Mark 6, 1-13 no. 17 Oct 8

As in the past, so now does Mark present the theme of rejection after astounding miracles. The rejection this time comes from his ’native place’, specifically from the synagogue attendees in Nazareth. The intended irony of the story is that these long-time neighbors and friends of Jesus should be the most willing to receive him and support him. On the contrary, they simply cannot integrate what they knew of the person of Jesus for thirty years with the wisdom he now exhibits. It is not that they challenge his teaching; Mark does not say that. What they cannot accept is what they see and hear: that Jesus is wise teacher of the meaning of the mind of God. From the fact that they cannot bring themselves to see who ’their’ Jesus really is, perhaps we can understand once again the effect of the Spirit and the Voice from Heaven at Jesus’ baptism. The Spirit and the Father changed Jesus’ life radically, and filled him with wisdom; he responded then and now with filial obedience. Jesus does work some miracles in Nazareth, but when all was over he was, amazed at their lack of faith; and for those without faith he could offer no miracle or cure. As he had said to the woman earlier, "Your faith has saved you". Could Jesus cure the unbeliever? Yes, but Mark means to stress here the logical effects of non-belief; to refuse the savior is to refuse salvation. Jesus makes sense of his friends’ rejection of him by citing a saying which appears in various forms in many literatures. Again the irony: the prophet is without honor only among his own. This statement certainly interprets what is happening in Nazareth, and reflects the general assessment that Jesus is prophet, but the statement in the ongoing story of the Gospel is a harbinger of the final rejection just 8 chapters away. In regard to the term ’’Jesus’ brothers", We should say that ’brothers’ need not mean at all physical ’brothers’; a scanning of the dictionary indicates that the term is used for one’s relatives and even for one’s fellow citizens. What decides the matter for Catholics is the belief that Mary is ever a virgin; with this truth in place there can be no physical brother of Jesus. As is had been the plan of Mark to integrate into the periods of teaching and miracles the further theme of rejection and mortal threat, so now he thinks it time that Jesus shows his concern for the time after his death. Jesus had chosen Twelve; now he sends them on their own, without him. He gives authority to them to defeat even the demon world. They should eat and dress and take lodging in such a way that it is clear to all that they are interested only in preaching repentance and driving out evil, demon and sickness. The sign of the presence of God in them is the vigorous and visible response to rejection: shake the dust from your feet in testimony that they are rejecting the call of God to let His kingdom reside in them. As part of the literary success of Mark’s story, Mark does not tell us immediately of the accomplishments of the Twelve on their first mission, which is a forecast of the church after Jesus. The Twelve have been long with Jesus and now are qualified, with the authority he has given them, to do what their Master had done. They, like him, were to offer to Israel the good news that God was ready to covenant with His people again – very good news. John Kilgallen, S.J.
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