The Tall Poppy Syndrome circa 30 AD
A sermon on Mark 6:1-13 by Jan Coates, 4 July 2009

Sometimes those we dismiss as unworthy of our time are those we should listen to more closely.


I've lived here in Nazareth all my life, but I've never heard anything in our little synagogue like that young man who preached last Sabbath. Did you hear him?

I forget the lad's name, but I do know him as one of the sons of our local carpenter, Joseph and his wife Mary. A great couple, and Joe's work is truly magnificent.

His preaching started off really well - it was obvious he knew his stuff, alright. Talked about the Scriptures as if he had been given them first hand - almost like he was there when the events they describe happened. He even seemed to have more knowledge about them than all of our synagogue leaders put together, and that's saying something. The Rabbis are so good at explaining the laws to us, so we can understand and obey them. This kid, though, seemed to go beyond just explaining the laws. He gave a whole new interpretation to them.

I felt quite proud of him - who would have thought that a kid from our little town would be able to get himself through the education system enough to be able to speak in public the way he did. I thought it was one in the eye for all that lot in the big towns, who don't think much of us. Finally, something worthwhile comes out of Nazareth. Something we could call our gift to the world.

After a while though, he started to get my goat. He acted like he was just so superior: typical of those who get themselves a bit of an education and then think they are better than the rest of us because we didn't. Cheeky little upstart, who does he think he is, anyway? Well, we didn't desert our families - we stuck around and carried on our father's trade, like we are supposed to do. We didn't run off because it doesn't suit us to follow into the family business, leaving our brothers to struggle on without the eldest to take over from the old man. We didn't go wandering off into the unknown, and worry our mothers sick, never knowing where exactly you are, and wether you are eating properly and have enough clothes and wash behind your ears and all the other stuff mothers worry about. He doesn't even come home all that often to make sure his folks are okay. In fact, I think this was the first time he came home since he left.

I mean, does he seriously think that we should listen to him and accept his interpretation of the sacred word? I remember him playing in the streets with my kids. Even then he seemed to be a bit self possessed. Not exactly an egotist, but he seemed to be really confident; as if he knew where he was going and that he would succeed no matter what. His brothers and sisters were all normal kids. Nothing over the top about them - they were happy to do what their father told them. Good, obedient kids I reckon. But this one, I remember now, his name's Jesus, seemed like he lived in a world of his own. There was that time we all went to Jerusalem for Passover. The little monkey didn't stay with the group - he went off on his own and ended up lost. Poor Mary was beside herself. Three days it took to find him again, and when they did he was in the synagogue, so I guess they shouldn't have been too angry. I mean, at least he'd snuck off to do something worthwhile, not get into trouble. He wanted to know why they were upset, because he was going about his father's business. Well, we all know that Joe, while he's a good man, he doesn't work much at the synagogue, so I'm not sure what the lad's delusion was, but he seemed to think, and still does, that he has some kind of connection with God.

Anyway, after the kafuffle at the synagogue, I heard him talking to that gang he hangs out with - and they're a right disreputable lot, in my book. There's a tax collector for one, and a couple of them are just fishermen. They all just up and walked out on their families, friends and businesses to follow this guy, Jesus. Some respect for their elders, huh? Anyway, I heard Jesus telling them to go out into the world together in pairs, taking nothing with them, and expecting others to pay their way for them in return for a few slight-of-hand miracles. Okay, they've apparently healed a few people, but then it's just mind over matter most times isn't it? You get well if you believe you will, and you die if you don't. Some of them, I'm sure, were set ups - you know, someone pretends to be lame, and then, when you wave your hand over them and say a few words, they're magically healed. All a bit sus in my eyes. Then came the real crunch - he told them to go out preaching. Honestly, who gave him the authority to designate who can preach? Isn't that up to the Rabbis, Sadducees and Pharisees? Have these mates of his done all the training and stuff that you have to do to become a preacher? I'm sorry, but I'm not going to buy into that stuff. I really think that someone needs to take him down a peg or two - you know, cut him down to size, let him know who's really in charge, tell him we aren't going to stand for this kind of thing.

And do you know what else? To really rub salt into the wound, he says to them: if you don't get accepted by a town, leave and shake the sand off your sandals - what an insult! Just because they don't listen, give them the finger and move on! He also dictates to them that if someone offers them hospitality, they have to stay with that person the whole time they are in town - if a better offer comes up, they can't take it. So, they can be stuck in some hovel while the richest man in town has a bed going begging for them. And on the other side, they are leeching off someone who probably really can't afford to have them for any length of time either, but they have to stay put according to this Jesus. Talk about causing problems for those who don't need them!

The funny thing is, now I've told you all the things that bugged me about him, I'm starting to see that perhaps some of what he told us was truth. Maybe even more so than what I've heard before or since. He had a special kind of authority that no-one else has ever exhibited. Certainly, I've never heard the passion he put into his readings and interpretations from anyone else. A few of the people I've talked to say he has done all these miracles elsewhere, and that people see him as some kind of saviour - someone who stands up for the little people, and accepts anyone and everyone no matter who or what they are. They are willing to follow him no matter what - even if it means they have to leave their homes and hit the road with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Even some of the people around here are planning on joining him: a couple did it immediately. Don't know how their parents took it when they didn't come home. Guess they'd be pretty upset. Some have made the decision in the last few days. At least they've talked it over with their parents. There are even some people who don't usually go to the synagogue a lot, or even at all, who are talking about how right this guy has got it, and how their lives are turning around because they believe in him and what he says!

Now I'm confused. I'm not sure which way to go - but I think he's on to something here. I'm not one to jump on the bandwagon just because it's the done thing, and maybe this bandwagon won't go far. Something deep inside me says he's got it right, that he is in touch with the Scriptures in a way no-one else has ever been.

Sorry, I think I've wasted your time. I think he's got the right idea after all. There's more to this Jesus than I thought. I think the family can survive without me for a few weeks while I do a bit more investigation on the subject. I'm sure it won't hurt if I at least try following him for a few days, and see if he holds up under examination at close quarters. I mean, I'm not exactly your trained and educated in the scriptures kind of person, but I think I can see a con when it happens. And if I hang around for a while, if it is a con, then he's got to slip up sometime, yeh? There's only one way to find out, I guess. I'll get back to you with my findings.