He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. 2On 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! 3Is 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 offence at him. 4Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11If 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.’ 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Translation: And Jesus went out from that place and came to his home town, and his disciples follow him. When the sabbath came to be, he began to teach in the synagogue and the many hearing were struck intensively, saying, "'Where did he get these things?' and 'What wisdom has been given to him?' and 'Have such powers come to be in his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?'" And they were being scandalized by him.
And Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in his home town, and among his own kin, and in his house." And he was not able to do any deed of power there, except a few sick people to lay his hands healing. And he marveled by their un-faith. And he went round about the villages teaching.
And he called to the twelve and began to send them two by two, and he was giving them authority over unclean spirits, and he charged them that they may not take anything on the way except a staff only--no bread, no bag, no copper coin in the belt--but binding on sandals, and you may not put on two coats.
He said to them, "If where you might enter into a house, remain there until you might go out from there. And whoever might not receive you, nor having heard you, shake off the dust under your feet into a witness to them." And going out, they proclaimed that they might change. And they cast out many demons, and they were anointing with oil the many sick ones, and they were healing.
Background and situation: Jesus had previously been operating around the Sea of Galilee, using Capernaum as a home base. After a foray into gentile territory (5:1-20) marked by an encounter with a demoniac, Jesus returned to the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee, whereupon he healed the woman with a hemorrhage and, in his most dramatic act of power in Mark's gospel, raised Jairus' daughter from death (5:21-43).
The Matthean parallel is Matthew 13: 54-58. Luke has a similar story of Jesus interacting with people from his hometown. The Lukan story shares few details with Mark, except for the comment by Jesus that "no prophet is acceptable in his own country" (Lk 4:24). John 4:44 also has: "...for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honour in the prophet’s own country..."
The statement is at least somewhat proverbial. Similar expressions appear in classical literature of that time and before. Greek philosophers liked to grumble that their own people didn't appreciate them.
Prophets and their hometowns: The "Jesus movement" is determined by the future and not the past. It looks forward to the "reign of God" whose "way" is to be followed. As Jesus had said in Mark 3:21, 31-35, the "new community" is based in "whoever does the will of God" and not on kinship or family.*
In 6:1-7, the "Jesus movement" is also de-coupled from the traditions of Jesus' home town, his patrida. With the possible exception of the family, nowhere do the ties of the past affect a person so much as those of the small home town.
This would have been Nazareth, of course, which is about 25 miles to the southwest of Capernaum. Curiously, Mark does not actually name the town. By not condescending to name it, is Mark being passive-aggressive toward the village which took such a hostile attitude toward his hero?
In Mark's gospel, this will be Jesus' last appearance in a synagogue. There, in the synagogue, itself an icon of tradition, his kinfolk express suspicion of his "deeds of power." To them, he is still a mere "carpenter"--tektone--and a mere "son of Mary".
Carpenters, a respected profession today, were toward the bottom of the social structure of first century Israel. They ranked even below peasant farmers. (This is, incidentally, the only place in the New Testament where Jesus himself is described as a tektone.)
Further, to call Jesus "son of Mary" is a possible slur upon Jesus' questionable parentage. The normal reference would be to the father, not the mother. (This is the only time in the New Testament that Jesus is referred to as "son of Mary.")
His kinfolk "took offense"--eskandalizonto. They were "scandalized" by Jesus' anti-establishment renown. "Where did he get these things?" they say, with the implication: "Certainly not from us!"
They do not "faith," meaning they are unwilling to follow the "way" exemplified by Jesus, which in turn means that Jesus is not able to do "deeds of power"--oudemian dunamin--among them. (How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.)
These associations of the past--family, hometown, synagogue, "the way we've always done it"--will not determine the future. They constitute the status quo which will be overturned in the "reign of God." In the "Jesus movement," it is the future, not the past, which determines actions in the present. The future "reign of God" constitutes the "way" (6:8) which is to be lived now.
Jesus accepts his rejection with the sardonic and proverbial observation that prophets are often "without honor" among their own people. Jesus' statement is, in effect, repeated three times. Prophets are generally honored, he says, but not in their hometown, nor among their clan, or even in their own house! Ain't it the truth! Jesus leaves his hometown and continues his mission among the other rural villages of Galilee (6:6).
The mission of the twelve: Jesus then "calls to"--proskaleitai--the disciples. The disciples had originally been called (3:14-15) "to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons." They were called, in other words, to constitute a "new community" that had a specific mission.
They have already done the first part of the mission--"to be with him"--and now turn to their second purpose, which is to be "sent" and "have authority over the unclean spirits."
Jesus sends the disciples out two-by-two. They are allowed means of travel (staff, sandals), but not means of day-to-day nourishment (bread, money). They will be entirely dependent on the hospitality of those they encounter. They will be sojourners.
Note, too, that they will be going into houses. (Were these "safe houses"?) Some houses, however, would not be "safe" because the people there would neither "receive" nor "hear" them. In that case, the disciples are to "shake off the dust under the feet as a witness against them."
Opponents are not to be fought. Rather, the Jesus movement avoids them and leaves them to their own devices--"shake off the dust"--and lets it be known that they are opponents--"witness against them." This isolates whatever opposition there might have been, while keeping the movement positive and on a forward trajectory.
Image: Jesus rejected at Nazareth, Jeff Watkins
*Notwithstanding that, it is possible that, historically speaking, the early "Jesus movement" was at least partly based in kinship. Three of the four brothers of Jesus named in this lection also share the names of three of the twelve disciples. Some think that these three were members of the Twelve, in which case one-fourth of the original inner circle of 12 would have come from Jesus' own family. After Jesus death, his brother, James, headed the church from Jerusalem until his own death in AD 62 (or AD 69).
On the other hand, these names were all relatively common at the time. In fact, outside of James, and rather remarkably, none of the other siblings of Jesus appear to have been active in the early church.