McFarland

Wednesday Bible Study by Pastor Tim

Light a candle

Read Mark 6:1-13

Mark’s story is essentially one of disruption. At the beginning, the Holy Spirit disrupts the heavens and descends on Jesus (1:10). At the end, when Jesus is publicly executed, the temple curtain is ripped in two (15:38). Yet women at his tomb discover that Jesus is not dead and buried, but alive, ahead of them (16:5-7). Normal expectations and certainties are upended and disrupted.

The word “disruption” may be the last word we want to hear, after nearly 16 months of having our lives disrupted by the Covid pandemic. Disruption may not be the word we would choose to convey good news in our current context.

Yet for Mark’s story, it is important to ask, “How does the reign of God turn the world upside down? Who is being disrupted and why? What conventions, certainties, and beliefs does Jesus disrupt for the sake of the good news?”

Disruption comes into play as we consider this part of the story in chapter 6. In the first part of our reading, Jesus returns to his hometown in Nazareth of Galilee. Then, Jesus sends his disciples to proclaim the reign of God in villages beyond Nazareth.

Jesus’ homecoming gets mixed reviews. The locals are astounded by his teaching, but they refer to him as “the son of Mary” (6:3a), which could reflect the local sentiment that Jesus has abandoned his mother and siblings. But Mark adds that the residents of Nazareth take offense at him (6:3b), which implies rejection. Jesus himself likens their reaction to the rejection of the prophets (similar to Ezekiel’s call in our first reading this Sunday, Ezekiel 2:1-5). Throughout history, prophets have faced rejection and hostility when they proclaim God’s Word of justice, freedom, and even healing.

Because of the rejection of the local town, Jesus’ power is hindered. Yet—on a somewhat humorous note—Mark says that he still was able to heal a few people (6:6).

In contrast, the next scene has Jesus sending the disciples on an outward journey. While Jesus is blocked in his hometown, his followers enter the homes of strangers and bring good news. Jesus sends them in twos (6:7) to demonstrate that ministry is a partnership, not a solo flight. He also instructs them to stay as guests in people’s homes (6:10) to form lasting relationships and not seek material gain.

The overarching message of this second scene is that the disciples receive Jesus’ authority to preach, teach and heal. They are sent by Jesus to proclaim a disruptive kingdom. But as Luther Seminary professor Matt Skinner points out, “this transformative authority expresses itself in powerlessness, dependency, and relationships.” (Skinner, “Connections,” Year B, vol. 3, p. 141) Jesus’ authority disrupts, not by controlling others, but in the upside-down way of crucifixion. Disciples are sent to die and rise in Christ, to serve in gentleness and mutual dependency.

Jesus is rejected by his hometown, perhaps because it is too insular and protective of its own power. The disciples who journey in Jesus’ name will also face rejection by those who resist being transformed by the gospel. The shadow of the cross hangs over these scenes. The reign of God is fully displayed in the powerlessness of a man killed on Golgotha.

Yet as we know, death itself will be disrupted three days later.

Reflection Questions

1) Share a time when you experienced disruption. Was it a positive or negative experience? What did you learn about yourself?

2) Why do the locals of Nazareth take offense at Jesus? Why are they threatened by him?

3) What details about the disciples’ journey strike you? What resources do you need to share the transforming life of Christ?

4) What speaks to you in this story? What is challenging, disturbing and/or comforting?

Extinguish the candle