If you’re offended by the title, then this little devotional is already starting to do its job! I want us to feel what the folks in Mark 6:1-6 felt when Jesus returned to his hometown. He taught in the local synagogue and everyone was astonished at his teaching. Like everyone who heard him, they thought he was wonderful, powerful, and wise. They marveled at the mighty works he did, too, saying, “How are such mighty works done by his hands?” (2). After all, they were very familiar with his hands, because they saw these hands grow from the delicate hands of an infant into the rough hands of a carpenter. “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?” (3). They even knew his snot nosed brothers and sisters and all their typical problems, too.
It took balls for Jesus to return to his hometown, because you can’t pull the wool over anyone’s eyes there. If Jesus were a conman, then they’d be the first to blow the whistle; but Jesus wasn’t afraid, because he wasn’t fake. His going to his hometown proves he had nothing to hide.
Still, his neighbors couldn’t wrap their minds around what they saw. On the one hand, his teaching seemed to be otherworldly, but on the other hand, they had seen him poop. They were there when he learned to walk, went through puberty, and smashed his finger with a carpenter’s mallet. Now the whole world’s going berserk, saying he’s God? I mean, yes he teaches with power and calms the storm and raises the dead, but we were there when he learned to talk, was caught in a storm, and cried at his dead dad’s funeral. “And they took offense at him.” (3). Literally, they were “scandalized” by him, as the Greek word for “offense” indicates.
So Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household” (4). As a result, “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.” (5-6).
We might be tempted to think Jesus was not able to do miracles in his hometown because the people didn’t believe hard enough, but that interpretation would contradict everything Jesus stood for. It turns Jesus into a vending machine or genie, just rub his belly hard enough and he’ll grant you a wish! But you can’t manipulate Jesus, nor does he reward us for our good works, as if our good works could merit eternal salvation.
Here’s what’s really going on. The people of Jesus’s hometown didn’t want the kind of God Jesus was, so they rejected him. And when you reject Jesus, then you reject the kind of God he is, a God who loves, heals, helps, accepts, and forgives.
The Bible presents us with this fundamental truth about God over and over: God shows up in our lives on his terms. God decides who he is and will be. “I am who I am!” he told Moses. We don’t get to dictate who God is or what he is like, just because of some stilted stereotypes we might have. If God wants to show up in our lives as a pooping, burping, table-making carpenter with jealous siblings, then so be it. He gets to be God how he wants to be God.
There are so many times in my life that I’ve missed out on being close to God or seeing him, because I was looking for the wrong kind of god, do you know what I mean? I was looking for a god of my making, an idol. God isn’t predictable, as we’d like him to be. God isn’t normal, either. The people of Jesus’s hometown probably thought the Messiah would come riding in on a big white horse with lightning bolts shooting out of his ass, who knows. But Jesus smashes their expectations and hides right in front of their eyes in ordinary grimy human skin.
Maybe God is hiding right in front of your eyes right now. Have you ever thought about that? Maybe God is hiding within a problem you have, which you’ve been avoiding to deal with, so you’ve actually been ducking him. Maybe God is in a coworker who’s been making your life a living hell, but you refuse to see the God who wants to help you grow. Maybe God is hiding in a fear that keeps you up at night, which you refuse to face, so you keep praying for God to take it away, but that would only mean taking himself away. Have you thought about that?
Maybe God is hiding in the depths of your failure and you can only see him if you go deep enough into the darkness where you’ll find him in his joy.
When I cross-referenced Mark 6:5, I discovered an unnerving connection to Isaiah 59:1-2, which says, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” In other words, the prophet Isaiah (who Mark references again and again in his gospel) said that God is able to heal and save us, but sometimes he doesn’t, because of our sins. The sins referred to here are the sins of rejecting God’s plan to save us. In Isaiah’s time, God wanted to save his people through their pagan enemies, the Persians (Isaiah 45:1), which God’s people couldn’t stomach. But when we don’t like how God wants to save us, Isaiah warns, then God hides from us and doesn’t give us any other options.
God is not hidden, as if he’s materially invisible and we just can’t see him, but he actually hides himself from us. Like a father hiding in the closet during a game of hide and go seek with his child, God is here, but not here, at the same time.
In the same way, God was right there with the people of his hometown, but not there, at the same time. He was hiding in their rejection and hiding in their false assumptions. He was hiding in all their fears of what a Messiah should not be like. He was hiding in ordinariness and familiarity and weakness, but they rejected a God like that.
And one day, most of them would completely reject and be scandalized by the God who went to the cross to die, which is what our text today is hinting at.
God loves to save us by the things that scandalize us, in order to humble us and help us rely on his grace, rather than our goodness.
I’m convinced, if you can’t see the God who pooped, then you’ll never be able to see God in your life, because you’ll be looking in all the wrong places. Again, you have to look in the places that scandalize you to see him.
Jesus only saves those who take him on his terms, as he is, not those who wish to squeeze him into some other kind of mold. Take Jesus as the Incarnate, defecating, killable God, or don’t take him at all.
- Be honest, what expectations and stereotypes are you trying to force on God right now? Write them down and ask yourself, “Do these look more like the God of the Bible or the god in my head?”
- As you’ve been encountering Jesus in Mark’s gospel, how have your perceptions of him changed? What has surprised you? What are you still wrestling with?
- Where is God hiding in your life right now? Remember, like any good hider, God loves to hide in the darkest and least expected spots he can find.