Mark 6:1-6


Everyone agrees that the account in Mark 6:1-6 is the same as that of Matthew 13:53-58. But is the account in Luke 4:16-30 the same occasion as the one described by Mark and Matthew? Reliable commentators do not agree: Lenski, Ylvisaker, Morris, Stoeckhardt, Hendricksen and Nestle maintain that the account found in Luke 4 is the same account as the one found in Mark 6 and Matthew 16. But Arndt, Fahling, Beck and A.T. Robertson maintain that the account found in Luke is a different occasion than the one described by Matthew and Mark.

In his  Harmony of the Gospels, in a footnote on p.77, Robertson says:

There is no sufficient occasion to identity this visit to Nazareth with that described by Luke. That was at the very beginning of the great ministry in Galilee, and this is near its close. The details are quite different. It is perfectly nature that after a long interval he should give the Nazarenes another opportunity to hear his teaching, and to witness miracles, which he would not work for them when demanded, but now voluntarily works in a few cases, so far as their now wonderful unbelief left it appropriate.

The pastor must be careful not to be dogmatic in expressing his views on whether or not the Synoptics speak of the same occasion here. He may express his opinion without being dogmatic. His presentation of this text may depend somewhat on which view he takes, as will be indicated as we go along, but the final point of the text is clear.

Mark 6:1 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. (Buls: Then He went out from there and came into His hometown and His disciples accompanied Him.)

Mark gives his accounts very graphically.

Mark 6:2 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, that he even does miracles! (Buls: And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue and as they were hearing Him, many expressed their amazement with these words: "Whence did this man get these things, and what sort of wisdom is this which is given to Him with the result that such remarkable deeds are done by His hands?")

Wherever Jesus went He always went to the synagogue on the Sabbath because it presented a forum for Him to preach the Gospel.

The hearers were amazed at his teaching. The comments at first were short and quiet, and gradually became longer and louder. Here we have direct discourse.

There is no record of Jesus doing miracles in Nazareth.

"This fellow" is likely derogatory.

Jesus was true God and in that sense no one gave Him His teaching, wisdom or power to perform miracles. Of course, the divine nature in Christ gave the human nature in Christ the attributes of the divine, but that is surely not what these citizens of Nazareth mean. It is clear from what follows that unbelief prompted their questions. And this unbelief turns into hostility.

Mark 6:3 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. (Buls: Isn't this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simeon? And aren't His sisters here with us?" They were ensnared by their unbelief toward Him.)

"This" here is plainly derogatory. Here Jesus is called the carpenter. In Matthew 13:55, the parallel passage, He is called "the carpenter's son." Likely He was called both on this occasion. Notice that Jesus is called "the son of Mary." Joseph is not mentioned. In the Matthean parallel He is called "the carpenter's son" which is the closest we come to Joseph. Joseph had likely died before this time and therefore is not mentioned.

Four of His brothers are mentioned. They were either cousins or half-brothers. "And aren't His sisters here with us?" "With us" denotes close association. Here it indicates that they know Jesus' sisters quite well.

"Took offense" comes from a verb that means "I set a trap for." They were ensnared in their unbelief.

Fahling: For the last time Jesus of Nazareth was to visit the city of Nazareth, again to be rejected as at the beginning of His great Galilean ministry, about eight or nine months before, Luke 4:16-30. . . . It is perfectly natural that Jesus should give the Nazarenes another opportunity to hear His teaching. But what surprises us is that Jesus marveled at: the unbelief of His townsmen, which lay at the bottom of their estimate and treatment of a 'native son'.

Those who consider this the same event as that mentioned in Luke 4 do not speak of Jesus giving the Nazarenes a second chance.

The fact that these Nazarenes could see no more than a human being in Jesus says much about how Jesus conducted Himself while He was growing up in Nazareth. The people do not say in so many words that they know Jesus personally, but that is what they mean. During the thirty years which He spent in Nazareth "He made Himself of no reputation."

Mary and Joseph were told individually before Jesus was born that He was true God. But they had forgotten it and had to learn the lesson again when Jesus was twelve years old.

Before we leave this verse we ask a tantalizing question, to which there is no answer: "Where was Mary on this occasion or occasions?" Nothing is said nor need we know.

Mark 6:4 Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." (Buls: And Jesus said to them: "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own house.")

"Said to them" means "went on to say." "Them" are the listeners in the synagogue. This can be either direct or indirect discourse. Our versions take it as direct discourse.

"A prophet is not without honor" means the same as "a prophet is honored" but the former is more emphatic. Several of our versions remove the double negative. NEB: "A prophet will always be held in honor etc." LB: "A prophet is honored everywhere except etc."

There are three places or areas in which a prophet, a teacher, does not receive honor:

  1. His home-town,
  2. His relatives,
  3. His own household.

Commentators are not certain as to whether or not verse 4 is a proverbial saying. At any rate, it is an axiom, a truth readily understood in any culture. Everyone understands it on the basis of experience. The Scriptures contain many axioms, a good teaching device.

Mark 6:5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. (Buls: As a result He was absolutely unable to perform a single miracle there, except that He put His hands on a few sick people and healed them.)

Note the double negative which makes the negative more emphatic. The exception was in the case of a few sick people whom He healed by laying His hands on them.

Ylvisaker: Instead of rejoicing over the fact that God has given one of their own family, out of their own midst, gifts and abilities to accomplish something for His honor, the kinsmen and former fellow-citizens will do everything in their power to discredit him. . . Jesus had come with an open hand to distribute from His own bounty and that of His Father. The reception accorded Him shut off the people from the gifts of His mercy. . . . Unbelief always stops the hand of God when He extends it to shower His benefits upon mankind. Unbelief is, therefore, the sin of sins, since it rejects what God is so willing to give in and through Christ.

Mark 6:6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. (Buls: Consequently He was amazed at their unbelief. Then He visited the surrounding villages and taught.)

"Amazed" is used thirty times in the Gospels, but only three of these are used with reference to Jesus' amazement. In two instances it speaks of the amazement of Jesus at the faith of the centurion (Matthew 8:10; Luke 7:9) but here, in Mark 6:6 it is used with reference to unbelief.

Unbelief is an amazing thing. It's like suicide, like cutting off the limb behind you, like preferring the darkness to light.

And if the Son of man was amazed at unbelief, is it any wonder that we do the same thing?

But the "impossibility" noted in verse 5 was not the fault of Jesus but the sin of the people. Unbelief makes it impossible for God to give.

God forces no one into His kingdom. If I am lost it will be my own fault. If I am saved it is totally God's grace and mercy. Hosea 13:9 reads:

You are destroying yourself, Israel: but in Me is your help.

Jesus had many heartbreaking experiences. But He did not let them stop Him. Look at verse 6b. For a similar thought see Hebrews 12:1-11 where the Lord encourages us not to let discipline and suffering keep us from serving the Lord heartily.

Unbelief is the sin of sins. Look at Hebrews 3, especially verse 19. It is not the sinner who will be damned, but rather the rejecter.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B Mark-John, Sundays after Pentecost, Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp. 23-25

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