Ge, N. N. (Nikolaĭ Nikolaevich), 1831-1894. Christ in the Synagogue, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved July 1, 2021]. Original source:

Ezekiel 2:1-5, Psalm 123, 2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Saint Mark 6:1-13
RCL Year B, Proper 9 (Alternate First Reading and Psalm)

Since we have returned from the pandemic to our rightful activity of worship as a Christian community, we have seen the disciples on a tour of ministry with Jesus. We with the disciples have seen Jesus refute the charge that his power to perform miracles comes from Satan; we have seen him constitute the community of faithful people who do the will of God; we have seen him calm the storm on the Sea of Galilee; we have seen him cure the woman; and we have seen him raise the daughter of Jairus from the dead.

The disciples have seen all this, too. But we should remember that, as we tour the Gospel with the disciples and Jesus, we know how the tour ends. The disciples do not. We have seen enough, and they have, too, to know that Jesus is God. But the disciples do not know this yet though they have seen the evidence that it is so. Even though the pandemic robbed us of celebrating the last two Easters, we still have celebrated so many Easters that we know how the tour ends. The disciples are learning as they follow along.

The Gospel builds upon this experience of the tour of ministry by adding something very important. We dare not miss it. It involves us and the disciples on an equal footing, even though we already know how the tour ends.

We see Jesus enter his hometown of Nazareth, where the people who saw him grow up reject him despite his reputation and despite all the miracles he has performed. “‘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?’ And they took offense at him.”[1] Because he’s from around there, the locals don’t think he can possibly give them something of value. Their rejection comes from a kind of reverse provincialism, and they withhold their coöperation from him. The fact that they have that power is the very important point we cannot miss and be well.

The locals have an agency of will and an agency of deed and an agency of power that they can use to isolate themselves from Jesus, and they use their agency to do just that.

The disciples have the same agency, and so do we. The question becomes how do we use our agency? Because we know how the tour ends, because we are so familiar with every event in the Gospels, and because the Gospels have lost their ability to surprise us, how do we keep our choice fresh? Do we use our agency like the locals to keep Jesus out of our lives? Do we let familiarity give rise to contempt, as the locals do? I pray that we do not.

I pray that we do not, because it is so easy to misuse our agency. It is so easy to let our sense of self-preservation prevail against God who freely gave us the power freely to keep him out of our lives.

The disciples will only begin to register how they use their agency after the tour ends. But that’s where we are now. We have the freedom to give our lives, our complete power, to Jesus. We are free to do that, and we are free to know how blessed life can be when, like Jesus, we give to God what he first gave to us. This is the signature of how we use our humanity. It’s the signature of how we chose life rather than death. As the tour reveals, Jesus laid down his life, so that we could take it up and live it again and again into eternity.

[1] Saint Mark 6:3.