“Is This Not the Carpenter, the Son of Mary?”

(Mark 6:1-6 – Pentecost 7 – July 11, 2021)

Mark 6:1-6 – 1Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 2And 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! 3Is 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. 4But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” 5Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.

Dear Redeemed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ:

“Why, I remember Jesus when He was yea high, just a toddler clinging to Mary’s hand.” “Yeah, it seems like just yesterday He was growing up in the home of Joseph and Mary, such a respectful and obedient young man.” “Well whenever I see Him, I think of the wooden furniture He made for my home.” Imagine some of the conversations that might have been overheard among the folks at Nazareth, where Jesus had grown up and lived all those years.

Now at age 30, Jesus had left His hometown. He had become a rabbi with a following of disciples. His reputation was preceding Him as one who preached with authority backed by miraculous power. People were coming to believe what He said about the Kingdom of God and who He claimed to be. The people at Nazareth had heard of these things. And now, as Jesus returned to His hometown, they heard His wisdom as He preached in their synagogue.

And what was their reaction? The one you might expect from hometown folks who could not see past the young man whose family they had always known as neighbors down the street, and the craftsman whose rough hands had worked with common wood: “Is This Not the Carpenter, the Son of Mary?” Behind their words, we hear incredulous questions: 1) Can He truly be the One He claims to be? And 2) Can His coming this way truly be for our good?

 1) Can He truly be the One He claims to be?

On the Sabbath, the people of Nazareth gathered at the local synagogue for worship. Now as Jesus was with them as a Rabbi, He was invited to read the appointed Scripture for the day. Luke’s account says that in His first visit home, as Jesus stood up to read the scroll was opened to Isaiah 61:1-2, where the prophet spoke of the coming Messiah, the Anointed One of God: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Then as the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Jesus, He declared to them: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21).

Today in their presence stood that long-awaited Messiah God had promised to send to His people. He had been publicly anointed by the Spirit in His Baptism at the Jordan. Now here He was, the heaven-sent Savior come to preach the Gospel to poor sinners, declaring forgiveness of sins with authority as only God can do. Here He was, the divine Healer come to restore fallen children of Adam, living with the effects of sin in this world; proving His power by giving sight to the blind, healing the sick, and even raising the dead. Here He was, the Deliverer who had come to set at liberty those who were oppressed by the devil; demonstrating His almighty strength over Satan’s kingdom by casting out demons. Here He was, the Savior of the world, come to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, the time of God’s grace and favor; holding out the promise to all: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)!

Imagine the wide-eyed silence that filled the synagogue at Nazareth when Jesus finished preaching. Then the local folks began to whisper: “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?” (vs. 2-3). They could not see past His ordinary past. They could not understand how the little boy who had learned Scripture in the synagogue like any other, now spoke with wisdom and authority unlike any teacher they had known. They could not understand how the carpenter who had created ordinary articles from wood, now performed great miracles with the same hands. They could not understand how Jesus, who had grown-up among brothers and sisters as the Son of Mary, could now be claiming to be the Son of God.

“And they were offended at Him” (vs. 3). It should have been plain that His wisdom and power was of God. But they were tripped up by familiarity with Jesus and rejected His Word. As He explained: “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house” (vs. 4). At least they should have received Him as a prophet; but they would not even receive Him with such honor. For Luke’s account tells us that when they heard Jesus preach, they became furious and tried to kill Him (Luke 4:28-30).

Isn’t this how unbelief always responds to the ways of God? It takes offense at the plain and ordinary way He came into the world to carry out His saving work. Many ask incredulously: “Would the almighty Creator come into His creation in such weak form? Would He who gives life from the womb choose to be conceived and born of a Virgin mother? Would the King of kings and Lord of lords come to dwell among His subjects as the Servant of all? Ultimately, unbelief takes offense at the message of Jesus’ cross. Many ask incredulously: Would a just and holy God let Himself be crucified by guilty sinners, to bear their punishment? Would the Lord of life die on a cross as the only way to save sinners from death? Are we to believe in a crucified, dead, and buried Man to give us hope of eternal life in His Kingdom?” Unbelief despises the lowliness and humility of Christ and His cross, calling it weak and foolish.

Today, Jesus continues to come to us in humble form, bringing His salvation through Word and Sacrament. As He once sent prophets, He sends preachers to proclaim His Word, saying “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects Me” (Luke 10:16). Christ Himself authorizes us to proclaim His truth, which is for all people – the truth of His Holy Scripture. This is not based on our own authority, but His. Yet unbelief takes offense; it focus on the plain old looks and personality of a pastor or teacher, instead of the truth and power of God’s Word unto salvation. Many say, “Why should I listen to that man? Who is he to proclaim the will of God for my life? Who is He to proclaim forgiveness in Jesus’ name?” Again, Jesus comes to us in Baptism with His forgiveness, in that washing of water with His Word (Ephesians 5:26) promising: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Again, Jesus is present in His Holy Supper, giving His body and blood for the remission of our sins. Yet unbelief takes offense; it focuses on the plain old outward forms and asks: “Does God need such lowly means to accomplish His purpose in my life? What good is a splash of water, or a wafer of bread and sip of wine? How can these do such great things?”

As we see in the hometown folks at Nazareth, familiarity bred contempt for Jesus Himself. Sinful pride takes offense at the outwardly humble and lowly form He chooses to come to us, and the means He uses to serve us. Unbelief is always looking for something greater in the eyes of men. It asks with contempt: “Is this not the Carpenter, the Son of Mary? Can He truly be the One He claims to be? Can His coming this way truly be for our good?”

2) Can His coming this way truly be for our good?

Imagine the alternative. What if God had not come into the world as the humble and lowly born Son of Mary? What if He had appeared in all His divine glory, as described in 1 Timothy 6:15-16: He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see”?

Recently, I spoke with a church member who once, many years ago, was walking out of a building one day. Suddenly a lightning bolt struck the ground in front of him with a deafening roar and blinding light, throwing him back several feet. He was thankful to have survived.

If the Lord had chosen to come in such blinding glory, who of us as sinners could stand in that unapproachable light of His holiness and survive, without being thrown back and cast from His presence forever? If God had come as Almighty Judge, bringing to bear the wages of our sins, we would be cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Instead, He came as the Savior, to bear our sin and bring us His salvation. For this reason, He chose to come in such humble and approachable form. Had it not been foretold that the Messiah would come in such a down to earth way? God had told Moses: 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). Isaiah had said He would have nothing majestic or attractive in His appearance; but He would be despised and rejected by men (Isaiah 53:2-3). The divine nature of Christ was veiled in the ordinary look of a prophet. His heavenly majesty as King of all was veiled in the ordinary look of “the carpenter, the Son of Mary.”

In humbling Himself this way, He came as the one who could be despised and rejected by man. Yet through His very rejection, He won our favor and acceptance with God. Those hands which had become rough in working with wood, were finally nailed to the rough wood beam of His cross. In deepest humiliation, Jesus bore the guilt and shame, the punishment and suffering for our sin – for our very nature as sinners from conception and birth, and for every way we have sinned in our daily lives against God and man. Jesus died for us, to take away all our sin.

His coming this way truly is for our good, so He could work out our salvation in every way. That Son of God who became the Son of Mary and grew up in the home, honored and obeyed His earthly parents in a way that counts for us as the children of God. That heavenly King who became an earthly Citizen and lived in the world, honored every God-given authority in a way that counts for us as citizens of His Kingdom. That Creator of all who became the Carpenter used His hands to serve His neighbor in love in a way that counts for us, whom He came to serve and to save. All that Jesus did from His conception to His cross, God counts to us for righteousness.

And now, as our risen Savior, it is for our good that Jesus still comes to serve us today in the humble form of His Word and Sacraments. In these means of grace, He is present to give us all the benefits of His salvation. And so we confess our sins and take to heart His Holy Absolution; for though it be spoken by the lips of an unworthy servant of His Word, yet it is the Word of our Lord Jesus who is present to declare to us with all His authority: “I forgive you all your sins.” And so, Jacob and Hannah have brought little Ezra to Baptism; for the Lord Jesus is present to cleanse away all our sins in that washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). And so, we come to the Lord’s Table; for the Lord Jesus is present to give us His true Body and Blood for the forgiveness of our sin and strengthening of our faith.

“Is This Not the Carpenter, the Son of Mary?” Yes He is; and thanks be to God! Behind that mask of humility and service, Jesus truly is the one He claims to be; and His coming this way truly is for our highest good. God Almighty has come as our Brother in the flesh to work out our salvation. And He continues to come to us where we live today, even in our humble home. He comes to us today, even our little church, where two or three are gathered in His name. As the Savior who has walked in our shoes, here He is in the midst of us, understanding our daily life and needs, fully able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses. Here He is with His all-sufficient grace, to strengthen our faith and answer our prayers the best way.

As our humble and yet glorified Savior, He will always be here for us with His saving grace and power. Until at last, He lifts us from our humble abode in this world to share in His heavenly kingdom and glory without end.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.