It always seems to happen.
That youth rally, that summer camp, that mission trip was AWESOME! God was truly at work. The worship was incredible, the speakers were passionate, the service projects were inspiring and humbling. Now you’re on the top of the world. God’s Spirit is alive and active inside you. You feel like you can do anything through God’s power, and you’re ready to change the world!
And then you go home.
Back to where people know your past. Back to where people have seen your failures. Back to where the worship is just routine, the preacher is old and irrelevant, and life is WAY to busy to volunteer or serve.
And the fire dies.
I’m positive that everyone who is involved in youth ministry – students, ministers, and volunteers – has experienced this sometime is his/her life. For some it happens multiple times every year. You are taken from this great spiritual high, then you suffer withdrawal-like symptoms, and if you are not careful it can even spiral down into a deep sense of loneliness and depression.
If it’s any consolation, Jesus had a similar experience in Mark 6.
Jesus had just performed a series of the most amazing miracles anyone has ever witnessed. He gave proof to those around him that he is Lord over disaster, demons, disease, and death. He raised a little girl from the dead! Do you realize what the means?!
I don’t know what was going through the minds and hearts of the disciples at this point, but I know I would be thinking, “This guy is unstoppable! There’s nothing he can’t do. We’re really going to change the world!” That miracle-infused 24 hours would have blown any summer camp out of the water. I would be on top of the world if I were one of the Twelve!
And then Jesus goes home. He and his disciples pay a visit to Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. These people knew him. They knew the scandal surrounding his conception. They knew he didn’t go through the rigorous rabbinical training. They knew he was trained as a carpenter – the equivalent of a modern construction worker.
He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and began teaching. Nothing too out of the ordinary for Jesus. However, this was not Jesus the Rabbi. This was not Jesus the miracle worker. This DEFINITELY wasn’t Jesus the Messiah. The was Jesus the Carpenter!*
Some were amazed at his teaching, but others simply got offended. That’s just like some people, isn’t it? Who are you to be telling me what to do?! What makes you so special?
And then Jesus speaks a truth that resonated to preachers throughout the centuries: “Only in his home town, among his relatives, and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”
And then we’re told that Jesus could not do any miracles there. Not that he wouldn’t. He couldn’t because of their lack of faith. He had just come from stopping a storm in its tracks, defeating an army of demons, curing and incurable disease, and even bringing a dead girl back to life…and now he can’t do anything more than heal a few sick people.
A lot of us may have been tempted to throw in the towel. That would have been enough to make me question my entire ministry. It can be devastating to our faith when we come back home on fire for God and we’re met with a sense of apathy or even pessimism.
But it didn’t stop Jesus. It didn’t even slow him down. And he wasn’t going to let it slow down the Twelve, either. Jesus kept on preaching and performing miracles, and he even sent the Twelve out in groups of two to keep spreading the message about the kingdom to whomever would listen (6:7-13).
So what should we do when we come back from a retreat or youth rally with a spiritual high? Keep on keeping on. Don’t let people keep you from worshiping God with all your heart. Don’t let eternal pessimists pull you back down to their level. Don’t let the mundane and the routine keep you from looking for the extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit.
And most importantly, don’t lose sight of God and his purpose for you.
*[A couple additional notes on this passage. The Catholic Church exalts Jesus’ mother, Mary, as an eternal virgin. They refer to her as “The Virgin Mary,” implying that Mary remained a virgin even after Jesus’ birth. But clearly from this passage and others (See Matthew13:53-58 and Luke 8:19-21), Jesus obviously had physical brothers and sisters. If they had been the children of Joseph and another woman (which was not a common practice in Jesus’ day, plus Joseph could not have afforded more than one wife), then they would not even be Jesus’ half-siblings. There would have been no relation whatsoever. So Mary had other children – none of whom were conceived miraculously like Jesus.
Also, Matthew says the crowds referred to Jesus as the carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55), whereas Mark’s account simply says, “the carpenter.” There has been some speculation that Joseph died somewhat early on in Jesus’ life. This would explain why only Mary is mentioned, and she is almost always with her other sons. Jesus, as the oldest, would be in charge of providing for the rest of the family in the absence of the father. It can be assumed that Jesus was indeed apprenticed to his father in the carpentry skill and took over the family business when Joseph died. Jesus began his ministry around the age of thirty – probably because his brother(s) were now old enough to take over in his absence. This would also explain why Jesus assigned John to watch over his mother as if he were one of his own brothers (John 19:26-27).]