Homecomings are meant to be a time of joy. Homecomings are meant to be a time of smiles and laughter and stories shared. Homecomings are meant to be a time of embracing and open arms.
I can remember coming home from college each year. My parents would wrap me up in a warm embrace. They couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces. They would have me sit down and tell them all about the experiences and adventures that I had had over the course of the year at school in Chicago.
But that pales in comparison to the homecoming that we would have when my brother would return home to America from deployments overseas. With tears streaming down our cheeks, we couldn’t wait to see him, to hug him, to hear all that he was willing to share with us. To know that he was finally home was the best thing ever.
That is what homecomings should be like, or so we think. Unfortunately, that is not what Jesus experienced at all in our text for today. There were no smiles or laughter. There were no open arms longing to embrace him. Instead, the homecoming He received can be summed up in one word: Rejection.
He went from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were 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? 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 (Mark 6:1-3).
Even though we can’t read tone in the Bible, we ought not think that these questions were asked with some sort of kind-hearted gentleness. These were questions of doubt, jealousy, anger, all mixed up together into a pot of hatred and disdain. So much so that the text says that Jesus could do no mighty work there. Not because He was incapable, but rather because the works He did were to give testimony to who He was as the Son of God. Had He performed miracles there, it would have only heaped judgment upon them as their anger increased and their rejection raged on.
The sad thing is that this is not the first time Jesus faced such a homecoming rejection. Three chapters before our text for today, we hear of the only other time that Jesus went back to his hometown. It was just after He called His disciples, the text says, Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:20-21). His own family thought He was crazy. So much so that they wanted to seize him. The literal translation was that they wanted to arrest him. Probably to lock him up in the insane asylum, or something like that.
That’s what makes what happens in our text for today so striking. When Jesus is rejected by his hometown family and neighbors, when they literally take offense at Him, what does it say that He did? And He went about among the villages teaching (Mark 6:6). He didn’t stop teaching because the people didn’t like what He had to say. He kept on going from village to village, teaching to anyone who would have ears to hear what He said.
I am reminded of a story that Pastor May once told me about a group of ten Somali men who came to him to be instructed to be pastors. Now in Somalia, being a Christian comes at the risk of one’s life because of the threat of the Muslim extremist group, Al-Shabaab. You can’t even cross the border with a Bible in your luggage. Christianity is not tolerated at all.
But this didn’t keep these ten men from coming to be instructed as Christian pastors. Once they had been instructed, they returned back home to Somalia. Unfortunately, five of these men were killed for their faith. Some time passed, and those five men returned to Pastor May for more instruction…only this time they came with seven more men. Now there were twelve men. When asked why they were doing what they were doing if it would only mean their lives were at greater risk of being ended, they responded in quite striking fashion, “What difference does it make if we lose our lives? If we die as Christians, we will go to heaven. But many of our family and neighbors do not yet confess Jesus as Lord which means they will go to hell. We are here to learn how we might teach them to know what we know so that they too may be saved.”
As we consider how Jesus kept going in His teaching, how these Somali men kept going in their witness of Christ, how about us? Do we keep going in our witness…even when we face rejection? Truth is, our homes are meant to be the starting points for our life as witnesses of Christ. Yet, it would seem that when we are in our homes or neighborhoods, we are more consumed with what others think of us and trying to keep up appearances. We allow the words and actions of others to shape and mold us. And in the case of our witness of Christ as Savior and Lord, we often choose to be silent because we are fearful of what others might think or say about us. We are fearful of being rejected.
Fellow Christians, let’s ask ourselves: Who are we trying to please? Are we trying to please others? Are we trying to please ourselves? What’s guiding our witness of Christ to others, be it in our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplaces? Is the fear of rejection driving us to be silent?
What we see from Jesus in our text for today was that even when He was rejected, He kept going from village to village. Now that doesn’t mean it didn’t pain Him to walk away from His hometown. We can assume that as Jesus walked away, His heart ached. He knew this would be the last time that He would walk those streets of Nazareth, yet how sad it must have been knowing His own family and neighbors wanted nothing to do with Him. That, no doubt, hurt a lot, and yet He kept going.
It is the same thing He instructed His disciples to do when they faced rejection in their witness. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:10-11).
Here we see that Jesus fully expected His disciples to be rejected just as He was rejected. That’s why He gave them instructions on what to do when it happened. So it will be with us. If we are going to follow Jesus, then we are going to be rejected. Expect it. If the Son of God was rejected, then so will we be. The question we ought to consider is that if we aren’t being rejected, then who are we caught up in pleasing? Is it others? Is it ourselves?
Jesus was only consumed with pleasing one person, and that was His Father in heaven. So much so that He willingly and voluntarily came to this earth to be rejected by His hometown, by chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and unruly crowds. He was spat upon, mocked, and whipped by His own people and government. He was hauled off to die on a cross. And it was there that He was rejected by His Father. Imagine that, bleeding, suffering, dying…crying out to the only One who could help Him and what is the response? Rejection. That’s what He gets from His Father.
Jesus is rejected by His Father, so that we won’t be. He endures the rejection that should have been ours in our place. He paid that price. He secured our salvation with His own precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. He removed all of our sins so that we will not be separated from God for all eternity.
That, my friends, is good news for us! Because the truth is, while we are in this world, we will be rejected. In fact, Jesus said that we will be hated. He said to His disciples, If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (John 15:18-19).
The thing is though, as we face this harsh reality of rejection in our witnessing here on earth, we do so in the confidence that our salvation is secure. We are His baptized believers who have the gift of the Spirit given in baptism working in us. We have been fed and nourished by His Word and his body and blood. We have everything we need and more. Our cup is overflowing, so that we may keep going with His blessing upon us…keep going to the cross and the empty tomb where a homecoming awaits us that will be filled with eternal smiles and laughter and warm embraces as we fix our eyes on Jesus for all eternity. It is as we just sang, “I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home; Earth is a desert drear, heaven is my home. Danger and sorrow stand, round me on every hand; Heaven is my fatherland, heaven is my home.”
As we share hope and teach Christ, may we keep going knowing that Jesus will never leave or forsake us. And may we pray for a faith that is like those Somalis who found their security in Christ and the salvation He has so graciously given in the home of heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.