This summer we are taking a look at Jesus Unfiltered. You know these days how you can take a photo
with a digital camera and manipulate it to look just like you want it. People have a tendency to do that
with Jesus. It is a version of the idea of humans making God in our image rather than accepting that
humanity was originally created in God’s image. Big difference. It’s what happens when we take individual
verses of Scripture and twist them to support our own agenda. We may have heard of government
officials doing it recently, but leaders both religious and secular have been doing that for millennia
. And, it is something that we have to watch out for too. If we think that Jesus always thinks just the
way we think, has the same perspective that we have, we might have to consider whether we are adding
our own filters to our picture of Jesus. Some of us want to candy coat Jesus, making him always sweet
and nice. That too is an over simplification. This week we look at a time in Jesus’ life when thinks weren’t
all sweetness and light. Jesus is returning to his hometown after teaching around the countryside and both
sides of the Sea of Galilee, performing miraculous healings, and word has gotten back to Nazareth. Are they
going to throw a parade for the returning Jesus? Probably not.
Mark 5:21-43 (NIV)
1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.
2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who
heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked.
“What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles
he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of
James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took
offense at him. 4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town,
among his relatives and in his own home.”5 He could not do any miracles there,
except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their
lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.7 Calling the
Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over
impure spirits. 8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a
staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.
10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place
will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as
a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that people should repent.
13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
No, there were no welcome home parades for Jesus in Nazareth. Why do you think they rejected him?
Jealously? They didn’t expect the Jesus they knew to be able to do anything like this? Their preconceived
notions about him prevented them from seeing who he really is?
Our Bible translations say that they “took offense at him.” First, what could he have said that would be
so offensive? And no doubt they were. In Luke’s version of this incident, Jesus’ “friends and neighbors”
were so offended that they tried to throw him off a cliff! (c.f. Luke 4:16)
But the word that our Bibles translate as “offense” also has a connotation of being tripped up or being
caught in a trap. What about Jesus could have trapped them or tripped them up? Could it be who they
thought he was? He’s a carpenter or a builder. He can’t be as an amazing teacher as he seems.
Do we do that? Could we miss something important because the message comes from someone we don’t
expect? They look different. We don’t think that they could possibly know much about God. Are they too
young? Do we dismiss someone because we don’t think that there is anything that we could possibly learn
People who are less experienced with the church can often see things we can’t. They haven’t developed the
blinders of “That’s the way we’ve always done it” or “We tried that once, and it didn’t work.” We need to be
careful. God often uses the most unlikely messengers.
The Nazarenes thought Jesus was a very unlikely messenger. They rejected him utterly and completely.
Like I mentioned before, in Luke’s version they tried to through him off a cliff. They didn’t succeed, but
what if they had? Killing the one who has come to save you.
Have you ever gone to the doctor’s office because you didn’t feel well or something might be seriously wrong?
You’re sitting in the exam room. The nurse has taken your vitals and asked you about your problem. He or she
leaves, and you are sitting in there waiting for the doctor. Five minutes, ten minutes, then the door opens and
the doctor doesn’t look old enough to have graduated from high school let alone medical school. How can this
person help me, save me?!
Your mouth drops open a bit as you try to process this information. But within half a second you do, and it is
a good thing too because this person can help you. This person may even be saving your life. What happens if
we reject this person? Well, maybe we can go to another doctor, but maybe we can’t.
There is only one Jesus. The Nazarenes are lost. Because they are lost now in the narrative, does that mean
that they are lost forever? Not necessarily. We know that Jesus brothers rejected him as Messiah before his
death and resurrection. (c.f. Mark 3:20-21, 31-32; John 7:2-5) But after Jesus’ resurrection some of his
brothers became great leaders in the church. James was the leader of the Jerusalem church. He and Jude
wrote letters that made their way into the New Testament.
The current rejection may be merely part of their path to belief. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians chapter 3,
“As the Lord has assigned each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” Paul
is talking against divisions within the church here, but his point is that we all have our role. We don’t know
where we are in the cycle. However, God has given us our task. Then, God will do God’s part. We might see
rejection, but we might be preparing the ground for seed that someone else will plant.
To extend this metaphor, what we perceive as lostness, may be the ground being fertilized and prepared for
seed by you. It may be soil where nothing will ever grow. We don’t know. It’s not our decision to make.
There was a woman that attended an Episcopal church. She worked in a bookstore. One day as she arrived at
work, she encountered a man dressed as a Buddhist Monk. She asked him if he was looking for anything in
particular. “Yes,” he answered softly, “I would like to know about Jesus.” She told him where he could find the
books about Jesus and turned to continue opening the shop, but he called her back. “No,” he said, “Don’t show
me any more books, tell me what you believe.” “My Episcopal soul shivered,” the woman said later. But she
gulped and told him everything she could think of.’ (Michael L Lindvull, Feasting on the Word…, Kindle ed,
That brings us to the next part of our Scripture narrative. Jesus’ hometown rejected him. He may have been
disappointed, but he didn’t let that stop him. He left Nazareth, and he kept on teaching in village after village.
He also commissioned the Twelve to go out to even more places.
The Nazarenes may have wondered who Jesus the Carpenter thought he was teaching with such wisdom in
synagogue. The next part of the passage tells us. Jesus is the one with the authority to share his power with
others to be able to reach more and more people.
Our unfiltered Jesus has some challenging orders for his missionaries. They were traveling very light. They
had to depend on the kindness of strangers. Whether the people listened or not, they were to keep going.
As we heard earlier in Ezekiel, [The Lord says,] “Whether they listen or fail to listen – for they are a rebellious
people – they will know a prophet has been among them” (Ez 2:5).
It can be easy to be troubled by the verse in Mark “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave
that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (6:11)
One commentator suggested that this may be a warning to the people of the town and give them an opportunity
to see the light. (Efrain Agosto, Feasting…., Kindle ed, location 7701).
Is that sugar coated Jesus? We don’t like what Jesus said, so we try to soften it? Maybe, but Jesus has already
told us in Mark 3:28 that “People can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,” except for
blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which some scribes did by saying that Jesus power did not come from the Holy
Spirit but from Satan. But EVERYTHING ELSE can be forgiven. Even the rejection of Jesus and the gospel
message, which even his disciples will eventually do.
Jonah in the Older Testament was told to go to Nineveh to tell them that God would punish them for their
evil deeds. Jonah didn’t want to go because he knew that if they repented that God would be merciful, and
Jonah didn’t think that was fair. They did repent, and God did not destroy them.
We know that Jesus forgave the disciples who deserted him the night that he was arrested. We know that his
brothers became leaders in the early church.
So, even if a village and all the people in it initially rejected Jesus’ message and his disciples does not mean
that they are destined to always reject it. Again we don’t know. They may reject it when we offer it, but because
of us, the next time they may be more receptive.
What Jesus teaches us both through his own experience in Nazareth and with his instructions to the Twelve
is that when we try to share the love of Jesus, there are those who are going to reject that love. It seems
strange that anyone would reject the power of God’s love. Why would anyone do that? Part of it is because
this is a love over which we have no control. We don’t get to decide if someone is worthy or not. That was
Jonah’s big problem. He didn’t think the Ninivites were worthy of mercy and compassion after the evil
they perpetrated on the Israelite people.
God can extend God’s love to whomever God wants, whether or not they look like us, think like us, have
the same priorities, have made lifestyle choices we don’t understand, love people we consider unlovable,
done things that we consider unforgivable.
People can find that all-encompassing unpredictable love threatening. In Jesus’ day the authorities found
it so threatening that they executed Jesus for it. That is the most extreme form of rejection. Killing the one
who has come to save you. (Karoline Lewis, “Rejection,” Dear Working Preacher, workingpreacher.org)
The fact that some will reject the message of the good news, of God’s love, of God’s rescue mission fo
r humanity does not relieve us from the responsibility of sharing that message.
After Jesus extreme rejection in Nazareth, he sends out the Twelve. However, they now know what they’re
getting into. If people can reject Jesus, not just religious leaders that were threatened by his power, people
can reject anyone with the message.
As Jesus said to the disciples at the Last Supper, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”
But still, he charges them, charges us, to spread the news, even if we’re scared of getting it wrong, even if
we’re afraid of offending. Why? Because the message of God’s love for the world is too important not to share.
As, Paul says in Romans 10:14-15, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can
they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to
them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those
who bring good news!””
If God wanted to, God could input all this information in everyone’s brains, but God doesn’t do it that way. This
good news is spread from person to person. We share God’s love by showing love to our neighbor. It is very
relational, demonstrating the relationship that God wants to have with us.
How do we do it? We probably won’t have a perfect stranger come up to us one day and asked us to tell them
about Jesus. It could happen. It’s more likely to happen to me in my vocation as a pastor by someone stopping
by the church office or something, but it hasn’t happened very often.
Does our walk match our talk? Does what we do match up with what we say we believe?
“A powerful illustration of the integrity and balance between “doing” the word and “speaking” the word
was offered by one Hugh Thompson at the commencement exercises at Emory University several years
ago. Honorary degrees were being awarded; the recipients made the requisite speeches. As is often the
case, the students chatted through the whole ceremony. In fact, there was only one moment when they
actually listened. “It was when a man named Hugh Thompson was speaking. Thompson was probably
the least educated man on the platform.…He…did not finish college, choosing instead to enlist in the Army,
where he became a helicopter pilot. “On March 16, 1968, he was flying a routine patrol in Vietnam when he
happened to fly over the village of Mai Lai just as American troops … were slaughtering dozens of unarmed…
villagers—old men, women, and children. Thompson set his helicopter down between the troops and the
remaining…civilians. He ordered his tail-gunner to train the helicopter guns on the American soldiers, and
he ordered the gunmen to stop killing the villagers.…Hugh Thompson’s actions saved the lives of dozens of
people…he was almost court-martialed.…It was thirty years before the Army…awarded him the Soldier’s Medal.
“As he stood at the microphone, the…rowdy student body grew still.” And then Thompson talked about his faith.
Simple words. Speaking of what his parents taught him as a child Thompson said, “they taught me, ‘Do unto
others as you would have them do onto you.’” The students were amazed at these “words of Jesus, words from
Sunday school, words from worship, words of Christian testimony…they leapt to their feet and gave him a standing
ovation.” (Tom Long, Pulpit Resources 32 (January-March 2004): 39. from Feasting on the Word, Kindle ed
“Thompson’s words about his faith had weight because the man had obviously “walked the talk.” In the same
way, the church will not be heard if what we do as Christians is incongruous with what we say about our faith.”
(Agosto, location 7637)
How do people see us? We don’t have to do anything as dramatic as Hugh Thompson. Are we authentic?
Do our actions match what we say? Do they know that we are Christians or a follower of Jesus? Do they
know that we do what we do the way we do it because we follow Jesus? Are we willing to talk about Jesus at all?
In the end some people are going to say, “Okay, I hear you, but I just don’t buy it,” or they will dismiss us
entirely. Does that mean that we failed? No, as the Lord said to Ezekiel, “You must speak my words to them
whether they listen or fail to listen” (Ezekiel 2:7).
The good news of God’s love is too good to keep to ourselves. And that is Jesus Unfiltered.