How many of you today have felt that you have just received a huge new learning, something that has truly transformed your life, and you share it at home — and no one is listening?
Or maybe you have started a new diet and it is really working for you… you are excited about it, and share it with those who know you best… and they just don’t get how important this discovery is for you?
Or maybe, you have had a small child, 4 or 5 years old, tell you something so deep that you are amazed that such wisdom could come from someone so small and unknowing. Maybe they don’t even know how profound their words are… but you have received the message.
This morning we find Jesus back in his home town, where he grew up. He has now established for himself a following – disciples – and he has grown in knowledge and wisdom. But his homecoming is a lesson for all of us.
Mark 6:1-6 (Living Bible) – “Just a Carpenter”
6 Soon afterwards he left that section of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. 2-3 The next Sabbath he went to the synagogue to teach, and the people were astonished at his wisdom and his miracles because he was just a local man like themselves.
“He’s no better than we are,” they said. “He’s just a carpenter, Mary’s boy, and a brother of James and Joseph, Judas and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” And they were offended!
4 Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his hometown and among his relatives and by his own family.” 5 And because of their unbelief he couldn’t do any mighty miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he could hardly accept the fact that they wouldn’t believe in him.
Then he went out among the villages, teaching.
People never change!
And people don’t expect anyone else to ever change either!
We don’t know how long Jesus was away… there are years of Jesus’ life that are simply undocumented. But somewhere between being the carpenter and coming back to his hometown, Jesus had stepped up into a new role and a new transformed way of being! He had finally started to “own” who he really was – the son of God.
We read the following about his family’s definitions of him in other parts of the gospels: When Christ began his ministry and his family heard about it, they accused him of having gone mad, and acting on that belief, tried to take charge of him as if he did not know what he was doing.
‘When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind”’ (Mark 3:21)
‘For even his own brothers did not believe in him’ (John 7:5)
His time of living up to other people’s expectations had come to an end and now he was busy living his purpose.
And those who supposedly knew him best, just couldn’t get it! It was too much for them.
“Who is this guy?”
“Who does he think he is?”
I am sure that there would have been a few neighbours and few acquaintances that had talked with Jesus when he was younger and seen this spark within him. Who, if they had been paying attention, might have noticed the depth of wisdom and knowing within him. But, to everyone else, he was just “a carpenter”.
They saw and defined him by what he did. He is a carpenter.
How many of you are defined by what you do? I look at my life, for example, and I know that I am defined by my clients as “a lawyer”, or by little miss 4 I am defined as “my mummy” (I am supposed to be the mother – that’s my role and function – nothing more), by those who know me from school (“the science geek”), and by my family – I’m probably still 14 years old! I exaggerate! For many years, I was defining myself as “I am sick”, and allowing Coeliac Disease to control my life.
How often are you defined by what you do and how you spend your time.
Some people use their job description as a self-description.
- I am a carpenter.
- I am a prophet.
- I am the son of God.
- I am the manager of XYZ company.
- I am a medical student
- I am a scientist
- I am an entrepreneur
Some even use their relationships or other affiliations.
- I am Joseph’s son. (you know, when you meet someone and they say “Oh, yeah… you’re Fred’s grandchild!)
- I am a member of the International Bar Association.
- I am a member of Kiwanis.
Others use their belief system.
- I am a progressive, liberal Christian.
- I am an evangelical Christian
- I am a Buddhist.
- I am an atheist.
- I am a minimalist, living with no clutter.
- I am a democrat – or I’m a republican. Or I’m a Tory or I’m an anarchist.
I want to ask you a very important question this morning? Who are you? How do YOU define yourself?
Think about all the things you tell yourself, that start with “I am…”
- I am a lawyer
- I am a woman
- I am a mother
- I am Panamanian, but I am a foreigner
Or how about these?
- I am sick or I am healthy
- I am tired or I am full of vibrant energy
- I am worthless or I am worthy
- I am a sinner or I am a child of God
- I am a failure or I am learning to live to my full potential
Or how about these definitions of self:
- I am compassionate
- I am kind
- I am thoughtful
- I am patient
- I am loving
- I am considerate
- I am attentive
We all know from our reading in Mark how Jesus’ family and neighbours defined Jesus. We can rise or fall according to the definitions and expectations that others hold of us. Maybe Jesus was busy living up to Mary & Joseph’s expectations of him – the special meaning that his life had since birth. But it certainly wasn’t defined by the expectations and definitions provided by his friends and neighbours. His basic I am statements lead us to a completely different view:
- I am the bread of life
- I am the door
- I am the way, the truth & the life
- I am the good shepherd
- I am the light
- I am the resurrection and the life
- I am the true vine
- I am the son of God
See, for Jesus, his job description “carpenter” was not how he defined himself. What you do is not who you are!
Eric Maisel tells us:
“Even before you can make meaning, you must nominate yourself as the meaning-maker in your own life and fashion a central connection with yourself, one that is more aware, active, and purposeful than the connection most people fashion with themselves.
“Self-connection — understanding that you are your own advocate, taskmaster, coach, best friend, and sole arbiter of meaning and that no one else can or will serve those functions for you — is crucial.”
So, as you live your life, and you raise your standards of what you expect of yourself, as you choose to transform your life and allow healing and growth to take place, remember this from our reading this morning in Mark:
“A prophet is honored everywhere except in his hometown and among his relatives and by his own family.”
Jesus’ family, relatives and neighbours all had an image in their mind of who Jesus was and who he was supposed to be. They didn’t see who he had stepped into being – they still saw the carpenter’s apprentice. They defined him as
- the carpenter
- Mary’s boy
- James, Joseph, Judas & Simon’s brother
But you – how do YOU define yourself?
Do you see yourself through human eyes? Or do you see yourself through God’s eyes? Who and what does God say you are?
- I am created in God’s image
- I am a child of God, loved by God
- I am one of God’s children
- I am his workmanship, created for good works
- I am chosen
- I am a temple
- I am the dwelling of God’s spirit
- I am granted all things
- I am precious
- I am always on God’s mind
- I am crowned with glory & honour
- I am a citizen of the kingdom of heaven
- I am fearfully and wonderfully made
- I am made in the likeness and image of God
- I have a spirit of power and love and sound mind
- I am God’s chosen, with a compassionate heart, kind, humble, meek and patient
We could go on and on…
If there is one thing I would like you to know today, it is that you have freedom to choose. You may choose to allow yourself to be defined by what you do. You may choose to be defined by the expectations others have of you.
Or you may choose this day that you will serve a higher purpose, follow your passion that knows what your legacy in life is and set out to fulfill that dream. You may choose to see yourself through earthly and material eyes. Or you may choose to look at yourself through God’s eyes.
But you get to choose. Do you choose just to be a carpenter? Or will you choose to be a child of God that lives spectacularly on this earth, transforming yourself and those around you?