Living Like Jesus: Pack Light – Sermon on Mark 6:1-13

July 4, 2021

Can you believe it’s already July? The year is more than half over! During the month of July, we’ll be spending some time in the sixth chapter of Mark’s gospel. We will be looking at stories that focus on what it means to live like Jesus. If we want to be real followers of Jesus Christ, true disciples, we have to put ourselves in the original disciples’ sandals and walk with Jesus day by day. We have to observe what he does and hear what he says, and mirror that behavior and speech in our own lives.

Last week, we looked at the way Jesus finds opportunities for ministry in the interruptions. While we might consider such an interruption to be a nuisance that upsets our plans, Jesus sees it as a way to touch lives with compassion and offer healing. Over the next few weeks, Mark will show us how to live like Jesus in the way we look for grace when evil seems to overwhelm us, in the way we show compassion to others, and the way we can take courage from God’s miraculous work in our lives. 

Today, we will consider how to live like Jesus by being “sent ones” who depend completely on God’s provision. We’ll hear how setting aside our own baggage, our own limited way of thinking, increases the probability that God can work through us in amazing ways. We have to pack light, because:

When we carry less of ourselves, we can do more in Jesus’ name.
Minimizing our personal baggage maximizes our Kingdom impact.

As Jesus traveled from Capernaum up into the hill country above the Sea of Galilee, he was heading home. He had just made a significant impact down at the lakeshore, healing a woman who snuck up behind him in a crowd, and bringing a dead girl to life. Now it was time to head back home. It was time to see how the Kingdom of God might be received in more familiar territory. We pick up the story right where we left off last week.

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 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. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. – Mark 6:1-13

You have to pack light if you want to follow Jesus. Minimizing our personal baggage maximizes our kingdom impact.

Mark gives us two stories in this reading, and it might seem at first that they are not related to each other. First we have the story of Jesus returning to Nazareth, bringing his friends along. He’s traveling light. Maybe he spent the night at his mom’s house and got to enjoy some good home cooking, but on the Sabbath, he heads straight for the synagogue.

This hometown boy has started to make a name for himself around Galilee. Word travels fast when you start throwing out demons, and healing people, and raising young girls from their deathbeds. So he’s invited to teach, as a visiting rabbi, and he accepts the invitation. But his teaching is not as well received as it has been over in Capernaum. Things start out well, but as soon as he starts teaching in the synagogue, people are amazed, and they seem to think this hometown boy has gotten a bit too big for his britches.

There is even a hint of scandal as the people of Nazareth question his authority. They ask, “Isn’t this Mary’s son?” instead of, “Isn’t this Mary and Joseph’s boy?” While we might see this as a true representation of the virgin birth, in that time and place it was just short of an insult to skip over naming the father as head of the household. It hints at the possibility that Jesus was an illegitimate child, bringing shame to his whole community.

Shame and honor formed the foundation of social interaction in Nazareth. It was a zero sum game: if someone gained honor in the community, that meant someone else had to lose. Keeping the balance between shame and honor was important.

And here was Jesus, claiming the honor of a prophet for himself! This would upset the whole hierarchy of social standing. It would mean that someone – probably the synagogue leaders – would have to lose honor. This young upstart needed to be put in his place, and reminded that they knew who he was before he got famous – just a common builder, nothing more.

Jesus has been busy amazing people in Capernaum, across the Sea of Galilee, and even in the middle of the lake itself, but now it’s his turn to be amazed. And what has Jesus shaking his head? It’s the lack of faith he sees among his hometown friends and family.

In fact, this lack of faith brings us to one of the more troubling verses in this passage: Jesus, the Son of God, is rendered powerless. Mark writes, “And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” (v. 5)

Matthew’s version cleans things up a bit for us. Matthew says Jesus “did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” (Matt 13:58), making it sound more like Jesus chose not to work any wonders.

But the question may not be about whether Jesus chose to do miracles or was prevented from doing them. Maybe the question is, how does our lack of faith affect the way God works? Do we really keep God out of the miracle business, simply because we lack faith?

Before we get too caught up in arguments about God’s omnipotence and grace that is not dependent on anything we do, let’s look at what does happen in Nazareth. Jesus does heal a few. There are at least some who seek him out in faith, just as Jairus did on behalf of his dying daughter, just as the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years did.

And I think this might be the key – Jesus responds when we fall at his feet and ask for his mercy. He can’t answer our prayers unless we pray them. He can only transform our lives to the extent that we allow him to. Jesus’ ability to do great things in Nazareth was only limited by the fact that nobody bothered to ask – except for a few, and they were healed.

The baggage that the people of Nazareth carried was the baggage of disbelief. And that baggage limited how the power of God could work among them – not because God was diminished, but because their baggage was in the way.

What baggage gets in your way of experiencing God’s miraculous work in your life? How might we be resisting God, simply by our limited way of thinking? What baggage do you carry that keeps you from experiencing his power?

As we prepare to approach this Table, let’s take a moment to let God’s Spirit direct our thoughts to the ways we might be resisting God. As we do this, I invite you to let your hands rest in your lap in an open posture, releasing to God the things that keep you from experiencing his power –

Maybe there is …
some hurt or regret you can’t let go,
some grudge you hold onto,
some addiction that has come to define your identity,
some anger that continues to burn in you,
some fear of failure that paralyzes you,
some problem that you just don’t quite want to trust God to solve,
or maybe you think it’s too trivial to bother God with it.

Or maybe there is something you need to receive from God into your open hands –
some commitment God is calling you toward that you don’t want to acknowledge,
some ministry opportunity you are afraid to accept,
some challenge to grow that you think is too difficult for you.

This isn’t only about accepting God’s grace to save us and inviting Jesus into our hearts. It’s about our willingness to go deeper in faith and further in mission, to become the kind of disciples who transform the world in Christ’s name. It’s about trusting God enough to ask him to change us, and mean it. It’s about getting our baggage out of the way, so God can work freely in and through us. Because, …

When we carry less of ourselves, we can do more in Jesus’ name.
Minimizing our personal baggage maximizes our Kingdom impact.

The disciples who followed Jesus to Nazareth didn’t abandon him when the town rejected his message. They were watching closely to see what he would do. As Jesus kept on with his ministry of preaching good news and healing the sick, casting out unclean spirits and giving hope to the poor, the disciples were learning what it means to be a follower of Christ who lives like Jesus. And that brings us to the second story in this passage.

Sometimes rejection and persecution is the springboard for further ministry. My favorite example of this comes from the book of Acts. In Acts 1:8, Jesus commissions his disciples just before his ascension into heaven. He says, “ But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus ascends, Pentecost happens, and the church grows to the point they have to choose some deacons to oversee the needs of the community, so the apostles – notice they are no longer just disciples, they have been sent as apostles – devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. One of those deacons is Stephen, who preaches a great sermon when he is brought before the Sanhedrin, and when he points out that they are responsible for killing the Son of God, they get angry enough to stone him to death.

This brings us to Acts 8:1. “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” Did you catch that? Jesus told them back in 1:8 that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Eight chapters later, persecution sends them from Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria. It’s only a few more chapters before the ends of the earth come into the story. Sometimes, rejection is the springboard for ministry.

In today’s passage from Mark, Jesus gives some very specific directions to his disciples. He tells them what to take, and what not to take with them on their journey. It’s clear that Jesus wants his followers to go out in his name, completely depending on God to provide for their needs through the hospitality of others. Jesus knows that they will probably face rejection in at least some of the towns they visit.

They saw the way he left Nazareth and went into the nearby villages to keep preaching and healing. Now he tells them to shake the dust off their feet as they leave any place that does not receive them or their message.

So they go – and their ministry is fruitful. In fact, compare their results to the results Jesus himself had. Only a few benefited from Jesus’ healing in Nazareth, but when he sends the apostles to do the same work, “They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (v 13)

No doubt they ran into some opposition from time to time. We know from the rest of the story that Jesus would face growing resistance from those who felt threatened by his message. But that didn’t stop him from seeing it through, from dying on the cross for you and for me, from rising on the third day to defeat death and sin once and for all.

Sometimes rejection is the springboard for ministry. Sometimes I wonder if we fear rejection so much that it prevents us from experiencing God’s power at work in our lives. When we shrink back from stepping out on faith, we shortchange ourselves, and Christ can do no deed of power in us. We become what John Wesley would call an “almost Christian,” living out the form of a godly life without experiencing its power.

Following Jesus means putting it all on the line. We may find that some don’t want to hear our message of hope. That doesn’t mean we should stop sharing it. Some may ridicule us or walk away. There are others who will respond to the good news that God loves them. When we put our full faith in Christ, living into the assurance that he will act, he can change our brokenness into fruitfulness. When we pack light, God moves.

When we carry less of ourselves, we can do more in Jesus’ name.
Minimizing our personal baggage maximizes our Kingdom impact.

As we come to Christ’s table, what baggage do you need to release into God’s care? What doubt do you need to set aside, so that Jesus can begin a mighty work in you? What Kingdom impact is God just waiting for you to believe possible, so he can fulfill it through you? What are you willing to release, and what are you willing to receive from Christ’s hand?

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