Lesson Focus: Jesus is rejected in his hometown, and he warns the disciples that they’ll face rejection, too. However, we shouldn’t focus on rejection because God is with us.
Lesson Outcomes: Through this lesson, students should:
Understand that rejection is a normal part of the Christian life.
Learn to focus on the mission to which we have been called.
Be encouraged to focus not on the inevitable rejection we will receive but on Christ’s presence and power among us as we engage in our mission to love God and others as ourselves.
Amazing Unbelief Do you remember Dikembe Mutombo? He is a Hall of Fame professional basketball player for 18 years. He’s from the Congo and rather tall, 7’2” to be exact. He has the second-most blocked shots in NBA history. I remember watching him play, and after he’d block someone’s shot, he’d wave his index finger back and forth and shake his head no, taunting the player who he’d just blocked, heaping a bit more shame and humiliation on the poor soul.
To some, his finger-wagging became so prolific and obnoxious that the NBA began giving him a technical foul if he continued to do it. So Mutombo adjusted, and instead of waving his finger at the opposing team or player, he’d wave it at the crowd.
He’s still around these days, notably on commercials, particularly one from GEICO. I’m sure Mutombo is a nice guy; in fact, he’s done a lot of humanitarian work, but boy, he’s the king of rejection.
In our passage today, Jesus receives a Dikembe Mutombo-style rejection in his hometown.
Previously… Before heading to his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus and his followers had been in a town on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. It was there that Jesus was confronted by a man whose daughter was deathly ill. The man wanted Jesus to come to his house so that his daughter might be healed.
Jesus agrees, and he and his disciples head out for the man’s house. While they were on their way or at least trying to move, they were surrounded by a great crowd. Somewhere in that great multitude of people was a woman who had a bleeding problem that had plagued her for 12 years. She had spent all she had on doctors who promised to be able to help her, but with no success.
So desperate for the healing that would allow her to regain a place within her society, she hatches a plan. If only she could touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak, she would be healed. She just knew it. And so, she makes her way through the crowd. If only they knew how defiled she was because of her condition, they all would have stood back so as not to catch her uncleanness.
Finally, she reaches Jesus and touches his cloak, and instantly she was healed. Jesus knew someone had touched him as well and inquired as to who it was. The woman, grateful for her salvation, fesses up and is blessed by Jesus and sent on her way.
Meanwhile, the man’s daughter has died, and a servant has come to inform his master. Upon hearing the news, the man tells Jesus that there’s no more reason for Jesus to go to his house. Undaunted, Jesus insists that the girl is only asleep. Upon arrival at the home, Jesus heals the little girl, who was 12 years old.
Trouble at Home Mark tells us that after this incident, Jesus and his followers leave that place and head to his hometown. It’s the sabbath, and Jesus does what all good Jews would have done on the sabbath; he goes to the synagogue. Now, synagogues didn’t have a specifically designated preacher, like many churches have today. Any Jewish male could read the scriptures or provide a bit of insight or interpretation. No doubt, Jesus had taught in his hometown’s synagogue before.
This time might have been different because Jesus has begun to gain some notoriety for the miracles he’s done. The ancient world was rather strictly structured. If you tried to exceed the level you were born into, others might take offense and try to bring you down a notch or two.
Now, Jesus isn’t trying to brag or intentionally flout his status as a great teacher or healer, but some sure seem to take it that way. After all, they know who Jesus is. They’ve watched him grow up. They know who his mother is and the questionable circumstances around which he was conceived. They know what he did to help provide for his family before he left and became the talk of the country. He was just a common laborer, working with wood.
We often translate the word Mark uses here as a carpenter, but that might be a little limiting. The term used refers to someone who works with wood in any type of manner. So maybe Jesus made tables, and maybe Jesus built barns. We just don’t know.
Either way, a laborer who works with wood wasn’t exactly high on the socio-economic ladder. I’m sure the townsfolk are wondering who it is that Jesus thinks he is?
Anyway, Jesus gets up and teaches in the synagogue. We don’t know what he says, but it was not well received. The town’s folks exclaim, “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 these hands! Is 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?”
These words aren’t spoken curiously. They’re spoken with a bit of disgust and sarcasm. Simple carpenters don’t deserve the kind of honor that Jesus’ words and behavior ask of them to show. Then Mark tells us that “they took offense at him.” This isn’t just a simple offense, as in you told a “your mom” joke or called someone fat. They were scandalized. That’s the word Mark uses is, scandalized. Everything that Jesus has said and all that he’s done has caused the town’s folks to stumble in anger. And they reject him because of it. It’s like the townsfolks are Dikembe Mutombo, and they have swatted Jesus’ jump shot twelve rows up into the seats and are now wagging their finger at him, telling him to take that weak sauce somewhere else.
In verse 4, Jesus voices his lack of shock at the rejection he receives in his hometown. It’s nothing new. It seems to be the way things have been for so very long. If the prophets who carried God’s message to Israel were rejected, well, then Jesus might accept the same fate. Even so, Jesus was “amazed at their unbelief.”
Shake the Dust off… Undaunted, he leaves his hometown and heads to the surrounding villages, resuming his teaching mission. It’s there that Jesus calls his twelve disciples together and prepares to send them out on a mission of proclaiming the kingdom of God. He even gives them the ability to cast out unclean spirits.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’d freak me out a bit. It’s like Jesus is saying, “Oh, and by the way, you’re going to come across some nasty unclean spirits. You’ll need to deal with them, ok? Don’t worry. I’ve got your back.”
Jesus also sends them out with not much luggage. They’re only supposed to take the clothes on their back, a staff, and the sandals on their feet. They’re going out without much support so that they can learn dependence, I suppose. God will provide for them through the hospitality of others.
But right before he sends them out, Jesus gives them one final bit of advice. “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If 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.”
It looks like to me that Jesus is preparing them for the same kind of Dikembe Mutombo rejection that he had just received. Not everyone they approach will welcome them. In fact, it’s not going to be just individuals that reject the disciples; it’s going to be whole towns!
Can you imagine that kind of rejection? Either the rejection that Jesus receives in his hometown or the type of the disciples will receive as they go out proclaiming the good news of salvation and healing that Jesus brings? Of course, we’ve all experienced rejection, but like this? I don’t know.
The last bit of advice that Jesus gives them is a bit curious. He tells them to “shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”
Remember, they’re all wearing sandals. They’re walking around, sometimes on dusty streets, and you know how feet can get in the summertime. I’m sure that if you have kids, you’ve made your kids stand outside and practically take all their clothes off before entering the house so as not to drag their filth into the nice clean house.
In those days, Jewish Rabbis would shake the dust off themselves at Israel’s border after being in Gentile territory. They didn’t want to contaminate their holy land, their home, and their families. So, Jesus might be referencing that practice.
But I wonder if there’s something more to his instructions, too. Is Jesus telling them to shake off their rejection as a way of reminding them that rejection is going to happen, yet they must persist in their God-given mission? Regardless, it’s a testimony to the rejection they receive.
So What? I think these two stories, the story about Jesus’ hometown rejection and the warning of rejection that he gives his disciples, are intentionally put together to highlight that we’re bound to face rejection as followers of Jesus. Some will gently reject us, whether we are merely telling someone about the good news or seeking to love them like God has las us. Others will reject us like Dikembe Mutombo, with a solid finger-wagging.
Some will deride the belief we have and the good news we share. Some will say that loving others in the same way that God has loved us, in that self-sacrificial, cheek turning, loving our enemy, is unrealistic and impractical. None of those criticisms matter. None of the rejection matters. For Mark and Jesus, the story goes on. The gospel will not be stopped.
If we are rejected, we are in good company. Jesus is rejected in his hometown. The disciples are rejected on their mission. And I wonder if in these stories there is a bit of foreshadowing, Jesus will face the ultimate rejection of the cross. And yet, the gospel was not stopped.
There’s a lot of fear out there today. I think the church in America is afraid that it’s being rejected all over the place. I believe we are worried that the church’s position of privilege and comfort has had since the beginning of our country is going away. And, honestly, I think there’s some truth to that.
But it is not a reason for despair. It is a reason for hope. It’s a reason for faith. Because the gospel will not be stopped, Dikembe Mutombo will not be able to block the game-winning shot because the resurrection and ascension is God’s ultimate win.
So, be encouraged in the face of rejection, for it does not have the last word. We are to shake the dust off our feet and continue our mission of loving God and others as ourselves because God is with us.
Specific Discussion Questions: Read the text aloud. Then, read the text to yourself quietly. Read it slowly, as if you were very unfamiliar with the story.
Share a story about a time you were rejected. Why were you rejected? How did you feel?
Jesus was rejected in his hometown. Why was he rejected? How do you think he felt about that? Have you ever been rejected by those whom you love?
What was Jesus’ response to his rejection? Why do you think he responded the way that he did? How is his reaction different than what yours might be?
After Jesus’ is rejected in his hometown, he sends his disciples out on a mission. What is it that he is sending them to do?
Jesus gives the disciples a list of things to take and not to take. The packing list is relatively small. Why do you think that is?
In verse 10, Jesus gives them specific instructions about how to enter and leave the places they are going. What are they supposed to do if the people are hospitable and willing to hear their message? What are they to do if they are not received well?
What do you make of Jesus’ command that they “shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them?”
Jesus seems to be preparing his followers for possible rejection as they seek to preach and proclaim the Kingdom of God. Why would it be necessary for Jesus’ followers to be prepared for rejection as they proclaim God’s Kingdom in word and deed?
From this passage, both in Jesus’ behavior and his instruction to the disciples, we get the feeling that being rejected by the world around us for proclaiming God’s Kingdom is to be expected. These days, the church seems overly fearful that we are losing our place of privilege in society. Do you think that is the case? Is the church’s posture generally based on fear? What would Jesus have to say about that? Do you think Jesus expects that Christians and the church should inhabit the privileged places of our world from this passage? Why or why not?
In light of what Jesus says and does here, what should be our posture as we embark on the same kind of mission that Jesus gave his first disciples?