So far in Mark’s Gospel the primary focus has been on crowds eager to meet Jesus, to hear him teach, to be healed, to bring friends to be healed, to have demons cast out. But that’s only one part of the picture. There are of course the religious leaders plotting against him and there are also others who resist. We’ve seen the example of the community who would rather have kept their herd of pigs than see a man set free from demons and they weren’t alone.
Jesus arrives home and instead of being welcomed, he is rejected. They say that familiarity breeds contempt and we see that here. Their attitude is “who exactly does Jesus think he is?” They think they know him, they know his family. He’s the carpenter’s son. Now he is getting ideas above his station and wants to teach and lead them. Notice that all of this is in the face of his miracles. Healing the sick and casting out demons is not enough to convince them.
They are offended by Jesus. He gets under their skin. You see Jesus challenges their hearts. This man who knows their thoughts, who they cannot keep secrets from, this man who won’t settle for external religiosity and morality is too much for them to bear. He takes away their false security, he bursts the bubble of their pride.
We are told that the consequence is that he is not able to do more than a few healings here. To be clear, it is not that his power is somehow weakened by their lack of faith as though he fed off of it like positive energy. Rather, I’d suggest that it was as simple as that they weren’t interested. Unlike in other places, they simply did not turn up and ask him for healing.
What this means is that because they are scandalised and offended by Jesus, because they cannot humble themselves, they miss out. They do not benefit from his grace. There is a warning.
So, we can draw out two challenges for us. The first is that the one and only thing that should cause offence to those we live amongst should be the Gospel, should be the Cross. We know that the Cross causes offense and becomes a stumbling block to proud hearts. We don’t need to add anything to it.
Secondly, there is the challenge to us. Do we take offence? Do we take offence at Jesus and the Gospel? Does it seem too simple and easy; does it insult our intellects? Or do we recoil from the idea that sin makes our lives ugly and that we cannot sort ourselves out? Given that the vast majority of my readers are already believers, I suspect that few are taking absolute offence at Jesus. However, we can still take offence. We can react badly to God’s Word disagreeing with us. We can close our hearts because what someone says when preaching or when counselling us irritates. We can decide that parts of the Bible (all of which is Christ’s word) are offensive and unacceptable to our modern culture.
Be careful that in your offence, you don’t close yourself off to the healing, forgiving, restoring grace of Christ.