In our passage today, we find Jesus being rejected in his home town in Nazareth. Very early in the Gospel at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus set up a new home for himself in Capurnaum. In Mark’s gospel, this is his first trip back to his home town of Nazareth.
At first the people of Nazareth seem to be impressed. They are amazed. They ask the question: Where does he get this wisdom from? But very soon, their compliments turn to contempt. Who does he think he is? He is just a common carpenter, a handyman, as one translator puts it. Who does he think he is, preaching to us? We know his mother… we know his brothers and sisters.
Rather than listening to the wisdom that Jesus has to share, we read they are offended by him and they reject him.
The theme of rejection is one that has already come up in Mark’s gospel. We have already seen Jesus rejected by the Pharisees who have taken offence at him. We have also seen Jesus in a sense rejected by his closest family members: his mother, brothers and sisters, who were so embarrassed by him that they had come to try and take control of him.
Now Jesus is rejected by his home town.
Firstly it is a reminder that if Jesus suffered rejection, then we shouldn’t think that we should be exempt from suffering rejection too. Jesus own life shows us that we cannot live in this world and not encounter difficulty and suffering of some kind or another.
Difficulty and suffering in this world are unavoidable. In a world of impermanence and change there is going to be difficulty. In a world where others have different opinions from ourselves, there is going to be conflict, challenge and even rejection. When we feel rejected, we are not alone. We have a Master and teacher who also experienced rejection.
Living in this world requires that we accept that difficulty will come.
It also requires that we find the courage to face difficulty and to make our way through it.
And that is how we see Jesus responding to rejection. For most of us, rejection comes as an enormous blow to our self-esteem and can often send us into a downward spiral of depression, breaking us down.
But Jesus remains undeterred. In fact, he seems to double his efforts. He is even more determined than ever in his mission. In the passage, directly after his rejection in his home-town, Jesus makes a plan to reach even more people than before. He sends out the 12 apostles to spread his message to as many people as possible.
Sylvester Stallone once said: “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.” That seems to have been Jesus response in this instance.
Jesus does not allow rejection to deter him. He has a purpose in his life that he is determined to fulfil whether he is rejected or not.
Being rejected by others, especially his home community must have been heart-breaking for Jesus. We read that he was amazed at their unbelief. That word amazed suggests that their rejection had come as something of a surprise. But rather than being broken down and crushed by it, his heart was broken open by it. The message of God’s love for all humanity had to be shared even more widely than before.
And so the 12 are instructed to offer their message to all. "Go to any house and stay in it…" They are not to pick and choose. The message is not just for one group of people. The message is for all. They must accept hospitality from anyone. It goes beyond social and religious barriers.
But in verse 11, we see that the message will not be welcomed by everyone. In face of such rejection, what is important is not to be discouraged. “Shake off the dust” and continue the journey.
But there is a promise, that the lives of those who do welcome the good news of Jesus can be transformed. The disciples are given the same authority as Jesus: to heal the sick and cast out demons.
What can healing the sick and casting out demons mean for us today? Perhaps it means liberating those who are imprisoned by sadness and discouragement, giving hope to those who think that their lives have no meaning and no purpose.
In order to do this we ourselves must trust and remain rooted in the message of God’s infinite and boundless love for all humanity.
May rejection not break us down and limit our love, but break-open our hearts and make us even more determined to share it with everyone.
What are the moments in your life where you have experienced rejection?
How did you respond at the time?
Did the rejection help you to grow? Or did you feel yourself being crushed under its weight?
How does Jesus response to rejection influence or inspire you?