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Honoring Jesus, the Carpenter-King
Is there a shop you visit very often, one where you’ve become familiar with the shopkeeper’s face and they also know you? Well, imagine if one day, the shopkeeper suddenly told you that they are the Emperor of Japan. How would you respond? Then perhaps you can relate to the feelings of the people in today’s story, in Mark chapter 6.
[Read Mark 6:1-4]
[Jesus] went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 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? 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. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”
Until now, Mark gives his readers the picture that wherever Jesus went, the crowds responded positively to his teachings and miracles. The only people who were skeptical of Jesus were the religious leaders. But in chapter 6, we see another group that “took offense at him”: people from his hometown.
Mark does not reveal which of Jesus’ teachings that caused such a reaction. But the book of Luke gives a fuller picture of the same story. Jesus read from a scroll of Isaiah the prophet, chapter 61, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” After the reading, Jesus said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” which surprised his hometown people. (Reference: Luke 4:14-30)
They could not believe that Jesus, whom they watched growing up since he was a young boy, could say such a thing. This passage from Isaiah was understood by the Jews as a prophecy of their future king. And so, they knew Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, the King of the Jews.
This was so offensive that they responded by insulting Jesus. In Jewish culture, a son is usually referred to by his father’s name. To call Jesus “Mary’s son” is to say that he was an illegitimate child. It was an insult Jews used in those days to publicly shame a fellow Jew who did something dishonorable. In this case, they thought Jesus was bringing embarrassment and shame to his family by claiming to be Israel’s future king, even though he was just the son of a carpenter.
In line with Israel’s long history of rejecting prophet after prophet, Jesus too suffers from such rejection in his hometown. Now, let’s read just 2 more verses.
[Read Mark 6:5-6]
And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.
Compared to previous chapters, Jesus was not able to do many miracles in his hometown. Many Bible scholars interpret these verses to say that the people’s lack of faith in Jesus limited his ability to perform miracles.
In my opinion, this situation was not because Jesus draws power from our faith. Surely, as God, his power doesn’t depend on what we humans do. Rather, my theory is that Jesus did not do many miracles in his hometown because not many people asked for his help; they thought that he was just a carpenter pretending to be someone great.
Since this passage mentions “lack of faith” or “unbelief,” I would like to spend some time examining the word “faith.” What does the word mean?
In the Greco-Roman world of Mark’s time, the word “faith” (or pistis in Greek) was often used together with another word, charis. Charis can be translated as “grace.” Pistis and charis were often used to talk about a relationship between patron and client. A common patron and client in the ancient world were a king and his subjects.
In the patronage system of those times, the patron would do a kind act—charis—for the client, and the client would reciprocate with pistis. This pistis “carries the sense of personal ‘loyalty,’ or ‘fidelity,’ to a relationship” (Reference: Jayson Georges and Mark D. Baker). This loyalty brings honor to the patron.
So, when we look at how the word “faith” was used in Mark’s time, it suggests that faith isn’t just believing that something is true. It is also an act of loyalty or faithfulness, with the aim of honoring a patron or superior.
In other words, the people in Jesus’ hometown did not believe Jesus was Israel’s promised king, felt they had no need of his help, and therefore did not honor him. Instead of honor, they shamed him by saying, “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?”
I would like to end with three reflections on this passage. Let me summarize them: First, Jesus claims to be our king—and his message will offend many people. Second, faith is not only an intellectual belief but a relationship of loyalty or faithfulness. Third, it can be difficult to share Jesus’ message with family and old friends who know our past.
First, Jesus claims to be our king—and his message will offend many people. Most people would allow us to talk about Jesus as a good person, a wise teacher, an inspiring man. Maybe even a healer and miracle worker. But as God? The king of the universe? Oh no, that’s crazy.
Today’s generation increasingly struggles with the idea of authority, whether it is the authority of parents, teachers, or government. A common message we hear in Western media is this: Don’t let anyone tell you what to do. Therefore, Jesus’ message is offensive, because he claims authority over our lives. It’s natural for people to respond by saying, “Who do you think you are? This is my life.” This is understandable, because throughout history people have suffered under those who abused positions of power.
Not only will people reject the idea of a king, but sometimes even the idea of depending on someone else is uncomfortable. Many people feel they don’t need a god. They can manage their daily lives quite well. They may even manage a crisis quite well.
However, Jesus’ claim to be our king has tremendous consequences for our lives, both in the present and the future. It is important, even critical, that we investigate his claims before making a conclusion about whether he was just a pretender.
The people of Jesus’ hometown were too familiar with him as a carpenter, as Mary and Joseph’s son. They could only see and accept one aspect of him.
Sometimes, Christians do the same. For example, it is easier to accept Jesus as loving and gentle, but harder to embrace a Jesus who will return to judge us in the end times. No one likes to imagine they could be wrong, or deserving God’s wrath.
The Christian author C.S. Lewis wrote a series of children’s novels called The Chronicles of Narnia. One of the characters, Aslan, is a representation of Christ. He guides and protects the main characters, who are four children. When the youngest child, Lucy, finds out that Aslan is actually a lion, she is surprised and asks, “Is he safe?” In her mind, lions are dangerous, wild animals. And she is given this answer: “Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” He’s not a tame lion.
Psalm 2:12 says this: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” We see two different aspects of King Jesus here: he is dangerous to his enemies, but a place of safety to those who ask for his patronage.
Second, faith is not only an intellectual belief but also a relationship of loyalty or faithfulness. As Christians, we carry Christ’s name. If we accept Jesus’ charis to us—his acts of kindness—then it is fitting that we honor him by the way we continue to live. It’s not that we can ever repay him. But it’s not repayment that Jesus wants. It is for us to be in relationship with him. That relationship should naturally lead us to carry out his desires.
But he is not a king who sits on a throne waiting to be served. When we serve King Jesus, it is because he first served us. Before we even knew him, he offered us his life by dying on the cross for our sins. He offered us honor by giving us the right to become children of God even when we didn’t deserve it. For that, I believe he deserves our attention and honor.
Third and last of all, it can be difficult to share Jesus’ message with family and old friends. They are familiar with who we used to be, with the times we were less mature. Perhaps we feel we are not good representatives for Jesus.
But be encouraged: it is always God’s work to change hearts. Changing another person’s heart—or sometimes even our own—is not within our capability as human beings. In the end, it is by God’s grace that a person recognizes who Jesus is, becomes aware of their need for him, and desires to be under the rule of a wise and good king.
To conclude, faith is not just intellectual belief but a relationship of faithfulness to Jesus as our King. This loyalty is shown visibly through obedience to his words. The purpose of our loyalty is to honor him. Sometimes, this loyalty may cost us our reputation and, sometimes, even our lives.
Jesus has given us enough reasons to consider his claim as king of our lives. He has given us grace that is free to be received, but it was a grace that was not cheap. It cost him his life on the cross. After we choose to receive that grace, our response to Jesus is gratitude and a commitment to honor him. So, will we honor him, or will we choose to rule our own lives?
To serve and obey Jesus may be difficult at times. But being in a relationship of dependence and submission to him is the most secure place to be. It is also the most comforting. Paradoxically, the most free. And ultimately, the most rewarding.
Let’s pray: “Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”