The Challenges of Going Home

Jeff Garrison
Mayberry & Bluemont Churches
June 16, 2024
Mark 6:1-13

At the Beginning of Worship

The movie, A River Runs through It, is a great Father’s Day movie, as it tells the story of a loving father and his two sons. At one place in the movie, Norman MacLean has just returned from college in the East to his home in Montana. At a fourth of July party, he falls for the flirty Jesse Burns of Wolf Creek. As the two began to grow closer, Jesse’ brother Neal returns home for a visit. Both Norm and Neal grew up in Montana, but it’s evident that Neal hates the place while Norm embraces it. 

Norm loves to fish and his relationship with Jesse almost ends when he’s encouraged to take her brother Neal with him and his brother, Paul, on a fishing trip. Paul is leery of the idea, betting that Norm will be a bait fisherman, not a fly fisherman, and will show up with worms. But he agrees to go because he’s been asked by his brother. 

Sure enough, Neal shows up late, with a can of worms. He’s also drunk and with the prostitute he’d met the night before. He tells the brothers he’ll meet them later and they decide he’s not worth it. While they spend the morning fishing, Jesse’ brother gets himself into more trouble, for which Jesse blames Norm.[1]

As those who have moved away from where we grew up understands the tension when we return home. Are we like Neal and want to be seen as making it in Hollywood or doing something incredible with our lives in a failed attempt to cover up our failures, which in his case was alcoholism. Or are we like Norm, torn between the academic world of the East and the wild rivers of the West. And do we worry how others might accept us when we return home, which caused Neal to put on airs. 

Regardless of how we’re accepted, when you’re away and then return, things are different. Some people, like those in Jesus’ hometown, may be jealous, envious, or even question as to who we are and what we have done. And if they’re jealous or envious, there is little we can do to change the situation, as Jesus experienced in our text today.[2] Here’s where the truth lies in Thomas Wolfe’s well quoted title, You Can’t Go Home Again.

Before the Reading of Scripture

Our text today contains two stories. The first involves Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth. If you remember, his ministry has mostly been focused in and around Capernaum, along the Sea of Galilee. Early in the gospel, we learn Jesus came from Nazareth.[3] In Jesus day, it was a small village, with less than 500 people. Jesus left this village and headed down to the Jordan River where John was baptizing, then he went out into the wilderness to be tempted.[4] When he returned to society, he settled in Capernaum, where he taught in the synagogue and casted out evil spirits.[5] Now, he returns and teaches in his hometown synagogue. The reaction is mixed, but essentially, they reject Jesus. With the people’s obstinance, he’s unable to do any great miracles while among them. 

But Jesus didn’t let this rejection get him down. Instead, he doubles down by expanding his ministry. He’s been training the disciples all along. Now he sends them out two-by-two, to hit all the towns of Galilee. 

Read Mark 6:1-13

Our text begins with Jesus making the journey from the shore of Lake Galilee to his hometown. It required a twenty-five-mile walk. For us, with cars and paved roads, such a journey isn’t a big deal, but when walking, it would have required a long hike through rough terrain. 

Once home, they invite Jesus to teach in his home synagogue. It’s always a daunting task to preach or teach to those who have known you since you were in diapers. I remember the first time I preached at Cape Fear Presbyterian, the church I attended from age 9 through college. There in the pulpit, I looked out and saw my sixth grade Sunday School teacher and former youth group leaders stare me down. It made me nervous. These people knew me.  

By the way, I’m going back to preach at this church in October for their 80th anniversary service. But by this point, most of those who taught me as a kid are no longer sitting in the pews, having joined the triumphant church in the life to come. 

At first, the crowd in the congregation is amazed at Jesus’ teachings. In Luke, we’re told Jesus read from Isaiah and things went well until he proclaimed the prophecy fulfilled in their hearing. This was too much for the crowd and after a tense exchange, they tried to hurl him off a cliff, but he slipped away.[6]But as we’ve seen, Mark often avoids giving us the details on Jesus’ teaching. 

Instead, Mark shows how the crowd went from thinking well of Jesus, to questioning of his authority. How did this carpenter get so wise?[7] After all, he’s just Mary’s boy, which may have been a slap at Jesus, as if they hinted Jesus was without a father (and you know what that would make him). If it wasn’t a disparaging remark, it could have been that Joseph was long dead; however, that doesn’t appear the case as we’re shown in John’s gospel.[8]It appears this was an insult directed at Jesus.[9]

In addition to knowing his mom, they also know his siblings. Here, we are given a list of brothers but not sisters.[10] Although Jesus’ teachings and action challenged it, first century Palestine was a patriarchal society. 

Furthermore, the acknowledgement of siblings seems to have been embarrassing to some, especially after the notion of Mary remaining a virgin throughout her life became popular in the early church. Some have tried to explain this away as the kids being Joseph’s sons from a first marriage, but that’s just speculation. Others suggest the “siblings” are really cousins, but that doesn’t fly because Greek has distinctive words for a sibling and a cousin.[11]

Jesus responds, reminding them that a prophet has no honor in his hometown and among kinfolks. The people of Nazareth, who refused to believe in Jesus, were the ones who suffered as he was unable to pull off any great miracles. This isn’t because of Jesus’ lack of power, but because God works through us. If we don’t believe and reject God, we limit ourselves as to how Jesus might help us. However, Jesus does help heal a few people, so not all must have shunned Jesus. A few may have believed.

After such a rejection, most of us would probably slip away and lick our wounds. But that’s not Jesus’ way. Instead, he doubles down. It’s now time to expand his ministry by sending out the disciples two-by-two. This effort is to ensure that all the villages in Galilee may hear the good news and experience the miracles of grace. 

Jesus gives the 12 what they need to be successful They have the power they need to take over his mission. He provides two instructions. First, they travel without preparation. They carry only a staff and the clothes on their backs. They are not to take food or money or a bag for possessions. In their travels, they must depend on God and the hospitality of those they meet. 

The second instruction has to do with how they relate to those they meet. They are to honor everyone. If someone poor offered them lodging, they are to accept it and stay there even if someone else offers better lodging. It’s a way of honoring everyone! Furthermore, if the people in a village are not interested, they are to move on without making a fuss except to clean off their feet. This was a tradition of Jews leaving a gentile area. By the disciples doing this to the Jewish villages in Galilee, they remind the residents of what they’ve missed. 

Their mission is successful with many demons cast out and people healed in addition to hearing the call to repentance. 

Our text today reminds us that our Christian faith and ministry is more than just proclaiming the gospel. Jesus’ ministry always involves taking care of the physical and mental needs of those who also hear the good news of the gospel. 

The text also reminds us that while grace comes from God, we must be willing to accept it. Otherwise, we’ll be like the folks in Nazareth. 

Furthermore, while the gospel is a positive message, it also acknowledges the reality of evil in the world.  Yes, we’re to lift up the positive, for there is much good in the teachings of Jesus and how we are to live and to get along with others. But we also must combat the negative which exists in the world.[12] Evil, as I discussed a few weeks ago in a sermon, is out to destroy.[13] It must be challenged in the name of all that is good, in Jesus Christ who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

[1] “A River Runs Through It” was a 1992 movie directed by Robert Reford and based on the novella by Norman Maclean and found in A River Runs Through It and Other Stories (University of Chicago, 1976). 

[2] The idea of the envied person being trapped came from Scott Hoezee’s reflection on Miguel deUnamono’s,  story, “Abel Sanchez”

[3] Mark 1:9. 

[4] See  

[5] See  

[6] Luke 4:16-30. 

[7] A variant reading in a minority of ancient manuscripts read “son of the carpenter and Mary.” See Morna D. Hooker, The Gospel According to Saint Mark (1991, Hendrickson Publishing, 1997), 152. 

[8] John 6:42. 

[9] James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 171-172.  For an alternative position (that it wasn’t an insult) see Douglas R. A. Hare, Westminster Bible Companion (Louisville, KY: WJKP, 1996), 69

[10] His family has already questioned Jesus’ ministry in Mark 3:21, 31. See Two of his brothers would become leaders in the post-resurrection church. 

[11][11] Edwards, 173, Hare, 69. 

[12] Hare, 72. 

[13] See

A two-track mountain road
A two track mountain road

11 Replies to “The Challenges of Going Home”

  1. A River Runs Through It is one of my top five favorite books. From the opening line, “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing,” to the closing, “I am haunted by waters, the writing and the storyline are beautiful. And it’s one of a few books to which a movie does justice. Yes, Kelly, put them on your TBR and TBW, respectively! (And Jeff, a lovely message here.)

  2. Hello dear friend I’m trying to catch up from such a busy spring, and you have posted so many worthy things to read since my last visit. This is one I’ll have to check out. Take good care, Karen

    1. The part of the movie I spoke about really didn’t have anything to do with the ending (which has to do with we all get old 🙂

  3. I’ve not seen the movie or read the novella! I learned long ago that you can’t recreate the past. I live in my childhood town, but it’s never been the same since I left for college. Too much in my own life changed at that point. I imagine the folks in Jesus’s hometown would have been a tough audience!

    1. You should both read the book and watch the movie. Redford did a great job with the movie and it’s every bit as good as the novella, with incredible scenery

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