I like to watch American Pickers, a show that follows antique dealers all over the country as they scour dilapidated barns and overstuffed homes for treasures they can buy and resell. The main picker, Mike Wolfe, often uses the phrase, “If you want something, the best time to buy is when you see it.” In other words, if you are looking for a rare item and you find it, you better buy it because the opportunity may not come again. Someone observed, “Opportunities are like sunrises, if you wait too long, you will miss them.”
Often, people in the New Testament neglected the opportunity to follow Jesus. They may have been too timid to follow him, or too proud to admit they needed him, or a thousand seemingly justified reasons to reject him. However, missed opportunities rarely come back again, and even if they did, those who missed them might not be around to grab them the second time around.
Mark records a remarkable moment in Jesus’s Galilean ministry where he returns to his obscure hometown only to be rejected by those who know him best. In Mark 6:1-6, Jesus returns to Nazareth. Mark focuses on Jesus’s relationship to the town, his hometown, rather than the actual name, Nazareth. Unlike the apostle Paul’s hometown, Tarsus, which Paul describes as “no obscure city” (Acts 21:39), Nazareth is relatively unknown, and its people are largely overlooked or even forgotten. But these were Jesus’s people. They had watched him grow up and most of the people of Nazareth thought they knew him well.
In small towns, everyone knows everyone else, and they know their business. When Jesus walked into Nazareth, he was immediately recognized as Joseph and Mary’s son. Small towns never forget your mistakes or oddities. Everyone knew when Jesus left his widowed mother at home to hit the open road. They had heard of his works in the area. Small towns have a hard time forgiving others of perceived slights and insults. No doubt they had heard Jesus’s claims to be the son of God and the people were incensed by them.
However, despite the people’s prejudices and presuppositions, Jesus went home to share the gospel with his neighbors and boyhood friends. He probably preached the same lessons about the coming Kingdom and salvation that he preached in other Galilean towns. The people were astonished and questioned who he was to say such things (6:2-3). They knew him from his childhood. They remembered when he “got lost” coming back from Jerusalem as a child. They were scandalized by his message (6:3). Likewise, Jesus marveled at their unbelief (6:6). The residents of Nazareth passed on the opportunity Jesus presented them.
What happened when the people rejected Jesus? What happens today when people reject Jesus? When we reject Jesus, we judge ourselves unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46). Whether or not we understand it, we are making a judgement on the fitness of our lives, or we are saying we do not need salvation.
When we reject Jesus, we assume we will get another chance to get it right. Yet, James warns us that our lives are like a mist that is here and gone in a moment (James 4:14). It is best to seize opportunities when they’re presented than to assume we will get another chance. When we reject Jesus, we are hoping all the evidence is wrong (Rom 1:20). God has not left himself without witness (Acts 14:17; Psa 19:1-2). Every part of the creation is a marvel pointing to God. However, the devil works overtime to suppress the awe invoked by the creation. Rejecting Jesus means believing the evidence is a lie and Satan’s alternative is the truth.
When it comes to rare treasure, the best time to buy it is when you see it. The same is true of salvation; it is best to seize it when you see it. We need to judge ourselves as lacking salvation but worthy of it. Now is the acceptable time.