Friday, December 26, 2014

Jesus, You're Not Welcome (A Reflection on Mark 6:1-6)

Christmas. The angels announced Jesus’ coming. The visitors from the East welcomed him. The shepherds were rejoiced and visited him. But his own people did not welcome him. Jesus was rejected. I have had many friends in the past. Friends who would ‘die’ for me, drink with me, smoke and share cigarette with me. When I told them that I want to follow Jesus seriously and invites them to join me, they rejected me (Even my mother and family members, at first, accused me of being radical). My hundreds of friends now reduce to dozen of good faithful friends. Christmas reminds me of that truth.

The story of Jesus is a story of rejection. The apostle John summarised that fact when he wrote, “He came to his own people, and even they rejected him” (John 1:11). It’s sadly ironic that the people in general have arrogantly displayed a “No Trespassing” sign to their Creator.  Mark 6:1-6 is especially touching because Jesus is rejected by the people of Nazareth, his hometown where he grew up. No doubt, they had heard reports of his powerful teaching and healing ministry throughout Galilee, and his first appearance in the local synagogue was impressive that “many people were there; and when they heard him, they were all amazed” (Mark 6:2).

’Where did he get all this?’ they asked. ‘What wisdom is this that has been given him? How does he perform miracles? Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters living here?’ And so they rejected him” (Mark 6:2-3).

Based on the people’s respond, “Isn’t he the carpenter?” they doubted Jesus’ validity because he did not have the status or prestige of a teacher such as a Pharisee. To them, he was no more than a common labourer. They amazed at his wisdom, lifestyle and godliness but because of his low status, he remains nothing to them. “Isn’t he… the son of Mary?” another respond. Do you know? In Jesus’ time, a child was always referred to as the son of his father (same also in our Iban culture. My real name is Richard anak Ramlee. ‘anak’ means, in this context, is ‘the son of.’ The Indian is more obvious, ‘A/L’ in between of their name means ‘anak lelaki.’ Same also as the use of family surname in Chinese culture). Thus, referring to Jesus as the son of Mary implied that Jesus was illegitimate (or the more harsh word would be, ‘a bastard child’). The hometown people evidently knew and remembered that Mary had become pregnant with Jesus before her marriage to Joseph.

So rather than welcoming Jesus as a teacher and healer, the people of Nazareth snubbed him as a simple village carpenter and supposed illegitimate. Jesus was obviously hurt and disappointed. Jesus said to them, “Prophets are respected everywhere except in their own hometown and by their relatives and their family” (Mark 6:4). For sure, among the people were his own relatives and family. But on the other side, their unwillingness to accept Jesus hurt them more than it did to him because, “he was not able to perform any miracles there, except that he places his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was greatly surprised, because the people did not have faith” (Mark 6:5). Truth is their rejection to the message of Jesus was also their rejection to God’s message, and their judgement would be infinitely worse than their rejection of Jesus.

Friends, be prepares to be rejected as a true Christian. Jesus clearly stated that rejection, even hatred, would be the destiny of his followers. “Because… I chose you out of the world… the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). When a friend finds out that you won’t cheating for exam with him because of your obedient to follow Christ, he may reject you. When you refuse to be compromise and defended the faith when religion lecturers or friends play a fool and talk nonsense about Jesus, when you stand up for the truth with love and conviction, you will be persecuted. Your loyalty, purity, honestly and dependability as a Christian is going to make you look as weird in the eyes of some people. Take heart!

But let’s look on the bright side now. Jesus promised a special blessing and reward for those who are rejected as his followers. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For great reward awaits you in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). Friends, you can live this life as a camouflaged ‘Christians’ avoiding confrontation and rejection. But the believers who takes a stand for what is right, even if it means losing their popularity, friends or status, is entitled for “great reward in heaven.” Not I, but Jesus promised you. This is sure assurance as Jesus is living today.

How does all of these (above) make you feel about being a follower of Jesus?

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