The Scandal of Christ Among “Believers” | Mark 6:1–3
He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 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? 3 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.
It’s difficult to imagine that the Christian sitting in the pew next to us is, well, not a Christian. It’s even more difficult to imagine that you might not be the believer that you claim to be. Even so, we see a repeated theme in the gospels—members of the God-believing covenant community coming to Christ, having good initial reactions to Him, but ultimately rejecting Him in their own lives. In this passage, as well as the following verses, we not only see believer who prove themselves to be unbelievers, but we see it among those closest to Christ.
Jesus travels about twenty miles southwest from Capernaum to where He grew up—Nazareth. The local man who was gaining national fame returned with His twelve disciples (v. 7). Unlike some depictions of Jesus, He did not perform miracles as a child; He grew up normally with His brothers and sisters, learning a trade. Even so, now in the synagogue for the Sabbath service, He teaches with a level of wisdom they had never seen before, performs miracles, and they are amazed.
However, their amazement turned their hearts to scandal, not worship. The word for “offence” in v. 3 is the same word used in 4:17 of the seed that took root in the stony ground—the plant grew, but immediately “fell away” at the first sign of tribulation. Here, they know a man without intensive religious training—He worked in their community not long ago with His hands. Perhaps they assume God doesn’t use the mundane or ordinary to accomplish His purposes, though He does (1 Cor 1:18–31). Perhaps they’re a bit of jealous. Whatever the case, familiarity breeds contempt and their hearts grow hard.
Having a good first impression of Jesus, even awe, is no evidence of conversion. Someone may talk about the truth in His teaching and the wonders that He works and still reject what He commands of their own lives. The scandal of Jesus is that He brings the truth too near, too personal, so those merely masquerading as believers will never have Him.