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Roses Grow Best

Mark 6:1 -- 13

It is a curious fact: roses grow best when bedded down in manure. Often we see failure and rejection. We see it so often one might think we know what to do about it – but it seems we don’t. In this passage Christ shows us the method of handling failure and rejection.

  • Out of failure and rejection in Nazareth, he sends his disciples forth.
  • They go out in evangelism, to return to him.
  • When they return, it is a time of quiet and rest.

One key to understanding the way of Christ is to recognize that no evil comes that he cannot use it to create a greater good.

Ashes of Disaster

A song put it this way: “from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success.” Here is a tale that begins that way:

The Holy Bible, New International Version

1Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.
2When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who
heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that
has been given him, that he even does miracles! 3Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t
this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,£ Judas and Simon? Aren’t his
sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

4Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his
own house is a prophet without honor.” 5He could not do any miracles there,
except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6And he was amazed at
their lack of faith.

Why did He bother?

Surely, one asks, Jesus knew that he would be rejected? Indeed, the other Gospel accounts make it clear that the townspeople of Nazareth chased him out, intending to stone him. So why did he bother with these people?

  • First, there will be the Judgment Day. In his own home town, people might have said, “Why didn’t you come back to speak to us? We would have believed.” There is a sense that everyone should have at least one chance to hear the Gospel.
  • But he works no great number of miracles among them – due to their lack of faith. Perhaps this is a mercy; he knew they would reject him – the smallness of the miracles lessens the blame.
  • Most of all we know this: it is God’s will that none should perish. They had to go through the rejection.

For us, however, it is the beginning of an example – how to deal with rejection.

Expect it

Some think it easier to bear pain when you know it’s coming. Others would like to be surprised. Christ gives us the first technique; it’s just that some of us ignore the warnings. We are going to be ridiculed and rejected, even in our own families.

In one way, however, we should see this as a form of release. By their rejection, we can see ourselves as having made the decision. We have chosen Christ over the dearest things of this world. It is an agony; but it is also a liberation.

Shaking dust

As we will see in the next section, there is a sense of giving up on someone here. It is as if we say, “Well, I tried to convince you – now I’m moving on.” Why would God want us to do that? Wouldn’t he want us to persist indefinitely?

  • There is a sense of urgency to the Gospel. If you think of it this way, Satan can use a family member to tie you down. You spend all your time working on one person when there are others you need to touch.
  • Sometimes the Lord parts you from that person – so that someone else will touch him. You might just be in the way.
  • Most of all, there is this: you must decide whether family is more important than Christ. If he tells you to move on, move on.

The work of the disciple

Let’s see how Jesus sends his men out:

The Holy Bible, New International Version


Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7Calling the Twelve
to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil£ spirits.

8These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—
no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9Wear sandals but not an extra tunic.
10Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11And if any
place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when
you leave, as a testimony against them.”

12They went out and preached that people should repent. 13They drove out
many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Perhaps you haven’t thought of it this way, but this is an example of the humility of Jesus. He is the source of their power over the sick and the demons, but he shares that power with his disciples. It is his intention that his disciples will do the work that he does – within their limits. The atonement at the Cross is his alone.

In pairs

Christ sends us out in pairs for good reason, and we should heed him.

  • First, that we might strengthen one another. Living the Christian life is not an easy task. We should not be so arrogant as to think we are capable of doing it all by ourselves.
  • Indeed, we will need our partner – for correction. All of us sin; all of us go off in wrong-headed directions. How much easier for us (and I suspect for God as well) to be corrected by a friend and partner – than to be corrected by God working in the world.
  • Moreover, going two by two makes us more credible in the eyes of the world. We instinctively distrust one lone idiot. But when two witnesses say they’ve seen something, we tend to take it more seriously.
Take only

In his instructions to his disciples, he gives us an example of how the Christian should go through this world – and why. This rather limited list of goods makes for a light backpack. The going should be all the easier for it.

  • It shows that we trust in God. The rations in your pack tell everyone how long you think you’re going before resupply. We need to show the world that we trust God for our daily bread.
  • By our example we show our disdain for riches – and point the world to true riches. If I am unimpressed by your diamond ring and how it sparkles, perhaps that means I think other things much more valuable.
  • As we do our work for Christ, remember that we do not seek the payment of men, but the reward of God. Matthew in this passage adds the injunction that “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” The world is not impressed by the hireling.
Same house

We are to stay in the same house – which means that we are to be content with what we have. The constant desire for “more” has ruined many a Christian.

  • By our actions we are to show the world the constancy of the Christian. It is not so much that it is good to be poor as it is good to thank God for what you have.
  • There is a particular peril to the preacher in this. If he is a charming man, it’s possible for him to dine – quite well – at a different house each night. We seldom hear of gluttony as a sin any more, but the temptation is still there.
  • When the Christian does receive, he should do so with thanksgiving and praise to God. God knows your needs, and provides well above them. (He certainly has with me!)

Returning to the Fountain

The Christian life also includes the time of rest. See how this is done.

The Holy Bible, New International Version

30The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done
and taught. 31Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did
not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a
quiet place and get some rest.”

Reported all

Isn’t it a natural thing to report back in at the end of a trip? But one might argue that God knows what they did; why the report?

  • First, your Lord does want to hear from you – it’s called fellowship. It is the desire of his heart that you fellowship with him.
  • Next, so that he might instruct and correct you in a positive way. If you go to him, laying your activities before him, he can then correct you gently.
  • Beyond correction there is praise; it gives him your opportunity to say, “well done.” We all need that some times.
Quiet place

Most of us understand that we need a quiet place for prayer; it’s not that we can’t pray without it, it’s just that it helps avoid distractions. But there is more to it than that:

  • If you wanted a romantic evening with your lover, would you choose a bus stop? No, you’d choose something like a quiet restaurant. You choose the place of prayer, the place of intimate fellowship with God. What does that place say about your attitude?
  • There is also a sense of honor involved here: it’s as if to say, I take this so seriously as to set aside a specific time and place for it.

When our children were younger, my wife used to say, “Rest is a four letter word. That’s why I’m not allowed any.” But if you are genuinely working for Christ, rest is part of the regimen. If you’re working, you need it. If you don’t get it, perhaps you’re not working.

Rest is the reflection of his care for you. It comes when you check in for the day (or whenever) and go to that quiet place. In it, he prepares you to go out again – until he comes.

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