Mark 6 – Jesus Rejected in Nazareth & Politics in the Holy Land Leading Up to the Time of Jesus

The Romans were barbaric and deceitful people, and that was towards Roman citizens.  Imagine how they treated outsiders, like the Jews.  We can only dream how horrible they must have been towards Jesus, a man they feared.

There can be no doubt that Jesus had a hard life, so tomorrow we’re going to look at…

Mark 6
Jesus Rejected in Nazareth

1 And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.

The holy site of Nebi Samuel is the traditional tomb of prophet Samuel, with remains from the Hasmonean period (2nd C BC) through the Crusaders period (12th C A.D.).

2 And when the Sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?

3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

“Carpenter” – Matthew reports that Jesus was called “the carpenter’s son”; only in Mark is Jesus Himself referred to as a carpenter.  The Greek word can also apply to a mason or smith or builder in general.

“They were offended at him” – they saw no reason to believe that He was different from them, much less that He was specially anointed by God.

4 But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

5 And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.

“He could there do no mighty work” = it was not that Jesus didn’t have power to perform miracles at Nazareth, but that He chose not to in such a climate of unbelief.

In the mid-60 BC, Pompey joined Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gaius Julius Caesar in the unofficial military-political alliance known as the First Triumvirate, which Pompey’s marriage to Caesar’s daughter Julia helped secure. After the deaths of Julia and Crassus, Pompey sided with the optimates, the conservative faction of the Roman Senate.

6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.

7 And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;

8 And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse:

“No scrip, no bread, no money in their purse” –they were to depend entirely on the hospitality of those to whom they testified.  A scrip was a small bag.

9 But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.

“Not put on two coats” – at night an extra tunic was helpful as a covering to protect from the cold night air, and the implication here is that the disciples were to trust in God to provide lodging each night.

10 And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.

11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.

12 And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

13 And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.

“Anointed with oil many that were sick” – in the ancient world olive oil was widely used as a medicine.

14 And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

15 Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets.

16 But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.

“John…risen from the dead” – Herod, disturbed by an uneasy conscience and disposed to superstition, feared that John had come back to haunt him.

17 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her.

This reconstruction shows the peristyle courtyard at Machaerus, where Herod Antipas sat and watched the deadly dance of his step-daughter Salome.
Author Győző Vörös told Bible History Daily that this reconstruction was based on details from the excavation, including “hundreds of fragments from the red tiled roof of the former Herodian royal palace.

“Laid hold upon John and bound him in prison” – Josephus says that John was imprisoned at Machaerus, the fortress in Perea on the eastern side of the Dead Sea.

18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.

19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not:

20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

21 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;

22 And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.

23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.

“Unto the half of my kingdom” – a proverbial; reference to generosity, not to be taken literally (see Est 5:3, 6).

24 And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.

Excavated and partially reconstructed city of Scythopolis from the theater; beyond is the massive, 160-foot-high tell (Tell al-Husn, “fortress mound”) of the Old Testament-era city of Beth Shan, containing some twenty layers of settlement dating back over 9000 years.

The Gospels state that Jesus’ travels took him through the Decapolis region at various times. As he wandered through the region he might have imagined he had been magically transported to Greece. The ten cities located there were out and out Greek cities that took Athens as their model.

They had temples honoring Zeus, Artemis, Dionysus and other Greek gods, all in a prominent location in each city. They were the first thing any visitor would have seen. The cities also had other public structures typical of Greek cities: theaters, colonnade-lined streets and marketplaces, stadiums, g
ymnasiums and baths.

Mk 7:31 records that Jesus passed through the Decapolis after he left the region of Tyre and Sidon, and there healed “a man who was deaf and could hardly talk.” Also, Matt 4:25 states: “Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

25 And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist.

26 And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.

27 And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison,

28 And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.

29 And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.

30 And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.

31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

32 And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.

“They departed into a desert place by ship privately” – John reports that they went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  Luke more specifically says they went to Bethsaida, which locates the feeding of the 5,000 on the northeast shore.

33 And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him.

34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.

35 And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:

36 Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.

The Decapolis (“Ten Cities”; Greek: deka, ten; polis, city) was a group of ten cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire in Jordan and Syria.
The ten cities were not an official league or political unit, but they were grouped together because of their language, culture, location, and political status, with each possessing a certain degree of autonomy and self-rule.

The Decapolis cities were centers of Greek and Roman culture in a region that was otherwise Semitic (Nabatean, Aramean, and Judean). With the exception of Damascus, Hippos and Scythopolis, the “Region of the Decapolis” was located in modern-day Jordan.

37 He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?

“Two hundred pennyworth” – the usual pay for the day’s work was one penny or denarius, meaning that about 200 denarii would take about eight months to earn.

38 He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? Go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.

39 And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.

“Green grass” – grass is green around the Sea of Galilee after the late winter or early spring.

40 And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.

“In ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties” – recalls the order of the Mosaic camp in the wilderness (e.g., Ex 18:21).  The word translated “ranks” means “garden plots,” a picturesque figure.

41 And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and break the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.

42 And they did all eat, and were filled.

43 And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.

Transjordan
The Arnon. The water from the Transjordan tableland flows east from an elevation of more than 5000 feet to the Dead Sea (nearly 1300 feet below sea level). This picture shows the Arnon a few yards before it reaches the Dead Sea. During the rainy season there is much more water.

 44 And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.

“Five thousand men” – the size of the crowd is amazing in light of the fact that the neighboring towns of Capernaum and Bethsaida probably had a population of only 2,000-3,000 each.

45 And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.

46 And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.

47 And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.

48 And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.

“Walking upon the sea” – Jesus did not do this to show off the power of God, but to show the power of faith.  The same with his parable about the mustard seed (Matt 13:31-32; Lk 17:6).

If you have true faith there is nothing you cannot do because God will do anything you ask Him to do.  Do know that if you have true faith there is nothing you would want to do that was evil.

“And this is the confidence that we have in him that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us:

And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that  we desired of him (1 Jn 5:14-15).

His will for us is anything that will make us happy and if what we ask for is evil then the devil still has his hand on us and we are lacking in faith.

49 But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:

The Phasael Tower of the Citadel in the Second Temple Model
King Herod built the three heavily fortified towers of the citadel upon a location that was already a very fortified position since the days of Solomon.

Jerusalem’s citadel was the highest point of the city about 2500 feet above sea level. Herod built the citadel and towers to protect the western side of the city of Jerusalem and his marvelous palace. These were fantastic towers, the largest was the Phasael Tower but the most beautiful was his Mariamne Tower.

“A spirit” – popular Jewish superstition held that the appearance of spirits during the night brought disaster.  The disciples’ terror was prompted by what they may have thought was a water spirit.

50 For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.

51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.

52 For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

“They considered not the miracle of the loaves” – if the disciples would have understood the feeding of the 5,000, they wouldn’t have been amazed at Jesus’ walking on the water or His calming the waves (Matt 8:26).

“Their heart was hardened” – Jesus’ disciples having fear or even being amazed at things He did shows that they are lacking in their faith, the devil still has his hand on them.  That doesn’t mean they are going to hell or anything like that, it means that they are not equal to a mustard seed.

53 And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore.

54 And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him,

55 And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was.

56 And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.

“Touch if it were but the border of his garment” – it was not the garment that healed the people, or the lady with the blood disease (Mk 5:25), it was their belief, their faith, that if they touched Jesus they would be healed.

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith (Gal 3:11).

Politics in the Holy Land
Leading Up to the Time of Jesus

The Holy Land just prior to and during the time of Jesus was formally under the supervision of the Roman governor of Syria. The Roman period began in 63 B.C. and culminated with the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. and the establishment of Jerusalem as a pagan city in 135 A.D.

Augustus, 63 BC-14 AD, Roman emperor
The Roman Period (63 B.C–324 A.D)
The Early Roman Period (63 B.C–70 A.D)
The Second Temple Period
In 63 BC, Pompey conquered Jerusalem and turned Judea into a protectorate. The Jewish state had lost its sovereignty and independence and the Roman Period had begun.

Pompey did not find a unified, stable government but rather civil strife between contenders from members the Hasmonean dynasty vying for the high priesthood. In their internecine squabbles, they recruited the help of neighboring countries. Rome felt no commitment to the Hasmonean dynasty which in the past had worked against its interests.

And as Pompey saw little chance for a stable Jewish government to arise in the Land of Israel, it did not take much effort for him to impose his authority by means of the sword. The hasty decision by Aristobulus to go to war against Pompey when the Roman seemed to be favor Aristobulus’ rival Hyrcanus sealed the fate of the Hasmoneans for the Romans.

As a critical epoch in the history of Israel, ancient contemporaries and modern interpreters view these years as a period of tremendous change, expectation and consequence.

Arrival of Rome
and the End of the Hasmoneans

Roman control debuted in Israel in the wake of a conflict for succession between two sons of the Hasmonean queen Salome Alexandra: Hyrcanus II, who had served as high priest, and Aristobulus II, who had been the chief military commander.

Although Hyrcanus initially yielded to his brother, he was pressed by the Idumean leader Antipater to fight for the throne. Both sides sent delegations before the Roman general Pompey in Damascus, who eventually sided with Hyrcanus.

In the meantime, the supporters of Aristobulus had barricaded themselves in the temple of Jerusalem. Pompey’s forces besieged the temple mount for three months, eventually taking the area. Josephus recorded that Pompey desecrated the temple by entering into the Most Holy Place (Wars, 1.7.1 -6).

Hyrcanus was confirmed in power, although denied the title of king and stripped of all coastal and Transjordanian Greek cities. After another rebellion in 57 B.C. by Aristobulus’s son Alexander, Hyrcanus retained only the high priesthood and the temple, while the province of Judea was divided into five administrative districts.

During the course of a Roman civil war between Pompey and Julius Caesar, the Idumean Antipater encouraged Hyrcanus to support Caesar and to send auxiliary troops to his aid in Egypt (47 B.C.).

As a gesture of thanks, Julius Caesar conferred upon Hyrcanus the title Ethnarch of the Jews (an Ethnarch was a man appointed by Rome to be ruler of a people) and named Antipater as the first procurator of Judea.

Antipater named his two sons, Phasael and Herod, as prefects over Judea and Galilee, respectively. Herod quickly distinguished himself and was named prefect of Syria by the Roman governor.

Herod the Great

Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C. was a blow to Jewish communities throughout the empire and produced a period of instability in Rome. During this interval the eastern empire was attacked by Parthians from Mesopotamia.

The decline of the Hasmoneans coincided with the rise of Rome, but it wasn’t coincidence, for the once great Jewish family had become a shell of its holy roots.

In the year 67 BCE, Queen Salome Alexendra (also known as Queen Shelomtzion) died. With her death, the dynasty of the Hasmoneans began a steady decline. Over the next 20-25 years it would fall apart completely.

They named Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus, as high priest and king in Jerusalem. Phasael was captured and slain, while Herod fled to Rome. After the defeat of the Parthians, Mark Antony and Octavian (Julius Caesar’s heir) conferred the title King of the Jews upon Herod in 37 B.C.

Herod ruled from Jerusalem with the support of Rome from 37 to 34 B.C. He functioned as a client-king (a king who rules under the authority of an outside power) and was considered a “friend and ally of the Roman people” (a title conferred by the senate upon non-Romans whose support their valued).

He was dependent upon Rome for his kingship and was compelled to swear an oath of allegiance to Caesar (Josephus, Antiquities, 17.2.4). In return he promised stability, order and tax revenue.

Herod earned an international reputation as a great benefactor and builder of cities and temples, but his legacy within Judaism is almost entirely negative.

Josephus recorded the contemporary evaluation that Jews suffered more during the reign of Herod than during the entire period prior to Herod since the Babylonian exile (Josephus, Wars, 2.6.2).

…the Messianic conflicts and the fall of Jerusalem.