Questions, Innocent and Otherwise: Studying Mark 6

IMG_0971 Mom looking over her glasses as she prepares dinner. Innocent questions can hide a hook.
What’s for dinner? Who wants to know?!

Innocent questions can hide a hook. That’s when they turn out to be not so innocent.

My husband Mark remembers a time when he was about eight. He had just come in from playing ball with his friends and was starved. “Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?” “Poison!” she retorted. What? Puzzled, he couldn’t figure out what he said that upset her. He was hungry.

He just wanted to know if it was beef or chicken.

We learn over time that not every question is simply a request for information. Many questions are loaded — they come with an agenda. What do you think about the way you just treated your sister? Some questions are actually prejudices ending in a question mark. Can you believe that they let their eleven year old babysit? Some are accusations in disguise. Why did you take the money off my dresser?

Jesus faced a string of not-so-innocent questions in the first scene of Mark 6. He has just returned to his hometown, and they didn’t throw a parade.

Questions That Reveal

We’re studying the Gospel of Mark together this fall, and the narrative is about to take a turn.

After witnessing Jesus’ power to deliver from demons, disease, and death in Mark 5, we suddenly enter a situation where he is seemingly powerless. Jesus has just returned to his hometown, Nazareth, to teach. Picture the scene with me. It’s the Sabbath day. His disciples are there, expectant.

What would he do? Teach? Heal? Cast out demons? They had witnessed his power over storms and demons. They had heard his public parables and private explanations. The disciples must have been on the edge of their seats.

He begins to teach, astonishing the home crowd. They begin to murmur among themselves. Where? What? How? On the surface these questions might seem innocent. But they quickly morphed into accusations. Who does he think he is? They were not impressed; they were offended.

Jesus had returned home, only to be rejected.

The Reader’s Question

About this time you might be asking, Why did Jesus bother to return to his hometown?

On the surface Jesus’ swing by Nazareth seems like a natural thing to do. His hometown was probably a convenient stop on his preaching/miracle circuit and would give him a chance to check in on his family. But we know from Mark 1:38 that he didn’t do anything out of habit or accident. He went there with a purpose.

Dr. Hughes gives this synthesis of the scene from the other gospels:

The Gospels taken together reveal that there had been repeated personal pain for Jesus in his early ministry…he suffered intense rejection in his hometown of Nazareth…further personal humiliation [happened] when his own family had attempted to…take him back to Nazareth…He was rejected by his blood brothers and the very townspeople whom he had loved and been loved by as a child and a man.

It seems Jesus overcame personal pain to give his hometown another chance. This scene alone speaks volumes to us about his intention to save and his response to unbelief.

Questions That Insult

One more thing. One of their questions might not strike our ear with the same force that it did his, “Isn’t this Mary’s son?” In that culture children were always referred to as the son of their father, even if the father was deceased. This question was a sneer showing that the village still thought of his mother as a sinner and Jesus as an illegitimate child.

Day 1: Context — Read Luke 4:16-30 and Mark 3:31-35. Review the scenes of Mark 5.

  1. How has Jesus’ hometown and family responded to him so far?
  2. How did the last three people (in Mark 5) respond to him?
  3. Why do you think he decided to give his hometown another chance?

Day 2: Observation — Read Mark 6 as 6 scenes.

  1. Who are the main characters of each scene? Who are the bystanders?
  2. What does Jesus say or do in each scene?
  3. Which scene is Jesus not in? What is that scene about?
  4. How does each scene answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”
  5. Compare the first and last scenes. How are they alike? How are they different?

Day 3: Meaning — Read Mark 6 as a single revelation about Jesus.

  1. The disciples are present in all but one scene. What is Jesus revealing about himself and his ways to them?
  2. John the Baptist is the only disciple present in the other scene. Read Matthew 11:2-6 for further data. What did Jesus reveal about himself to John?
  3. What did Jesus reveal about himself to the people of Nazareth, the 5000 he fed, and the sick in Gennesaret?
  4. Do you see a theme in this chapter?

Day 4: Application — Read Mark 6 as a personal word to you.

  1. How does Jesus console you through this chapter?
  2. In does Jesus call you to faith in this chapter?
  3. How does Jesus call you to action as a disciple in this chapter?

May his consolation lead us to faith and faith bear fruit in action.

Have a blessed week!

Find more posts on the Gospel of Mark here.