SUNDAY SERMON: Picking your battles

By Rev. Stephen Baldwin 

OT: Ezekiel 2.1-5

NT: Mark 6.1-13

Things are going well for Jesus. He travels around the fishing communities of the Sea of Galilee, adored by huge crowds, healing the sick, calming the seas, and preaching the good news. Things are going well. His ministry is hitting its stride. And then, he heads home.

Nazareth was a small town. Around the size of Caldwell. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody knows everybody’s business. Your momma’s business, and your pawpaw’s business, and your cousin’s uncle’s neighbor’s business. 

It was so small they probably didn’t have a leader at the local synagogue. Like a small country church today, they would rely on members and guests to teach each week. So when Jesus comes home, he accepts the call to teach. 

Things are going well in his ministry. He knows how to teach, preach, and speak publicly. He heals the sick and calms the storms. He feeds the masses and even has his own disciples. Teaching at his hometown synagogue should be a piece of cake, right? 

Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, “You cannot go home again.” The point holds true in Jesus’ case. Perhaps because of the way he was viewed by his hometown. The text says he was a “tekton” which basically means “day laborer” or, perhaps more specifically, “stonemason.” 

His hometown didn’t see him the way the crowds did. They didn’t see him the way the disciples did. They saw him as a laborer. Born to laborers. In a small town full of laborers. Yet here he is, preaching and teaching among his own people. 

The Message translation says it best when they translate the people’s response: “Who does he think he is?” That’s what the people of Nazareth want to know. Because they know who he is and whose he is. They know where he was raised and what he was like as a kid. He left, came back fancying himself a savior, and they say, “Who does he think he is?” 

It’s not a literal question. They’re not confused about who he is. They’re rejecting him. They don’t want him around. They don’t want to hear his teachings or have him bury their dead. 

So what does Jesus do? He leaves. For good measure, he heals a few people on the way out of town, but he doesn’t stay to try and convince them. He leaves. He decides this isn’t a battle worth fighting, for he could be doing good elsewhere. So that’s what he does. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the last time Jesus ever enters a synagogue. 

Jesus also sends his disciples out on their own. In groups of two. With clear instructions. Spread the good news everywhere. If people accept you, stay there. If people reject you, move on immediately. So that’s exactly what they do from that moment forward. 

People like to talk about picking their battles. Jesus clearly does that in today’s story. His battle is not with the people of hometown. He’s not going to win that one, not that day, at least not without compromising the larger mission… so he simply moves on. He trusts they’ll come around in the end. 

How well do you pick your battles? Do you ever see arguments on Facebook and wonder who in the world these people are and why they think it’s a good idea to waste time and energy arguing with people on a computer…and then you throw in your two cents? 

During World War II, the Allied Forces were about to attack Sicily. They tricked the Germans into thinking they were actually going to Greece next, so the Germans amassed their forces in Greece…only to find they were fighting a battle against no one while Sicily fell. 

Do you ever fight those kinds of battles? It’s easy to do. But in today’s world where time is such a valuable commodity, picking the wrong battles can take us terribly off course with consequences that last a long time. 

Jesus knew Nazareth was a battle that was not worth fighting right then. He told his disciples to go where they were accepted to spread the good news. If they were met with resistance, they should move on, because time was short. 

When Jesus headed home, things were going well. What happened when he got there would have been enough to throw most anyone off track, but Jesus refused to allow that to happen. He picked his battles wisely. He stayed on track. He remained committed to the cause. Time is short. How will you spend yours? Amen.

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