Sometimes even the people who grew up with us, who went to school with us, who had the same Sunday School teachers, who lived under the same roof with us, who were born from the same mothers, even, do not believe what we know to be the truth.
You know what I’m talking about, right?
Jesus walked into the middle of one of these situations in the beginning of Mark 6. In the NRSV, the hometown folk take “offense,” and Jesus is “amazed at their unbelief.” But in the Common English Bible the words used to describe the feelings of the two parties to the disagreement are visceral.
Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.
Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was appalled by their disbelief. (Mark 6:1-6)
The CEB wants us to feel the story, not just think about it. This encounter distressed both Jesus and his lifelong neighbors in a physical sense, at a gut level. There was no polite intellectual debate. There was a physical reaction, a recoil, a denial of who Jesus really was – which I am guessing is both the cause and the outcome of the fall into sin, fall being another very physical word.
My Greek is, well, I took a semester in college and know how to look it up, so here are the fruits of that labor – thanks Greek interlinear and Google! ἐσκανδαλίζοντο (eskandalizonto) is the word for how the townsfolk react. They were scandalized.
And they shake up our Lord and Savior. He cannot perform at his usual level. Appalled is a pretty strong word. It’s more common to translate that word as he “wondered” or “marvelled” at their unbelief. Yet look at what happened next. He sent out the twelve and told them what to do if they received that kind of reaction. He told them to keep moving, to shake the dust off, to focus their efforts where people might actually listen.
Herod came to hear about all these things, and I’m not surprised, because there is nothing that will get attention like walking away from people who would like to argue with you or hope to have the chance to reject you themselves.
I could personalize this. I could do it easily. But I suspect it’s more fruitful to say that there are some arguments we will never win, and there’s not much point having them. When your truth and their truth is not the same, maybe the best thing to do is keep moving, and leave the outcome in God’s hands.
Help me, Holy One, to know when the effort is faithful, and when I am just trying to win a fight. Amen.
I’m reading and blogging about Mark for Lent. Want to read along? I’m using the Common English Bible because it messes with my expectations of familiar passages. I am also referring to NRSV-based resources including The Jewish Annotated New Testament, and the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, as well as the online Greek interlinear Bible.