This passage gives three “snapshots” of what a servant of God should be prepared for.
Did You Know...?
1. “His own country” (6:1): Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown (cf. Lk 4:16).
2. Carpenter (6:3): Of the four gospel books, only Mark refers to Jesus as a carpenter—a common laborer.
3. Roman Catholics believe that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life, and therefore Jesus’ siblings were from a previous wife of Joseph who died before he married Mary. However, there is no biblical evidence of this. It is reasonable to assume that Mary had children with Joseph after Jesus was born.
4. James, Judas, and Simon should not be confused with three of the twelve apostles by the same common names.
5. Staff, sandals, tunic (6:8-9): Travel accessories. A staff (walking stick) and sandals aided walking, while a tunic (inner garment) provided covering from the cold night air.
6. “Shake off the dust under your feet” (6:11): The act symbolized that there would be no further contacts, similar to today’s, “washing your hands of him.” Paul and Barnabas did the same when they were rejected (Acts 13:50-51). The Pharisees did this when they passed from Gentile to Jewish soil because rabbinical doctrine taught that the dust of a heathen land defiles. [ref]
7. “Anointed with oil” (6:13): Probably olive oil, which was widely used as a medicine.
8. King Herod (6:14): Herod Antipas—the Herod who judged Jesus (cf. Lk 23:7-11). His father Herod the Great killed the babies in Bethlehem (Mt 2:16). Although popularly known as a “king,” he was technically a “tetrarch,” ruling over a fourth of Palestine (including Galilee).
9. Herodias (6:17): A granddaughter of Herod the Great. She and Herod Antipas both divorced their spouses in order to marry each other. (Mosaic law forbids marriage to one’s brother’s wife while the brother is still living).
10. Herodias’ daughter (6:22): Possibly Salome, Herodias’ daughter from her former marriage. She was between twelve and fourteen years of age.
Though a daughter of kings, she condescended to dance before Antipas and his guests. The dancing in vogue at the time was very similar to our modern ballet.
However, given the questionable morals of the Herodians, the dance may have been very sensual.
11. “Up to half my kingdom” (6:23): This expression is not to be taken literally. It was spoken by kings to signify their magnanimity (cf. Est 5:3, 6; 7:2).
- Jesus Despised in His Hometown (6:1-6)
- People amazed by Jesus’ teachings and miracles (6:1-2)
- People reject Jesus because of His background (6:3-4)
- Jesus leaves for other villages (6:5-6)
- The Twelve Apostles Sent (6:7-13)
- Jesus gives them authority and instructs them on what to do (6:7-11)
- The apostles do as Jesus says (6:12-13)
- Death of John the Baptist (6:14-29)
- Rumor of John raised from the dead (6:14-16)
- John the Baptist jailed (6:17-20)
- Through her daughter, Herodias asks for John’s head (6:21-26)
- John beheaded and buried (6:27-29)
From what happens to each of the following, what can we learn about a servant’s life? a. Jesus; b. Disciples; c. John the BaptistHide Answer
a. Jesus—He was rejected in His hometown and treated with contempt.
b. Disciples—Practical experience; preacher; traveled in pairs; not settled in one place; relied on hospitality of others; learned what to and what not to bring.
c. John the Baptist—After the end of a powerful ministry, he died without fanfare.
List the characteristics of Jesus’ family that made it ordinary.Hide Answer
Many brothers and sisters; common names; Jesus’ sisters still lived there; three of His brothers even had the same common name as three of His disciples!
List the characteristics of Jesus’ that made Him ordinary.Hide Answer
1. He grew up with the people of His hometown, and was considered one of their own
2. He was a carpenter.
3. He did not receive formal religious training
Compare 6:1-2 to 1:21-22. Why did the Nazarenes end up rejecting Him?Hide Answer
People had been amazed by Jesus when He had a smaller following (Mk 1:21-22 took place in the beginning of His ministry). Now, Jesus was well known for His wisdom and power, and He had a large crowd following him (including an impressive tally of twelve apostles). Perhaps that was why the Nazarenes initially permitted Jesus to teach in the synagogue. But, later, they recognized Him. The harder they looked, the less impressive He seemed to them. And they took offense at such an ordinary man daring to teach them about the kingdom of God.
How would the Nazarenes answer their own questions? How would you answer them? “Where did this Man get these things?” “What wisdom is this which is given to Him?”Hide Answer
The Nazarenes had no answer. They rejected the only reasonable answer, that Jesus received His power and wisdom from God. The only other possibilities were that Jesus was mad (which was what His own family had thought [Mk 3:21]) or that he was demon possessed (which was what the scribes had claimed [Mk 3:22]).
What can we learn from the Nazarenes’ rhetorical questions in verse 3?Hide Answer
They had already concluded that Jesus was not someone special. Their questions were meant to demean Him. These irrelevant questions made them blind to the truth about Jesus (cf. 1Cor 4:13).
What did Jesus mean in verse 4? (cf. Lk 4:22-27).Hide Answer
Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith. In Lk 4:23, Jesus exposed what the Nazarenes were thinking. In spite of Jesus’ powerful words, they were skeptical of His miraculous powers. They perhaps thought what they heard from Capernaum was exaggerated. They expected Jesus to perform miracles for them, as if He was a magician (cf. Mt 12:38-39)
Why was Jesus amazed at the people’s lack of faith? What does this warn us about rejecting Jesus?Hide Answer
Luke 4:28-29 tells us that after Jesus rebuked the Nazarenes, they became so upset that they wanted to throw Him off the cliff. They did not repent when Jesus warned them of the consequences. Because of their unbelief, Jesus went to other villages, just as Elijah had gone to Zarephath (Lk 4:25-26). God’s work cannot be stopped. If we reject His salvation, He will go elsewhere (Acts 8:1-4; Rom 11:11-12). Note that Jesus still healed a few people—the minority who had faith in Him.
Why does there seem to be less miracles today than in the early days of the church?Hide Answer
We should not jump to conclusions like the Nazarenes did. Just because we don’t witness miracles locally doesn’t mean that God is not working elsewhere. We still read and hear testimonies from other places. If God truly is not working in the church or in our personal lives, then it is time to examine our faith in Him. Jesus does not leave us unless we reject Him.
What do your family members say when you preach to them? How can you lead them to Christ?
What were Jesus’ instructions to the twelve apostles?Hide Answer
1. Go two by two
2. Take nothing except a staff
3. Wear sandals
4. Do not bring bread, bag, money, or extra tunic
5. Enter a house and stay there until you leave town
6. If any place does not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave. This also seems to be an implicit rebuke on the Pharisees’ arrogance and unbelief (cf. Did You Know 6).
Who is your partner in faith? How is two better than one?
What did Jesus give the disciples, besides instructions?Hide Answer
Power over unclean spirits (7). Not only did the Lord command them to go and preach, He also equipped them with divine power to win the spiritual battle.
Why should the disciples not bring food, money, or extra supplies?Hide Answer
Not bringing along many possessions allowed them total dedication to the task at hand (cf. 2Tim 2:4). It also trained the apostles to trust that God will provide for their needs if they are faithful to His work (e.g. Elijah was being provided for by ravens and the widow of Zarephath [1Kgs 17:1-16]).
It was customary for believers to support the livelihood of God’s workers (cf. 1Kgs 17:9; 2Kgs 4:9-10). How do you support the church workers?Hide Answer
Financially support the church (1Cor 16:1; 2Cor 8:2-5; 11:8-9; Php 4:15- 17).
What do you do when a person says, “No” when you preach to him or her?
Who did Herod think Jesus was? WhyHide Answer
Herod believed that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead because he had heard of Jesus’ miraculous powers (14, 16).
Jesus likened John the Baptist to Elijah (Mt 11:13-14). Compare the way John died to how Elijah was taken up to heaven (2Kgs 2:11-12). What does this teach us about being a servant of God?Hide Answer
The description of John’s death sounds somewhat like an aside. John had been compared to Elijah, and yet his life ended so differently. He died alone, without fanfare (his disciples heard about his death afterwards [Mk 6:29]), whereas Elijah was taken up in a chariot of fire. While in prison, John despaired, and questioned if his work had meaning (Mt 11:2-3). However, our lives are not judged by our earthly glory, but by how God views us when we die. As a prophet, John’s job was to speak the word of truth. He continued to do so until the end of his life (cf. 2Cor 13:8). A great reward awaits us when we die in the Lord and rest from our labor (cf. Rev 14:13).
Why did Herod like to listen to John?Hide Answer
Herod did not seem to be upset when John rebuked him for marrying his brother’s wife. He seemed to be amused at what John had to say (see his reaction to Jesus in Lk 23:8). Perhaps it was intellectually stimulating. He heard the teaching, understood it, but did not believe. To him, it was only interesting philosophy, not to be practiced in his life. He chose to obey Herodias instead of God, first imprisoning and then beheading John.
Why did John continue to speak to Herod? Compare him to Jesus, who remained silent before Herod (Lk 23:9-10).Hide Answer
John did what he could. As long as Herod was willing to listen, John kept teaching Herod to repent. Herod did not believe. By the time Jesus was standing before him, the opportunity for repentance was past. Jesus remained silent because Herod’s heart was hard. Likewise, if we do not repent in spite of repeated warnings, God will let us go (see Mt 18:15-17).
Herodias bore a grudge against John the Baptist (19). What does the Bible teach about grudges?Hide Answer
The Bible teaches us not to let our anger remain (Eph 4:26). Not only should we not hold a grudge, Jesus teaches us to go one step further. If a brother has a grudge against us, we must go and be reconciled with him (Mt 5:23-24).
In a festive mood, Herod made a promise without thinking, which he later regretted (26). Describe a time when you made a similar mistake.
Describe Herod’s family. What does this tell us about the importance of religious education in a family?Hide Answer
This family is a good example of how not to bring up a child. Their relationship was complicated and not God-centered (Herodias was Herod’s niece, and she divorced Herod’s brother in order to marry Herod). Herod and Herodias clearly influenced the daughter’s morals (the girl asked for her mother’s advice when Herod offered her a reward). Perhaps Herodias had taught her to hate John. Still, her behavior was outrageous for a child of her age. She had no qualms about asking for John’s head, even hurrying back to the king to ask him for it (25). John’s head on a platter did not seem to frighten her (28). Children learn much from their parents’ behavior.