Chapter 23


“Is not this The Carpenter?”


“And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him. And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.” (Mark 6:1-6)


            In these six verses of Inspiration we are given a sad, bleak illustration of the wickedness of the human heart. Our Lord Jesus Christ returned from Capernaum to Nazareth, his hometown. He had performed notable miracles abroad, miracles which made his name famous, miracles which were commonly known to the people of his own little village, miracles which would have made him the town hero, except for one thing. This One who had done such miracles was also the embodiment of and taught the gospel of God’s free, sovereign, saving grace, contrary to their religious traditions. Therefore, instead of believing him, receiving him, and honoring him as the Christ of God, his own kinsmen and countrymen refused to believe him, despised him, and held him in contempt. — “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11).


            These verses call for our special attention. I want us to look at them carefully, line by line. As we do, I will direct your attention to five very important things revealed in them.


True Christianity


And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him” (v. 1). — First, we see in verse one that true disciples follow their Master. That fact should be obvious to anyone. Just as Marxists are followers of Marx and Leninists are followers of Lenin, so Christians are followers of Christ. Those disciples at Antioch were such ardent followers of the Lord Jesus Christ that those who observed their doctrine and behavior called them “Christians.” Be sure you understand what I am saying. A Christian is not a person who says he is a Christian, or the person who professes the right doctrine. A Christian is a person who follows Christ. Our following Christ is not the basis of our hope or the ground of our assurance before God. It is Christ’s obedience unto death, not our obedience that gives us hope with God and assurance of his grace. Yet, if we do not follow Christ, whatever hope and assurance we have is a delusion.


            We read here, “His disciples follow him.” I do not suggest, and the Word of God does not teach that his disciples follow him perfectly. But I am saying, and the Word of God does teach that all true believers follow Christ as their Lord and Master in the tenor of their lives. All who are saved by the grace of God bow to Christ as their Lord, take up their cross, willingly taking his yoke upon them, and follow him. The Word of God identifies Christians as people who follow Christ. — “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth” (Revelation 14:4). Christians are followers of Christ. They follow him in believer’s baptism. They follow his doctrine, believing that which he has revealed. And they follow his example, loving and serving one another.


And that which is true of believers in general is true of gospel preachers in particular. Our Lord Jesus Christ is such a great and gracious Savior that, though the Jews tried to kill him the last time he was there (Luke 4:29), he yet returned to Nazareth once more to preach the gospel to his own people. The Son of God willingly walked in the open among his enemies and publicly preached the gospel to men who sought his blood. Faithful men, those who follow and serve Christ, willingly hazard their lives for the gospel’s sake (Acts 15:25-26). Any man who does not hazard his life in the cause of Christ, who does not ignore his own interests and welfare, leaving it to his Master, Christ Jesus the Lord, to care for, protect, and provide for his servant, does not fit the pattern of these disciples.


            Matthew Henry wrote, “Whither he went, though it was into danger, ‘his disciples follow him;” for they had left all to follow him.”


Public Worship


The second lesson to be learned from this passage is the fact that all who follow Christ addict themselves to the worship of God. When our Lord and his disciples came to Nazareth, or to any town or village, at the appointed time of worship they were found in the house of God. In verse 2 we read, “And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?


It is the great privilege and responsibility of God’s people to addict themselves to the worship of God in the public assembly of his saints and to the ministry of the Word (Hebrews 10:25). In those days the appointed place of worship was the synagogue of the Jews. The appointed day of worship was Saturday, the Jewish sabbath day. Though the Jews and the synagogues had long since forsaken the oracles and worship of God, and had replaced the commandments of God with the traditions of men, they still professed to worship the Lord God and professed to reverence his Word.


            We ought never to be found in churches where the gospel is not preached and our God is not worshipped. Yet, we must not forsake the assembly of God’s saints in worship. Sheep are social creatures. Unless they are very sick or utterly lost, you will never find them alone. We must not allow any earthly care or social concern to keep us from the house of God. This is the place where Christ has promised to meet with his people (Matthew 18:20). This is the place where God sends forth his Word. It is here that God speaks to men. This is the place where we find food for our souls. This is the place where God is worshipped.


When our Lord Jesus came to the house of God, he taught the Word of God. There are many aspects of public worship which must never be neglected. The reading of Holy Scripture, the praise of God in song and public prayer, and the observance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are matters of immense importance. However, that which is and always must be paramount in the house of God is the preaching of the gospel, the teaching of the Word of God.


            We do not need to guess what the Savior preached in the synagogue. He expounded the law and the prophets, just as he had done the last time he was there, preaching the gospel to all who would hear him (Luke 4:16-32). He preached himself as the only Savior of sinners (vv. 18-19), the fulfillment of all the Scriptures (v. 21), and the glorious sovereignty of God in the exercise of his saving grace (vv. 25-27). I have no hesitancy in asserting these things, because God the Holy Spirit tells us plainly that there is no preaching of the Word of God apart from the preaching of the gospel (1 Pet. 1:23-25).


There is no room in the house of God for religious entertainment, political propaganda, social crusades, psychological analysis, and religious dialogue. What we need and must have in the house of God is preaching, plain, forthright, dogmatic, decisive, gospel preaching!


When he had finished preaching the gospel, those who heard him were, as they had been before, both astonished by his wisdom and power, and offended by his doctrine (vv. 2-3). Though they acknowledged what they could not deny, his wisdom and power, they were offended by his gospel.


            Nothing has changed. The offense of the cross has not come to an end. Those who faithfully preach the gospel of Christ will always find that natural, unregenerate, lost religious people are offended by the gospel. The gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ will never be palatable to people who do not know God. Total depravity offends man’s pride. Unconditional election offends man’s self-righteousness. Limited atonement offends men who will not submit themselves entirely to the merits of Christ or salvation. Irresistible grace offends man’s sense of personal superiority and dignity. The sure preservation of God’s elect offends man’s sense of religious fairness and righteousness.


Christ’s Humiliation


Third, the Spirit of God here reminds us again of the great humiliation of our Lord Jesus Christ. — “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him” (v. 3). “Is not this the carpenter?” This particular expression is found nowhere else in the Bible. Its implications are significant and far reaching. In order to redeem and save us the Son of God condescended to become a man, and, being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself in all things relating to manhood (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 2:14-18).


“In Christ becoming a curse for his redeemed, it behoved him to undergo that curse in all its branches. The tenor of the curse pronounced at the fall, ran in those words: .In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread; meaning toil and labor. Had not Jesus therefore toiled and labored for his bread, this part of the curse could not have lighted upon him.” (Robert Hawker)


“He who made heaven, and earth, and sea, and all that therein is, — He, without whom nothing was made that was made, — the Son of God Himself, took on Him the form of a servant, and in the sweat of His face ate bread, as a working man. This is indeed that ‘love of Christ which passeth knowledge.’ Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. Both in life and death, He humbled himself, that through Him sinners might live and reign for evermore.” (J.C. Ryle)


Living and working as an ordinary carpenter, our dear Savior taught us by example the honor of diligent labor and the dishonor of laziness, idleness, and slothfulness. Every honorable man is a working man. We ought to abhor idleness and teach our children to abhor it. Nothing is more repugnant than a man who claims to be a follower of Christ who will not work and provide for his own (Ephesians 4:27-28; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:8).


“Nothing is more pernicious for young people than to get a habit of sauntering. The Jews had a good rule for this — that their young men who were designed for scholars, were yet bred up to some trade, as Paul was a tent-maker, that they might have some business to fill up their time, and, if need be, to get their bread.”

(Matthew Henry)


By assuming the work and trade of a carpenter, our Redeemer placed great honor upon working people, that class of society commonly disdained by those who consider themselves the nobler part of society. The only things that might be more repugnant than lazy, loitering people are those who snub their noses at others whom they consider beneath them. Pride of place, pride of race, and pride of grace are utterly despicable!


Blessings Despised


But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house” (v. 4). — It is ever the tendency of our fallen, depraved nature to undervalue and disregard those things with which they are most familiar. The people of Nazareth were offended at our Lord. They did not think it possible that one who had lived among them for thirty years, whose family they knew well, one who was reared and trained as nothing but a carpenter could be worthy of such reverence, esteem, and adulation as many heaped upon this man. They certainly did not believe him to be a prophet of God, and most particularly did not believe it even remotely possible that he could be the Christ of God, as he claimed. Though the Son of God dwelt among them for thirty years, they looked upon him with utter contempt. Why? Because it is ever the tendency of flesh and blood to disregard and even despise those things with which we are most familiar, even when those things are more valuable than silver and gold and vital to the welfare of our souls.


            The Word of God, the preaching of the gospel, the ordinances of divine worship, when readily and abundantly available, are rarely truly cherished as things which are vital and more precious than all earthly things. It is more true with regard to these things than with anything else, that familiarity breeds contempt. Be warned. Such contempt will not go unnoticed by God (2 Chronicles 36:15-16; Matthew 23:37-38).


The Greatest Evil


“And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching” (vv. 5-6).


The greatest, most astonishing evil in the world is the horrible sin of unbelief. There are two statements in these two verses that are simply astounding to me. They must not be glossed over lightly. First, we are told that our Lord could do no mighty work in Nazareth. Matthew tells us that the reason why he could do no mighty work there was the glaring, obstinate unbelief of the people who lived there (Matthew 13:58).


            Our Lord could have done at Nazareth anything he desired to do. He is the omnipotent God! Let no one ever imagine that the arm of omnipotence is halted or even hindered by the will and unbelief of man! He could have given these people faith as easily as he has given us faith. But because he would not do his mighty works in Nazareth, he, therefore, could not perform them. The fact is these people did not so much as ask a favor of him. Therefore, they received no favor from him. Because of their obstinate unbelief in the face of his manifest wisdom and power as the Son of God, they were not given the grace and favor of him working his wonders among them.


Then we are told that our Lord “marvelled because of their unbelief.” Only twice are we told that the Son of God marveled at anything. There were only two things that seem to have really made an impression upon the God-man as he walked through this world. He marveled at the faith of those from whom no one would expect faith: the centurion (Matthew 8:7-13) and the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28). And here Mark tells us that our Lord Jesus “marvelled because of their unbelief.” He marveled at the unbelief of those in whom we might most naturally expect to find faith. Here are men and women who had been all their lives, from one generation to another, favored with God’s Word, the oracles of divine worship, and even with the manifest presence and power of the Son of God. Yet, they believed not on him!


            The unbelief of those who enjoy and are favored with the means of grace and the manifest saving power of Christ is truly as amazing as it is inexcusable. Unbelief is the oldest of all sins, the most common of all sins, the most inexcusable of all sins, and the most ruinous of all sins. Unbelief is blasphemy. Unbelief is the bold, brazen, suicidal assertion that God is a liar, the Son of God is a fake, and the Spirit of God is a delusion! Unbelief will be forever damning to the wicked!


            It is not the lack of evidence that makes men and women unbelievers, nor the difficulties of Christian doctrine, nor the want of godliness, love, and mercy among believers, but their own unwillingness to trust the Lord of glory. Men and women vainly point at this and that as the reason for their unbelief. But the will not to believe on the Son of God arises from their love of sin, love of the world, and spiritual blindness. Yet, I hasten to add, the root of unbelief is never destroyed, even in God’s saints, so long as we live in this world. — “Lord, increase our faith…I believe. Help thou mine unbelief!”




Don Fortner



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