Mark 6:1-6

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds – April 26, 2012)


We are looking at the third major section of Mark’s Gospel is from 3:7 – 6:6a.  In this section we have a summary Jesus’ later ministry in the area of Galilee.  In this larger section are six major movements:

1.      An introductory summary of Jesus’ Galilean ministry (3:7-12)

2.      The choosing of the twelve (3:13-19)

3.      Scandalous accusations from His own family and from the scribes from Jerusalem (3:20-35)

4.      Parables about the Kingdom of God (4:1-34)

5.      A series of miracles demonstrating His power (4:35-5:43)

a.       Calming the sea (4:35-41) – Power over nature

b.      Freeing a man from demons (5:1-20) – Power over the spiritual realm

c.       Raising of Jairus’ daughter (5:21-24, 35-43) – Power over death

d.      Healing of a woman with hemorrhage (5:25-34) – Power over disease

6.      Rejection by the people of His hometown of Nazareth (6:1-6a)

In this study we are going to focus on the sixth movement in this section of Mark.


Rejection by the people of His hometown (Mark 6:1-6)


Verse 1 - Mark 6 begins with what appears to be on the surface a rather meaningless statement designed only to serve as a transition sentence to move us from one event to another in Mark’s Gospel.  However, there is much more to this statement than initially meets the eye. 


      “And He went out from there…” – The events at the end of the previous chapter took place in Capernaum on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Capernaum was the headquarters of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.  Mark’s Gospel opens with Jesus teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum.  So far in our journey through Mark we have seen Jesus returning to Capernaum on several occasions after traveling around Galilee (cf. Mark 2:1; 3:20; 5:24).


      “…He came into His home town…” - This is literally “his native place” and refers to Nazareth (cf. 1:9, 24), where He grew up. It was twenty miles southeast of Capernaum.[1]  To go to Nazareth from Capernaum Jesus would have walked around the northwestern edge of the Sea of Galilee and then through a valley known as the Valley of the Pigeons.  It was about a one day’s journey on foot. 


      The return of Jesus to His hometown of Nazareth was a tremendous act of courage on His part.  The relationship between Jesus and the people of His hometown was, to say the least, strained.

·         Luke 4:16-30 tells us Jesus began His public ministry in Nazareth.  On a Sabbath in the synagogue he opened the Scripture to Isaiah 61 and read the following words:


Then He closed the Scripture and made this startling claim:  “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)  And that so angered the people that they took Him to cliff at edge of town and attempted to throw Him down to His death.  About one year had passed since that incident.

·         In the meantime, we saw in Mark 3:20-34 that some of his family members and friends from Nazareth came to Capernaum in an attempt to take Jesus into protective custody because they thought He had lost His mind.

      He obviously wasn't most popular, well-liked person in Nazareth!  But he returned there nonetheless. 


      “…and His disciples followed Him.” – In the 1st century most teaching and training did not take place in classrooms.  Students followed their teacher (rabbi) around during the day, learning both from his words and actions.  This was a public mission, and He was preparing His disciples by example for their own missions (cf. Mark 6:7-13).[2]  Much of Jesus’ teachings and miracles were for their benefit.[3]


Verse 2

      “And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue…” - Jesus regularly attended synagogue.  He was often invited to speak as a guest teacher, which was a common practice.[4]  The ruler of the synagogue (ἀρχισυναγωγος [archisunagōgos], see Matt. 5:22) would ask someone to speak whenever he wished. The reputation of Jesus all over Galilee opened the door for Him.[5]


      “…and the many listeners were astonished…” – The word translated “astonished” is from the verb ekplesso.  This word carries the idea of being overwhelmed or struck down.  Mark often uses this word to describe the reaction of various people to the teachings and/or actions of Jesus (cf. Mark 1:22; 7:37; 10:26; 11:18).


      “Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands?” – The “these things” of this question refers to two specific things:  the content of His teaching (“this wisdom”) and the mighty works (“miracles) performed by Him.  The reference to miracles indicates that word about His deeds was now spreading throughout Galilee.


Verse 3 – This entire verse has a derogatory tone about it.

      “Is not this the carpenter?” – The word translated “carpenter” (tekton) was used to describe a variety of skilled laborers, including those who worked with wood, stone, or metal.  While it was an honorably occupation, being a tekton hardly equipped someone to say and do the kind of things Jesus was saying and doing.  The basic idea behind the question is, “Isn’t this man just a common laborer like the rest of us?”


      “…the son of Mary…” - The phrase Mary’s Son was also derogatory since a man was not described as his mother’s son in Jewish usage even if she was a widow, except by insult (cf. Jud. 11:1-2; John 8:41; 9:29). Their words, calculated insults, also suggested they knew there was something unusual about Jesus’ birth.[6]


      “…the brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon?  Are not His sisters here with us?” - His brothers and sisters (cf. Mark 3:31-35) were most likely children of Joseph and Mary born after Jesus’ birth rather than Joseph’s children by a previous marriage or Jesus’ cousins. James became a leader in the early church at Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:13-21), and authored the Epistle of James (James 1:1). Judas was probably Jude, author of the Epistle of Jude (Jude 1). Nothing more is known of Joses and Simon or His sisters.[7]


      “…they took offense at Him.” – The word is skandalizomai from which our word scandal comes.  The root of this word means trap, like a trap with which one would catch an animal.  By Jesus words and deeds they were trapped into deciding between if He came from God or from Satan.  Because they were so familiar with Him and His family, they could not bring themselves to believe He was from God.  They viewed Him as a scandal to their town!  As one writer put it, “They could not explain Him, so they rejected Him.” [Wuest]


Verse 4 – This was a popular proverb in Jesus’ day.  Ironically, the people who thought they knew Him so well really did not know Him at all!


Verse 5 – This is one of the saddest verses in the Bible.  It ismportant see this event in the larger context of what was happening in Jesus' ministry during this time.  Not long before returning to Nazareth,  Jesus had calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, cast demons out of a man in the country of the Gerasenes, raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead, and healed a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years.  It was a time of great miracles.  But in midst of that time, Jesus came to Nazareth and Mark reports in v.5 - "He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands upon a few sick people and healed them." What a missed opportunity!  The people of Nazareth had opportunity of participating in some of the most exciting events of Jesus' ministry, and they missed it.


      This does not imply weakness on Jesus’ part, but willful limiting of His ministry. The Matt. 13:58 parallel has “did not” instead of “could not.”[8]       


Verse 6 – This verse turns the tables on the people of Nazareth.  Verse 2 tells us they were “astonished” at Jesus, now we read that Jesus “wondered” about them!  The word means to be amazed or to marvel.  Twice in the Gospel record you find Jesus marveling. As this passage reveals, He marveled at the unbelief of the Jews, and He marveled at the great faith of a Roman centurion, a Gentile (Luke 7:9). Instead of remaining at Nazareth, Jesus departed and made another circuit of the towns and villages in Galilee. His heart was broken as He saw the desperate plight of the people (Matt. 9:35–38), so He decided to send out His disciples to minister with His authority and power.[9]




1.      God is gracious toward us, but there is a limit to His graciousness.  Jesus gave the people of Nazareth a second chance to believe in Him after they initially rejected Him and tried to kill Him.  However, there is no record of Jesus ever visiting Nazareth after this passage.  Exodus 34:6-8:  6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” 8  


2.      We must be careful not to take for granted the great spiritual truths God has revealed to us in His Word.  You know the old saying, familiarity breeds contempt.  In Aesop’s fable, a fox had never before seen a lion, and when he first met the king of the beasts, the fox was nearly frightened to death. At their second meeting, the fox was not frightened quite as much; and the third time he met the lion, the fox went up and chatted with him!  Obviously, that choice did not end well for the fox!  The people of Nazareth were so familiar with Jesus they missed who He really was!  We must be careful not to lose our sense of wonder and awe in regard to the things of God. 


3.      Unbelief leads to spiritual impotence.  The most basic, elementary requirement for full participation in kingdom of God is simply belief in or trust in Jesus Christ.  There is no such thing as becoming Christian, much less living dynamic Christian life apart from belief in, trust in, faith in Jesus.  That is precisely what people of Nazareth failed to do.


            I sometimes wonder if Christians in our culture are more like the people of Nazareth than we care to admit.  Is it possible the Lord looks at us and wonders at our unbelief?  Of course all of us would say, "I certainly believe in Jesus."   But the reality is that the people of Nazareth believed in Jesus, too.  At least they believed He existed.  However, in the biblical sense belief in Jesus more than merely accepting fact that He existed and giving intellectual assent that what said true.  In the biblical sense belief is an action word.  It is an act that changes our lives.


            And the question we should constantly be asking ourselves is:  Do I believe in Jesus in a way that changes my life, that causes me to be obedient to Him, that motivates me to live as He directed.  If not, our lack of belief will leave us void of any real spiritual power.

[1] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (71). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[2] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Mk 6:1). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[3] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (71). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[4] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (71). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[5] Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Mk 6:2). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

[6] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Mk 6:2–3). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[7] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Mk 6:2–3). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[8] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (71). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[9] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Mk 6:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.