1Now Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did he get these ideas? And what is this wisdom that has been given to him? What are these miracles that are done through his hands? 3Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters here with us?” And so they took offense at him. 4Then Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, and among his relatives, and in his own house.” (Mark 6:1-4 NET Bible)
I was struck by the new rendering found in the revised NWT (2013 edition) of Mark 6:2. “…why should this wisdom have been given to him…?” Most versions render this as “what is this wisdom” as illustrated above. I won’t dispute the accuracy of our translation over the others as that would be off topic. I bring this up only because when I read this altered rendering today, it made me realize something that is evident from this account, no matter which translation you read: Those people were stumbled by the messenger, not the message. The works performed through Jesus were miraculous and indisputable, yet what concerned them was “Why him?” They were likely reasoning, “Why, just a few weeks ago he was mending stools and making chairs and now he’s the Messiah?! I don’t think so.”
This is the “physical man” of 1 Cor. 2:14 at his most elemental. He focuses only on what he wants to see, not what is. This carpenter did not have the credentials these men expected of the Messiah. He was not mysterious, unknowable. He was the lowly carpenter’s son they’d known all their lives. He just didn’t fit the bill of what they envisioned the Messiah would be like.
The next verse contrasts the spiritual man (or woman) with the physical one by saying, “However, the spiritual man examines all things, but he himself is not examined by any man.” This doesn’t mean that other men do not attempt to examine the spiritual man. What it means is that in doing so, they draw the wrong conclusions. Jesus was the most spiritual man who ever walked this earth. He truly examined all things and the true motivation of all hearts was open to his penetrating gaze. However, the physical men who tried to examine him arrived at the wrong conclusions. To them he was an insolent man, a pretender, a man in league with the devil, a man who consorted with sinners, a blasphemer and an apostate. They saw only what they wanted to see. (Mat. 9:3, 10, 34)
In Jesus they had the whole package. The best message by the most outstanding messenger the world has ever heard. Those who followed had the same message, but as messengers, they could not hold a candle to Jesus. Still, it’s the message not the messenger. It is no different today. It’s the message, not the messenger.
The Spiritual Man Examines All Things
If you have ever spoken with someone “in the truth” about a Scriptural topic which contradicts some official doctrine, you might have heard something like this: “Do you think you know more than the Faithful Slave?” The physical man focuses on the messenger, not the message. They are discounting what is being said, based on who is saying it. It doesn’t matter that you are reasoning from the Scriptures and not your own originality, anymore than it mattered to the Nazarenes that Jesus was performing miracles. The reasoning is, ‘I know you. You’re no saint yourself. You’ve made mistakes, done stupid things. And you, a lowly publisher, think you are smarter than the men Jehovah has appointed to lead us?” Or as the NWT puts it: “Why should this wisdom be given to him (or her)?”
The scriptural message is that “the spiritual man examines all things”. Therefore, the spiritual man does not surrender his reasoning to other men. ‘He examines all things.” No one examines things for him. He does not allow other men to tell him right from wrong. He has God’s own word for that. He has the message from the greatest messenger God ever sent forth to instruct him, and he listens to that one.
The physical man, being physical, follows the flesh. He puts confidence in men. The spiritual man, being spiritual, follows the spirit. He puts confidence in the Christ.