Divine Service: Sun-8:00AM & 9:00AM, Mon-7:00PM

Bible Study & Sunday School: Sun-10:45AM

Text: Mark 6:1-13; Ezekiel 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Preached by Vicar Christopher Amen

A weak prophet. A weak apostle. A weak Messiah in His home congregation. If you’re looking for displays of divine muscle, you’re a week too late. Last week we had two healings for the price of one - a woman cured of a twelve year bleeding and a twelve year old girl raised from the dead.

Today we get the prophet Ezekiel, preaching to the exiles, without so much as a single miracle in his pocket. And we hear the apostle Paul “boasting” about how he prayed three times and didn’t get what he prayed for. (Try making a best selling book on prayer out of that one!) And then we hear about Jesus in His hometown of Nazareth, in the synagogue of His boyhood, greeted by skepticism, scandal, unbelief, rejection. Hardly the power and the glory we expect from the God who made the heavens and the earth with a Word!

Text: Mark 6:1-13; Ezekiel 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Preached by Vicar Christopher Amen

A weak prophet. A weak apostle. A weak Messiah in His home congregation. If you’re looking for displays of divine muscle, you’re a week too late. Last week we had two healings for the price of one - a woman cured of a twelve year bleeding and a twelve year old girl raised from the dead.

Today we get the prophet Ezekiel, preaching to the exiles, without so much as a single miracle in his pocket. And we hear the apostle Paul “boasting” about how he prayed three times and didn’t get what he prayed for. (Try making a best selling book on prayer out of that one!) And then we hear about Jesus in His hometown of Nazareth, in the synagogue of His boyhood, greeted by skepticism, scandal, unbelief, rejection. Hardly the power and the glory we expect from the God who made the heavens and the earth with a Word!

Look at Ezekiel. Ezekiel was from a priestly family. He could have been a priest, had he been born at another time. The trouble was, Jerusalem was under siege by Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, who would eventually destroy Jerusalem and the temple, and carry the people off into 70 years of exile. 70 years - an entire generation - without a home, without the sacraments of the temple. (It would be the equivalent of 70 years without the Lord’s Supper!) 70 years with nothing but bare faith in the promise that God would raise His Israel from the dead and raise the temple from ruins. 

Ezekiel was sent out by the Lord to proclaim His Word. “And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” This Word may not have been exactly what the people wanted to hear, but it was God’s Word! God’s Word was rejected by the people; they were scandalized by His Word.

It was Christ’s teaching and preaching in the synagogue that caused a scandal in Nazareth!  Although Mark does not tell us the specific content of Jesus’ preaching in the synagogue that day, we can see from other passages within Mark’s Gospel what the subject matter most likely would have been.  At the beginning of His Galilean ministry, Mark writes, “Jesus came . . . preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”  Mark writes that when Jesus sent out His disciples in pairs to proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom, “they went out and preached that men should repent.”

Most assuredly, Jesus’ message in the synagogue that day was along the same line as these other records of His preaching and teaching: people are sinful and need to repent; Jesus, who is God Himself, is the Messiah and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy; through Him only comes redemption and salvation.  But of course, His teaching and preaching is not what the sinful human heart wants to hear.  And this rejection of Christ’s authority and status as God’s Messiah comes even more readily in His hometown

The people of His hometown were astonished upon hearing Jesus’ words.  They were very impressed by His wisdom, but they denied the truth of His teaching and rejected Him as the Messiah.  This rejection of Christ constitutes a lack of faith.  Therefore they were unable to confess their sins, repent of them, and recognize that Jesus is the Savior sent by God for the forgiveness of sins.  Truly, without faith, the teachings of Christ are quite scandalous.

Only in his hometown, is a prophet without honor, Jesus said. Familiarity breeds contempt, especially when it comes to holy things. We who are lifelong Christians, and especially we “lifer Lutherans,” might confess an honest word about that. We are all too often like that Nazareth congregation. We’ve grown up around holy things. We’ve known the Scriptures from our infancy. Our ears are accustomed to the sound of sins being forgiven. Our tongues are liturgically disciplined to pray, praise and give thanks. We easily take our place at the Supper of Christ’s body and blood. And we just as easily skip it when it isn’t convenient or “we have better things to do on a Sunday morning.”

It often takes the outsider, one of the exiles one who knows what 70 years without the Sacrament is like, to take hold of us and shake us and say, “Do you have any idea what treasures you have here?”

Do you? It’s all so ordinary, yet with God’s Word extraordinary! That splash of baptismal water, the sacrament of your rebirth in Jesus. The spoken Word that says, “I forgive you,” God’s absolution of your sins. That bread that is the body of Christ, the wine that is His blood, the sacrament of your union with Christ.

What scandalized them, and the world, and even you and me at times, is the ordinariness, the weakness, the everydayness of Jesus. The Word of Christ is not what we, as sinful human beings, want to hear.  We want to hear a message that motivates us, that if only we try hard enough we can achieve our goals and overcome all of life’s obstacles.  We want to hear a message that encourages and compels us to strive for the best in ourselves so that we can achieve success and win for ourselves a life full of joy and satisfaction.  We want to hear a message that pumps us up and makes us feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments, focusing upon our successes and not upon our failures and shortcomings.

When God appears to save the world, we expect Superman, or some larger than life figure – not a carpenter from Nazareth. He was the uncommonly common God-man whom they called the carpenter.  He came for those who are ashamed of the ordinary and who need help with their unbelief.  He came for me.  He came to forgive my judging, rejecting, rebellious heart.  He came for you.  He came to forgive your judging, rejecting, rebellious heart.  He came speaking words of life to a dying world that thinks it can pursue life its own way.

Where did this man get these things, that is, these gifts of forgiveness and life?  As God He had them from all eternity.  But as man He received them as He took on flesh in Mary’s womb.  You see, the Son of God, the One who built the world, really is Mary’s son, knit together in her virgin womb.  He got those gifts of life from on high, for the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily.

But He also went into the very pit of hell for us.  His hands that worked with wood were spiked to the wood of the cross.  His carpentry work gave way to crucifixion work that is still building His Church today.  God’s power is made perfect in Jesus to such a degree that ordinary water and the Word are life cleansing, and bread and wine with the Word now is Jesus’ body and blood, given for your forgiveness.

In your weaknesses, God does His wonders for you in the midst of hardships and insults and difficulties.  He who knows rejection comes to you this morning to welcome you, to include you, to give you Himself, to give you life and salvation. You are His and He is yours, even in your weakness.  For in Christ, when you are weak, then you are strong.  Amen.

And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.