The Old Testament and the gospel reading for Sunday are a study in contrasts.
2 Sam. 5:1-5,9-10 skips ahead from last Sunday’s reading about the death of Saul and Jonathan, (chapter 1) past the selection of David to be the king of the southern land of Judea (chapter 2), past the battles wage by the house of Saul, under the leadership of Abner until finally they were defeated (chapters 3 and 4), and begins with the leadership of the northern kingdom of Israel asking David to be their king.
In today’s reading the leaders of Israel (the northern portion) come to David and acknowledge him as their king.
Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” … King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.
After years of warring against him, the leaders of Israel not only acknowledge him but claim kinship, we are your bone and flesh and acknowledge his divine commission.
David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.
The last summary verses show that the people revered him, despite some serious missteps in his relationship with God and the people.
The gospel story, which picks up after last week’s cure of the woman who was hemorrhaging for twelve years and raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead, contrasts with David’s acceptance.
On the sabbath he (Jesus) began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
The five belittling questions indicate that the people were skeptical of not only his wisdom but also his deeds of power. Beneath the disbelief of his family and friends is a strong sense of the humanity of Jesus. He was just like them in so many ways.
Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching.
A brief passage then describes how Jesus sent out his recently recruited disciples to teach and cure. The section contrasts those who thought they knew Jesus well because they had seen him grow up but didn’t believe him, and: his new followers who had only recently met him but believed him; they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
- In the reading of 2 Samuel even David’s former enemies claimed kinship with him. But in the gospel the people who had seen Jesus grow up doubted him and sought distance from him. Why? Did it change their relationship with him too much? How hard would it have been to accept him?
- David was The iconic king of Israel. His descendant would be the savior. Why were his deeds more acceptable as a sign of God’s grace than the deeds of Jesus? Had the people of Jesus’ day lost their sense of trust that God would send a redeemer? Had their ideas of what a savior would look like become focused on a kind of military kingship?
- If you were one of Jesus’ disciples and saw the skepticism of his townsfolk, would you have wondered or doubted him or would you continue to believe? Do you read the mission of the disciples as a kind of reward for their continuing faithfulness?