Jesus In Synagogue

Commentary On Mark 6:1-6

Mark 6:1–6 (ESV)

1 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 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?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.
And he went about among the villages teaching.

Here, I. Christ makes a visit to his own country, the place not of his birth, but of his education; that was Nazareth; where his relations were.

He had been in danger of his life among them (Lu. 4:29), and yet he came among them again; so strangely doth he wait to be gracious, and seek the salvation of his enemies. Whither he went, though it was into danger, his disciples followed him (v. 1); for they had left all, to follow him whithersoever he went.

II. There he preached in their synagogue, on the sabbath day, v. 2.

It seems, there was not such flocking to him there as in other places, so that he had no opportunity of preaching till they came together on the sabbath day; and then he expounded a portion of scripture with great clearness. In religious assemblies, on sabbath days, the word of God is to be preached according to Christ’s example. We give glory to God by receiving instruction from him.

III. They could not but own that which was very honourable concerning him.

1. That he spoke with great wisdom,

And that this wisdom was given to him, for they knew he had no learned education.

2. That he did mighty works, did them with his own hands, for the confirming of the doctrine he taught.

They acknowledged the two great proofs of the divine original of his gospel—the divine wisdom that appeared in the contrivance of it, and the divine power that was exerted for the ratifying and recommending of it; and yet, though they could not deny the premises, they would not admit the conclusion.

IV. They studied to disparage him, and to raise prejudices in the minds of people against him, notwithstanding.

All this wisdom, and all these mighty works, shall be of no account, because he had a home-education, had never travelled, nor been at any university, or bred up at the feet of any of their doctors (v. 3); Is not this the Carpenter? In Matthew, they upbraid him with being the carpenter’s son, his supposed father Joseph being of that trade. But, it seems, they could say further, Is not this the Carpenter? our Lord Jesus, it is probable, employing himself in that business with his father, before he entered upon his public ministry, at least, sometimes in journey-work.

1. He would thus humble himself,

And make himself of no reputation, as one that had taken upon him the form of a servant, and came to minister. Thus low did our Redeemer stoop, when he came to redeem us out of our low estate.

2. He would thus teach us to abhor idleness,

And to find ourselves something to do in this world; and rather to take up with mean and laborious employments, and such as no more is to be got by than a bare livelihood, than indulge ourselves in sloth. Nothing is more pernicious for young people than to get a habit of sauntering. The Jews had a good rule for this—that their young men who were designed for scholars, were yet bred up to some trade, as Paul was a tent-maker, that they might have some business to fill up their time with, and, if need were, to get their bread with.

3. He would thus put an honour upon despised mechanics,

And encourage those who eat the labour of their hands, though great men look upon them with contempt. Another thing they upbraided him with, was, the meanness of his relations; “He is the son of Mary; his brethren and sisters are here with us; we know his family and kindred;” and therefore, though they were astonished at his doctrine (v. 2), yet they were offended at his person (v. 3), were prejudiced against him, and looked upon him with contempt; and for that reason would not receive his doctrine, though ever so well recommended.

May we think that if they had not known his pedigree, but he had dropped among them from the clouds, without father, without mother, and without descent, they would have entertained him with any more respect? Truly, no; for in Judea, where this was not know, that was made an objection against him (Jn. 9:29); As for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. Obstinate unbelief will never want excuses.

V. Let us see how Christ bore this contempt.

1. He partly excused it, as a common thing,

And what might be expected, though not reasonably or justly (v. 4); A prophet is not despised anywhere but in his own country. Some exceptions there may be to this rule; doubtless many have got over this prejudice, but ordinarily it holds good, that ministers are seldom so acceptable and successful in their own country as among strangers; familiarity in the younger years breeds a contempt, the advancement of one that was an inferior begets envy, and men will hardly set those among the guides of their souls whose fathers they were ready to set with the dogs of their flock; in such a case therefore it must not be thought hard, it is common treatment, it was Christ’s, and wisdom is profitable to direct to other soil.

2. He did some good among them,

Notwithstanding the slights they put upon him, for he is kind even to the evil and unthankful; He laid his hands upon a few sick folks, and healed them. Note, It is generous, and becoming the followers of Christ, to content themselves with the pleasure and satisfaction of doing good, though they be unjustly denied the praise of it.

3. Yet he could there do no such mighty works,

At least not so many, as in other places, because of the unbelief that prevailed among the people, by reason of the prejudices which their leaders instilled into them against Christ, v. 5. It is a strange expression, as if unbelief tied the hands of omnipotence itself; he would have done as many miracles there as he had done elsewhere, but he could not, because people would not make application to him, nor sue for his favours; he could have wrought them, but they forfeited the honour of having them wrought for them. Note, By unbelief and contempt of Christ men stop the current of his favours to them, and put a bar in their own door.

4. He marvelled because of their unbelief, v. 6.

We never find Christ wondering but at the faith of the Gentiles that were strangers, as the centurion (Mt. 8:10), and the woman of Samaria, and at the unbelief of Jews that were his own countrymen. Note, The unbelief of those that enjoy the means of grace, is a most amazing thing.

5. He went round about the village, teaching.

If we cannot do good where we would, we must do it where we can, and be glad if we may have any opportunity, though but in the villages, of serving Christ and souls. Sometimes the gospel of Christ finds better entertainment in the country villages, where there is less wealth, and pomp, and mirth, and subtlety, than in the populous cities.

Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible

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