Pursuing your calling brings victories—and rejections.
If downheartedness tempts you to lose focus, remember this thought from beloved rector and Bible scholar R. T. France: “Not everyone was impressed by Jesus.”1
Since Jesus’ return to Galilee in [Mark] 1:14 his teaching and activity have been concentrated around the lake, with Capernaum as his regular base. His original home, however, was up in the hills, at Nazareth (1:9), and it was as “Jesus of Nazareth” that he was already known (1:24). A visit to Nazareth, some twenty-five miles from Capernaum, thus seems overdue, and that is what this pericope records, even though Mark declines to name the village which rejects its famous son.
The triumphal progress of Jesus through the recent part of the narrative (since the explanatory discourse of chapter 4) is in danger of leaving the reader with a false security. One after another the forces of wind and water, demonic possession, illness, and even death have yielded to his authority.
Forgetting the picture of divided response in chapters 2–3, the reader may be beginning to feel there is something almost automatic about the “success” of Jesus. This pericope therefore serves to redress the balance and to remind us that the effect of his ἐξουσία cannot be taken for granted. . . .
1. Jesus and his disciples now make in reverse the journey made by his family in 3:21, 31. Their attempt to “control” him then had proved fruitless, and they had returned to Nazareth while his mission continued down by the lake. Reports of that mission, however, have continued to reach Nazareth, so that the return of the local prodigy (with his followers from the lakeside towns) is a natural focus of interest.
2. The invitation to teach in the synagogue reveals at first a degree of goodwill, or at least the recognition that Jesus is now a person of significance. Mark, unlike Luke, tells us nothing of what he taught; his interest is only in the response of the people. The use of ἤρξατο before διδάσκειν may suggest what Luke 4:22, 28–30 spells out, that the teaching remained unfinished, being interrupted by the crowd reaction of vv. 2–3. . . . The primary cause of the astonishment is not, however, the wisdom and miracles in themselves but the question Πόθεν τούτῳ ταῦτα;—as verses 3–4 will go on to explain.
3. To the people of Nazareth, Jesus is the local boy, and they know no reason why he should have turned out to be any different from the rest of his family. (Note the repeated οὗτος, which probably here, as in 2:7 and unlike 4:41, suggests a derogatory attitude—he is “this fellow,” not someone special.)
4. Jesus explains the local refusal to take his mission seriously (ἐσκανδαλίζοντο, v. 3) by a proverbial maxim, particularly applied to philosophers in the Greek world (cf. our “Familiarity breeds contempt”).2
What is God calling you toward? Don’t lose focus on that work, even if it’s not impressive to those around you.
Keep it up.
You’re in good company.
To continue a deep, thoughtful look at Mark and thorough exposition of Greek, download R. T. France’s commentary on Mark for free. (While you’re there, you can grab NIGTC The Epistles to Colossians and Philemon and The First Epistle to the Corinthians).
You may also be interested in The Ministry Leader and the Inner Life, a practical course that helps pastors and other Christian servants exercise their strengths, disciple others, and prevent burnout in the Lord’s work.
- R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 240.
- Adapted from R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 240–243.