“Familiarity Breeds Contempt – Even with Jesus”
(Mark 6:1-6 – Epiphany 4 – February 3, 2019)
Mark 6:1-6 – Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” And they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.
Dear Redeemed in Jesus Christ:
There is a saying: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” It means that the better you get to know someone, the easier it becomes to stop giving them due respect and to find fault with them. This has been shown to be true even with great people in history, who were held in contempt by their contemporaries, and only later were respected for their great accomplishments.
Today we see how this was true in Jesus’ visit to His hometown: “Familiarity Breeds Contempt – Even with Jesus.” As the Son of God and Son of Man, He is the greatest Person who ever lived in this world. Yet those who knew Him for many years showed 1) Contempt for His Person, 2) Contempt for His Word, and finally 3) Contempt for His salvation.
1) Contempt for His Person
Jesus has arrived at Nazareth, where He had grown up from childhood. But the records show that His hometown folks did not receive Him well; they showed contempt for His Person.
As Jesus had been carrying out His public ministry, Israel was abuzz with news of this great man who preached God’s Word and performed miracles with such authority and power. Many people heard His message of salvation for sinners, and were brought to believe in Him as God’s Son and their Savior. They rejoiced that God had sent His promised Messiah.
But then, Jesus came home and things were different. On the Sabbath He was in the synagogue for worship and, as was the custom for rabbis, He was invited to read Scripture and preach. As elsewhere, His own hometown folks were astonished and said: “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!” It seems like they might have joined the numbers who were praising God for sending His Son, the Savior – even from their own midst – here in the Person of Jesus!
Instead, Jesus’ hometown folks just could not see past His ordinary past. They pointed to His former occupation: “Is this not the carpenter…?” Maybe they had furniture in their homes that had been made by Jesus and His earthly father Joseph – just as plain as their other household items. And they pointed to His family: “Is this not… the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” They could remember when Jesus was just a boy playing with neighborhood kids. Sure, they might have seen some of the evidence that Jesus did not have a sinful nature. Perhaps it came out in the way He always set such a good example for others. Yet, He looked as plain as any other citizen of Nazareth.
“And they were offended at Him.” Jesus’ hometown folks took offense at His Person. They thought He was making arrogant claims about Himself as the Messiah. Luke 4:16-30 relates how, as Jesus preached from Isaiah 61 and told them that He was the One anointed by the Spirit to bring salvation to sinners – and even to non-Jews – they were enraged at His claims. They drove Him out of town to throw Him off a cliff, but He walked through them and went away.
So far Jesus’ cold reception in His hometown! It should have been plain that His wisdom and power was of God. Even the Pharisee Nicodemus, who visited Jesus under cover of darkness, confessed: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). But here, Jesus explains their rejection: “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Their only reason for rejecting Jesus was His plain old background and ordinary looks.
Had it not been foretold that the Savior would come this way? Isaiah had said that He would have nothing attractive in His appearance; instead, He would be despised and rejected by men (Isaiah 53:2-3). God had told Moses about the Messiah: “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him” (Deuteronomy 18:18). The divine nature of Christ was veiled in the ordinary look of a prophet. But in His hometown, familiarity bred contempt for His Person.
How about us? Do we always give proper respect to Jesus’ divine Person? We can get so familiar with the plain old everydayness of following Jesus that we fail really to honor Him.
We may be quite familiar with what the Bible says about Jesus. We know that the universe was made by His almighty power, and that He continues to sustain all things (Colossians 1:16-17). We know that He has used His almighty power in love to win a glorious salvation for us, at the cost of His life. We know that He is using His almighty power to work all things in time and eternity for our good. But do we sometimes get too familiar with these things for our good?
Yes, our head knowledge tells us that Jesus is in control to provide all our needs of life. But sometimes, with the very number and frequency of His daily gifts, we forget just how much goodness He constantly pours out on us. We come to expect, and even demand, His daily gifts. Our familiarity really can leave us quite unthankful to Him. That is not honoring who He is.
Maybe familiarity has bred that kind of contempt where, the better you get to know a person, the more faults you find with them. Sometimes we find fault with how Jesus cares for us. We think we should have something more, and He should make life better than it is. We question His divine wisdom and goodness. We become like sheep who think they need to follow their own paths to greener pastures. Familiarity can breed contempt for Jesus’ way of leading us.
Or maybe we feel we have gotten to know Jesus so well that we can relax the honor and worship that is due Him. We figure that we can enjoy our pet sin because, after all, we can just pat our buddy Jesus on the back and He will look past our sinful indulgence. Thus we dishonor His divine Person and will for us. Or maybe familiarity leads us into thoughtless patterns of prayer. We begin to treat Jesus, who is right here, distantly; like the husband and wife or parent and child relationship that has grown so cold it seems there is nothing more to say to each other.
As Jesus draws near to help and befriend us, how often is His Spirit grieved, when the warmth of His love is met by our cold response? Familiarity can breed contempt for His Person, for who He is. For this we repent and ask His forgiveness. And He forgives us.
What Jesus so much wanted His hometown folks to see, He also wants us to take to heart. Here He is, the One who goes in love to the cross to lay down His life to save us from our sin. Here He is, the One who cares for us so closely that He knows the number of hairs on our head, not one falling the ground without His knowing it (Matthew 10:29-30). Here He is, the One who knows our prayers completely before a word is on our tongue (Psalm 139:4). Here He is, our Good Shepherd who holds us close to His heart and gently leads us (Isaiah 40:11). May our familiarity with Jesus lead us to worship and praise Him as God in our flesh, our loving Savior.
2) Contempt for His Word
In Jesus’ visit to His hometown, we see another danger: familiarity can breed contempt for His Word. As He taught in the synagogue, many marveled at His wisdom. Yet contempt for His Person led to contempt for His Word, so that it says: “He marveled because of their unbelief.”
This was nothing new. When had Israel not rejected God’s prophets and shown contempt for His Word? As God told Ezekiel: “I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me… And you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse – for they are a rebellious house – yet they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezekiel 2:3-5).
Whether or not Jesus’ hometown folks listened to Him, sooner or later they would know that the Prophet of prophets had been among them. Meanwhile, after they showed contempt for His preaching it says: “Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.” That is, He left them. This is what can happen when people show contempt for His Word: they can lose it.
Do we always show proper respect for Jesus’ Word? Many of us have been hearing His Word since childhood, or for many years. This is a great blessing. Yet are there times, in our familiarity with Jesus, when we let His Word go in one ear and out the other? We become like one spouse who hears the other talking only to grunt, “Huh?” How it must disappoint Jesus when we are not really listening – again! It is one thing to have His Word; it is another thing to listen and take it to heart, so that by the Holy Spirit’s work we benefit by it. Like Jesus’ friend Martha, we get too busy with all that is on our mind to listen to the one thing needed. Thus we show contempt for His Word. For this we repent and ask His forgiveness. And He forgives us.
Again, the blessings Jesus so much wanted for His hometown folks, He also wants for us. He wants to speak His Word of salvation and comfort to us. He sees us burdened with guilt; where else but in His Word can we hear His pardon of our sins? He sees us weary with fear and sorrow; where else but in His Word can we hear His reassurance that all is well in His loving care? All our hope for time and eternity rests on what His Word says. The Bible is like a map and compass, directing our voyage on life’s troubled and dangerous sea, steering us safely to heaven’s harbor. His Word is the armory from which we draw every weapon we need in our Christian warfare. It is the well that gushes with the pure, refreshing waters of salvation. So let us say with highest honor and worship: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
3) Contempt for His salvation
And finally, as we see in Jesus’ visit to His hometown, if one still has contempt for His divine Person and His Word, it amounts to contempt for His salvation.
Think of all the benefits the people of Nazareth could have received from Jesus, but which their unbelief and rejection prevented. It says: “Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.” Their lame could have been walking and their blind seeing. Those possessed with evil spirits could have been set free.
Most importantly, they were missing Jesus’ spiritual and eternal healing. He had spoken of this healing as He preached in their synagogue, applying the prophecy of Isaiah 61 to Himself: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Again, the blessings Jesus so much wanted for His hometown folks, He also wants for us. He does not want anyone to miss out on His salvation. He came to preach good news for the poor – for us sinners who were so impoverished before God by our huge debt of sin that we could never repay Him, not even by our best efforts. But Jesus Himself went to the cross to pay that debt for us. He paid for every way we have shown contempt for His Person and His Word. He won forgiveness for all our sins; and in exchange, He gives us His gift of eternal life.
Here is good news for all who are oppressed by the power of Satan, sin, and death. Since Jesus resisted all temptation for us, we are liberated from Satan’s power in Jesus’ Kingdom. Since Jesus never sinned, God no longer counts our sin to us but Jesus’ sinless life. Since Jesus defeated death and rose again, we will not die but live forever with Him! Jesus has replaced our spiritual blindness and captivity, with the light of faith and liberty of God’s children.
So in this year of the Lord’s favor, may our familiarity with Jesus ever grow! May it lead us ever more to praise His Person as our Savior, and to rejoice in His Word of salvation! Amen.