2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10           Mark 6:1-13



          “Amazed!”…some say when they hear Mark’s stories of Jairus and the un-named woman…people whose faith brought back the life of Jairus’ daughter…and cured the woman of an ailment that had lasted twelve years.  “Amazed!”

“Amazed!”  That’s what some say when they hear this week’s story from Mark…a story that tells us that in his home town of Nazareth…Jesus was ridiculed and ignored…though knowledge of his miracles and teaching were known.  “Amazed!”

One commentator…Rev. R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois…. makes this observation and asks a question.  “Christ was amazed by faith as well as the lack of it.  What about us amazes him?”

What about us amazes Jesus Christ?

Amazing might be a good way to describe what happened with David.  He was the youngest son of a shepherd…anointed by Samuel to become the next king of Israel while David was working as a shepherd on his family farm…pursued by King Saul who attempted to have David killed…but acting on faith…accepting God’s guidance and protection all of that time.  David became king…and stayed king for over 40 years.

David began a line of kings that lasted over 400 years.  His reign created the hope of a second and greater David.  The figure of David is behind the whole of Christianity.

Jerusalem had been a foreign city inside Israel…a city occupied by Jebusites.  David went on to make it a military headquarters…a national capital…and a religious capital.  Gradually it displaced all other sanctuaries and shrines in Israel. Eventually Jerusalem became the only religious center for the Jews.

Amazed!  All because of the faith to follow God.

Amazed?  Jesus went to Nazareth knowing that there could be no more severe critics than those who had known him since boyhood.  He went as a rabbi…as a teacher…with his disciples.  The local people were scandalized that Jesus should say and do the things he did.  They refused to listen.

One of the traditional Jewish books of wisdom…Sirach…says the wisdom of the scribe depends on the opportunity to have the leisure to study while the artisan…the person who works with his/her hands…is too engaged in business to become wise.  The artisan labors night and day and talks only of his work.  Consequently… the book says… “they do not sit in the judges’ seat, nor do they understand the decisions of the courts; they cannot expound discipline or judgment, and they are not found among the rulers.  The passage concludes by underscoring how different the one is who devotes himself entirely to the study of the law…and it goes on to glorify the scribe.

The people of Nazareth questioned the authority of Jesus because he was a working man.  He was a man of the people…a layman…a simple man…a carpenter.   They saw him as an artisan…who worked with his hands…like many of us here today.  To us that is his glory.  It tells us that when he came to earth, God claimed no exemptions.  He took upon himself the common life with all its common tasks.

They questioned his authority because they knew Jesus’ family.  Sometimes when familiarity should breed a growing respect it breeds an increasing and easy-going familiarity.  Sometimes we are too near people to see their greatness.

Because of this the atmosphere was wrong for Jesus to do mighty works.  There are some things that cannot be done unless the atmosphere is right.

No person can be healed if he refuses to be healed.

There can be no preaching in the wrong atmosphere.  Congregations need to remember that they preach far more than half the sermon.  In an atmosphere of great expectancy the poorest sermon can start a fire.  In an atmosphere of critical coldness or bland indifference the most Spirit-packed message can fall lifeless to the earth.

There can be no peace-making in the wrong atmosphere.  If people have come together to hate… they will hate.  If people have come together to refuse to understand…they will misunderstand.  If people have come together to see no other point of view but their own…they will see no other.  But if people have come together… loving Christ and seeking to love each other…even those who are most widely separated can come together in Jesus.

Today’s story from Mark shows that doubt and suspicion can affect a whole community.  It can cut off God’s power for others.  In Nazareth many blind, lame and deaf were not cured because they continued in their unbelief.

For the disciples this time with Jesus provided an opportunity for learning.  They learned from this indifferent response to Jesus’ teaching and miracles that rejection will come sometimes when and where it is least expected.  Rejection is not the end of the world, however.  Failure is common to the experience of anyone who sows the seeds of the gospel.  Jesus was amazed and perplexed but not paralyzed by it.  He went on to other villages and towns.  This lesson served the disciples well when they went out on a mission on their own and met with resistance, scorn, and doubt.

Are you amazed by the instructions Jesus gave his disciples when he sent them out?

They were to work as an extension of Christ’s work in the world.  They were to go as the voice and action of Christ.  Jesus did not do it all.  He sent out disciples to help make ministry happen.  They went in his name…preached what he taught…and worked by his power.  He did not send them out to beg for a positive response.  He sent them out with divine authority to call others to repentance…to love.

They were to be so dedicated to the task of their mission that personal comforts became inconsequential.  When Jesus sent out his disciples he expected them to concentrate more on getting the message out than getting the finest accommodations.  They were not sent out on a vacation excursion but were charged with a matter of life and death for others.  They not only needed to win their attention but also their confidence.  No one will take seriously messengers who claim to bring an urgent message of life and death when it becomes evident that their first concern is to secure their own ease.  Interest in luxurious living can only undermine the message’s gravity.  Devotion to the task rather than devotion to oneself was therefore an absolute requirement for those who serve God.

The mission was not just a matter of preaching the good news but of bringing into people’s lives the good news of love…healing and deliverance.  They did not just offer people something new to believe in but something that tangibly changed their lives.  The good news was not just about saving souls but it was also connected to physical healing.  The answer for those who asked “What’s in it for me” was clearly love…healing and restoration.

Jesus did not commission his disciples to bestow blessings on people if they first believe and are willing to pay them for their ministry.   They were to touch any who are in need…without any conditions.  They were not sent to places that promised to be the most lucrative…but to places where there is the greatest need.

Jesus sends his disciples out with the same instructions today.


Those disciples were the original “dynamic duos”.  They were sent in pairs to meet the legal requirement of a minimum of two witnesses with matching testimony.

Late in his ministry, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these.”  (John 14:12)

Amazing!  Greater than Jesus?

A true incident may help us understand.  During World War II in the Pacific, a sailor in a United States submarine was stricken with acute appendicitis.  The nearest surgeon was thousands of miles away.

Pharmacist Mate Wheller Lipes watched the seaman’s temperature rise to 106 degrees.  The only hope for the seaman was an operation.

Said Lipes: “I have watched doctors do it.  I think I could.  What do you say?”  The sailor consented.

In the wardroom…about the size of a Pullman drawing room…the patient was stretched out on a table beneath a floodlight.  The mate and assisting officers…dressed in reversed pajama tops…masked their faces with gauze.  The crew stood by the diving planes to keep the ship steady. The cook boiled water for sterilizing.  A tea strainer served as an antiseptic cone.  A broken-handled scalpel was the operating instrument.  Alcohol drained from the torpedoes was the antiseptic.  Bent tablespoons served to keep the muscles open.

After cutting through the layers of muscle… the mate took twenty minutes to find the appendix.  Two and a half hours later…the last catgut stitch was sewed… just as the last drop of ether gave out.  Thirteen days later the patient was back at work.

It was a great thing…greater than any surgeon could ever have done.  Not because it was better…but because of Wheller Lipes, the human instrument.  A humble pharmacist’s mate operated successfully in less than ideal conditions.

When I had surgery on my knees a few years ago…just before being wheeled into the operating room…the surgeon came to me…asked if I had any questions or concerns.  I said no.  He then told me that I should feel assured because he, too, was just an instrument in God’s hands.

With this faith…this attitude…the apostles, the Church, and we Christians today can do “greater works”—not because they are greater than Jesus’ works, but because we are Jesus’ frail…human instruments.

Knowing who we are, it might seem amazing that he uses us at all.  But…he’s ready to make us his instruments…working every day for love…healing and repentance.

The question is not whether.  The question is how will we let Jesus use us…in ways that amaze Jesus?