II Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10, Mark 6:1-13
July 9, 2006
This is a very interesting story in the ministry of Jesus. I always say that, don’t I? “This is an interesting story.” Or “I love this story!” Well, this is an interesting story – and I love it! Jesus has been out on the road for a while. He has been preaching and teaching the people. He has performed miracles. He has started to draw huge crowds. He has confronted the religious authorities, challenging their thinking on important points of doctrine.
Now, with his fame increasing all the time, he has come back to his own country. And they’ve reacted as I’m sure any of us would. They said, “Hey, who does this guy think he is?” “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” “Where does he get all this authority?” Not very complimentary, huh? This isn’t “Home town boy makes good.” This is “Home town boy thinks too highly of himself.” Imagine how any of us would feel if one of our own came back and started doing all these things – especially if there were social status considerations.
I was watching the History Channel around Easter time. By the way, doesn’t it seem like Easter was ages ago? I don’t know why, but it does. Anyway, I was watching a program that gave a very interesting perspective on Jesus and his family. The narrator said, and it is true, that the word we translate “carpenter” could refer not just to a person who works with wood, but also to one who cares for the tools of those who work with wood. Joseph may have been one who went around sharpening tools for others.
Now what that means for us is this. Which ever meaning of the word is most accurate for Joseph, we need to know that “carpenter” does not denote a skilled professional in the same way we use the word today. A person who had that title was on the low end of the social classes. And theirs was a culture that was much more social class oriented than ours.
If Joseph, and after him Jesus, were an actual wood worker, or if he was the one who went around sharpening the tools of a wood worker, either way he was from that lower class of people. Perhaps the lowest! Think about that. The Messiah didn’t come from the highest, richest, priestly class, but from the lower class of people. I think that makes his ministry that much more interesting. And it certainly makes this story all the more powerful.
You see, when these people said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Where does he get this authority?” They weren’t simply identifying him. They weren’t saying, “Isn’t this the son of that scribe we know?” or “that banker” or “that farmer.” It was more as I said before. “Who does this guy think he is! He’s just the son of that lowly man Joseph!” Do you see the difference?
The image of this Jesus coming before them with fame and authority, when he was just a carpenter was too much for them. They reacted with indignance. And their attitude was strong. So the focus of this story comes then in verse 5, where it says, “And he could do no mighty work there…” Their attitude made it difficult for him to work. Their attitude was tying the hands of Jesus.
I want you to think about that today. And ask yourself, “Does the attitude of these people mean that Jesus had any less power? Of course not. That would be silly. Though sometimes poor attitudes can drain us of energy, can’t they? I don’t think that’s what’s happening here, though. I think this means that God works more through people who are open to his working among them? God works with people who will work with him. And the contrary is true as well – literally in this case.
Notice, I’m not talking about, “God helps those who help themselves.” That’s a phrase that is not found in the Bible, by the way. Though many people think it is – or that it ought to be! This is a case that God helps those who are open to his working through them for the good of his kingdom! That’s a different thing. Because it wasn’t just the indignant people in this story who were affected. Jesus couldn’t do mighty works for others who had needs. It was because of the indignant attitude of some of the people that other people were not helped. They were tying the hands of Jesus, and keeping him from helping people in their town who needed his help!
What about us? Does all this mean that we can tie the hands of Jesus with our attitudes? By our times of unbelief, can we hamper Jesus’ efforts to help other people who need his help? I think we need to recognize that the answer to that is yes! That’s what this story tells us. And I’m not just talking about those who would be helped directly by our efforts. I’m talking about those who would be reached if we had the spiritual attitude that would increase the sense of community consciousness among us.
The other thing I think we need to think about here is the way we think about the miraculous. That’s part of what it means here when it talks about the “mighty works” of Jesus. Are miraculous and spiritual things happening in our midst? Or do we have doubts about that kind of thing? And does our skepticism stand in the way of the growth of God’s spirit among us?
Think about that. Next week we’re going to be talking about the unity of believers from Ephesians 1. That is so important that Paul spent a great deal of time talking about it. Throughout his letters He wrote about things like forbearance, edification, selfless love, and unity. He tried to tell the early church that nothing will hurt the fellowship and the mission of the Church more than strife and division. When people look at us from the outside, what do they see? That’s always a good question!
Rick Warren in his book “The Purpose Driven Church” claims that a healthy Church will grow naturally. When a church is healthy, people will want to come to it. And one of the most important things for a Church to do is to see if there is any “disease” – that is the dis-ease – in the body and to work on healing it. Now I know there’s more to growth than that. But that is a big part of it. Disunity will hurt any efforts we make, just as the attitude of Jesus’ own people hurt any effort he was making in ministering to people.
As we seek to be God’s people here at Eddington Presbyterian Church, let us strive above all to grow closer to one another, to put aside any differences and division we might have, to give each other the benefit of the doubt, to forgive quicker than to criticize, to strive to live at a higher level of love and forbearance, and to be open to what God is doing among us. God can do mighty works here, if we live in a way that promotes his spirit working within us.
Eternal God, we thank you that you have chosen to live this life with us through Jesus Christ, our Lord. We ask that you would help us to seek to grow closer to you. Help us to be open to your spirit in our midst. Help us to avoid those actions and attitudes that keep you from working in our lives and in our Church. Bless us with your spirit and your peace and your joy. For this we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.