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Pentecost 7 2024, Proper 9
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 7, 2024
Ezekiel 2:1-5, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Mark 6:1-13


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itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
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            You have a great friendship with a co-worker who shares your work space.  You get along great, laugh at each other’s jokes, you commiserate about what a jerk the department boss can be.  Often you go for a drink together after work, your families love to get together, it is a great friendship.  And then the boss retires and your friend is promoted to fill the spot.  Now your friend -- is your boss.  Being the boss and a friend is a tough balance because familiarity can breed contempt.  When you know someone very well it is hard to respect their authority. 

            In the military it is against regulations for officers to fraternize with enlisted personnel so not to prejudice good order and discipline.  Familiarity can breed contempt. 

            Jesus is unknown to the people of Capernaum and He is received at the synagogue there with astonishment at His new teaching with authority.  The people are amazed that He is able to command unclean spirits and heal the sick and disabled.  The more Jesus teaches and heals the bigger and bigger the crowds grow.  There is some opposition from the scribes and Pharisees, because they see Jesus going against traditional Jewish teaching.  They call in reinforcements from Jerusalem to try to stop Jesus, but the movement keeps growing and growing in Capernaum and the surrounding area.  Even Jairus, the synagogue ruler in Capernaum, comes to Jesus when his daughter is sick and dying and Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead. 

Jesus’ fame spreads throughout the surrounding region of Galilee all the way to Nazareth 40 miles to the southwest.  Jesus’ family hears about what is going on and they come to Capernaum to save Jesus from Himself.  Mark 3:21 (ESV) 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” They come to Capernaum and stand outside sending word to Jesus.  Mary certainly knows who Jesus is, but it must be confusing when He suddenly goes from being a normal carpenter from Nazareth to a famous religious teacher drawing large crowds and causing turmoil all the way to Jerusalem.  Jesus’ brothers do not seem to understand what is going on and they want to stop Jesus before He causes too much trouble.  Word passes and the crowd tells Jesus, Mark 3:32–35 (ESV) 32 … “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”  

            In today’s Gospel reading Jesus has left the adoring crowds in Capernaum and the region around the Sea of Galilee and with His disciples has walked to Nazareth.  On the Sabbath He begins to teach in the synagogue and the initial response is very much like in Capernaum.  The people are… Mark 6:2 (ESV) 2 … astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?”

            The people have heard about all the miracles Jesus has done and about His authoritative teaching, and now He is right here in their midst. “He is amazing…He is incredible…He is…hey!  Hold on just a minute!!  Let’s not get all carried away with the momentum of this Jesus movement.  Don’t forget.  We know Jesus.  He is Jesus of Nazareth.  This town of Nazareth only has  about 400 people, so everyone here knows everyone else and we know this Jesus fellow.  So, we don’t care what He has done, we don’t care what He has taught, because we have known Jesus His whole life.  He is a shameful man.  His parents were not married until after His mother Mary was already pregnant so no one knows who Jesus’ father really is.  And He is not a priest, or a teacher, or a religious leader, or even a respected member of the community.  He is a craftsman.  He works with His hands, not with His mind.  Why is this illegitimate construction worker teaching in the synagogue? He is way out of His depth.”  And the people of Nazareth reject Jesus out of their familiarity.  Mark 6:3 (ESV) 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.”

            Familiarity breeds contempt.  Mark 6:4 (ESV) 4 And Jesus [says] to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 

Because the people think they already know Jesus, His work in Nazareth is fairly fruitless.  As we learn in the parable of the sower and the seeds, Mark 4:14–15 (ESV) 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.”

            Jesus is sowing the seeds of the Word of God but it is rejected because the people of Nazareth think they already know all they need to know about Jesus.  Even though they have heard of all that Jesus has done, that cannot overcome what they think they already know about Jesus.

            Familiarity breeds contempt.  Too often people think they know who Jesus is and therefore they can dismiss His teachings.  We are tempted to think we can know about Jesus because Jesus is human and we are human and we can understand human things.  Jesus has a body, I have a body.  Jesus was born, so was I.  Jesus died, and so will I.  We can think we know Jesus because we understand how things work in this world and we decide Jesus must fit into the natural law of the world; that He was conceived and born in the normal way, and that when He died He stayed dead because that is natural law.  By viewing Jesus as just another human, folks feel quite empowered to adjust His teaching to fit their understanding. 

            Some believe Jesus was just a good teacher who gave us instruction about how to love one another and care for the poor.  Some see Jesus as an inspirational leader whose teachings can motivate people to achieve great things in life.  Others believe Jesus is just a fraud; another messianic figure who claimed to be God but wound up dead.  So very many people have constructed their own Jesus.  This Jesus they can control because He is a product of their own imaginations.  So, when these folks hear something from the Bible that challenges the familiar Jesus of their own imaginations they are offended and they reject the truth and choose unbelief.  Entire church bodies are voting to reject the truth and follow their own understandings. These churches are choosing unbelief because they are offended by Jesus.

            Thomas Jefferson edited the Bible to fit his understanding of Jesus.  Jefferson literally made his own cut and paste Bible called “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” in which, using a razor blade and glue, he cut the Bible down to 86 pages, getting rid of anything referring to the miracles of Jesus and most supernatural mentions.  Jefferson ends the book with Jesus dead in the grave.  Like so many of His time, and so many of our time, Jefferson saw Jesus as a good teacher, but not as God.   

            The people’s initial reaction at the synagogue in Nazareth is our proper reaction to Jesus – astonishment; astonishment at Jesus’ teaching and wisdom and works.  Be continually astonished by Jesus because, despite His appearance, Jesus is not a familiar, fellow man.  Jesus is God in flesh.  Despite appearances, Jesus is not just another guy.  As we will soon confess, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus was crucified, died and was buried.  On the third day Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus is God in flesh.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!

Jesus has brought you close He has made you family. You are His brother, you are His sister and Jesus is Lord.  Jesus is your servant and Jesus is your King.

            In order for us to take control it is so tempting to reduce Jesus to a familiar, regular, manageable, fellow man, but that is not the truth. Jesus is God.  He teaches with authority because He is the author of life. So do what He says.  Mark 1:15 (ESV) 15 … “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” 

            Jesus is not a familiar, ordinary, fellow man, but Jesus has brought you close to Him.  You, a baptized follower of Jesus, gathered here with fellow believers to hear the Gospel and to receive Jesus’ gifts -- you are a part of Jesus’ family.  As Jesus teaches, Mark 3:35 (ESV) 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”  You are Jesus’ sister.  You are Jesus’ brother. 

            Jesus has brought you close He has made you family. You are His brother, you are His sister and Jesus is Lord.  Jesus is your servant and Jesus is your King.  Jesus is God incarnate and He has redeemed you with His blood; He has forgiven you all your sins. You are one with Him through the Holy Spirit.  He is your Savior because you cannot save yourself. Jesus is your loving brother but you know who this brother is and you are in awe.  He is your caring brother, and you are astonished at what He has done for you.  Your brother, the Lord God almighty, has washed you clean and brought you into the Kingdom of God, to be with Him, now and forever.  Amen.