Jesus’ disciples returned from a later mission, they were ecstatic and boasted, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus warned, “[D]o not rejoice in this … but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10:20).
St. Paul understands Jesus’ warning as against the apostolic tradition. In Paul’s absence, Corinth was plagued by “super-apostles” importing “enthusiastic” worship as alternate to the Christian tradition.
Enthusiasm looks to man’s heart to affirm self-excited feelings and utterances; what Luther called a “Theology of Glory”, divorced from the centrality of the Christ’s crucified humanity, come in word and Sacrament for forgiveness and humble sanctification.
St. Paul countered Corinthian “super-apostles”; if he were inclined to boast, he was able to speak of being caught-up in the “third heaven” hearing unutterable things; but this would have made him an apostolic fool (2 Cor. 12:2, 6a).
Paul would not have the congregation “see in him or hear from [him]” (v. 6b) one boasting of paradisiac experiences or private revelations apart from the cross, “For the sake of Christ I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10). There is no boast in unhelpful things; Paul’s preaching was to know nothing for the world’s unbelief than, Jesus Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).
Jesus’ hometown “knew” him best; but blind. The man, Jesus, was so struck by Nazareth’s rejection, that St. Mark observed, “he was dumbfounded [which is to say, the word of God was rendered speechless] because of unbelief.” Amen.