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Isn’t This Mary’s Son?

Isn't This Mary's Son?The story of Jesus returning to his home town entitled, A Prophet Without Honor (Mark 6), is yet another example of people, even Jesus’ neighbors, not understanding who he is. When we read the text, below, we read it from such a distance that we miss the tone, the hatred, and the resentment that people had for Jesus. Tim Keller notes in one of his sermons that the key passage is that “…they took offense at him.” Why? He’s just a Rabbi, right?

Here’s the text:

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 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? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus’ old neighborhood friends weren’t just irritated with him, they were offended by him. While many were amazed by Jesus’ teaching, just as many were ticked off. They were asking, “How can Jesus, the little runt we watched grow up, wield such wisdom, power, and authority?” And they elaborated on this.

Isn’t this the carpenter? Put another way, he’s just a blue-collar worker, slogging away in the trades. My dad’s a carpenter. Even he told me at a very early age, “If you don’t want to break you’re back for the rest of your life, go to college.” I have a friend who is a cabinet maker. He makes the kind of cabinets that get featured in magazines, museums, and multimillion dollar homes. He gets a little ticked when referred to as a carpenter. Jesus’ hometown friends were belittling him via his past trade. They hadn’t realized he’d switched careers.

Isn’t this Mary’s son? This wasn’t a simple reference to elaborate on Jesus’ background, it was a major put down. Keller reminds us this was a patrilineal society. You got your name, your status, and your identity from your dad. Jesus’ friends were saying, we know about your birth Jesus – you can’t hide anything in a small town like this. We know Mary gave birth less than nine months after she was wed. We know, Jesus, you’re a bastard!

They didn’t know Jesus’ father. In their eyes, Jesus was nothing- perhaps even lucky to be alive given the infanticide rates in those days. When you line up the above with what we’re told elsewhere, such as in John 14, we begin to see why folks might be a bit offended at Jesus.

John tells us this:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.

And then this:

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

What do you do with remarks like these? Jesus spoke and taught with an unwavering confidence in his identity. He knew exactly who he was. Do we?

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson


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