Have you ever wished that Jesus would do just one remarkable, undeniable, obvious thing in your life that would help you believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt who he was?
Jesus wants to do remarkable things in our lives. Sometimes we have things a little backwards, though.
Mark 6 begins with the story of Jesus returning to his home town with his disciples. Just as he did in the various places away from home that went to, Jesus goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath to teach. His teaching and what they’ve heard about him causes them to ask themselves and each other a lot of questions. The first part of the response that Mark records seems reasonable:
Where did this man get these things? What is this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!
Things could go one of two ways at this point. As they listen to him teach and they ponder these questions, they could be moved at the good news of the Kingdom and embrace it. They could rejoice at God’s mysteries revealed to them. They could believe and see him do great things among them. That is, they could if their hearts were open and receptive to the kingdom.
They’re not. They say familiarity breeds contempt, and it proves to be true in Jesus’ hometown. They knew him as a boy. They know his family – his mother and brothers and sisters – and at least some of them still live in the town. They saw Jesus take on his father’s trade, and work as a carpenter among them. As they listen to him teach, they can’t get past that familiarity. They “took offense” at him.
As we’ve read through Matthew and Mark, there have been several occasions where Jesus has let people know that their faith has played a part in their healing (“your faith has made you well…”). We’ve seen times that Jesus was clearly amazed at people’s’ faith – some of the specific instances were with people that we wouldn’t expect to show much faith, like the centurion and the Canaanite woman – both Gentiles.
In contrast, here in his home village, Jesus marvels at the lack of faith. He’d encountered people who didn’t believe. He condemned some cities where the people didn’t believe. This is the only place I can think of, though, where we are told that he was amazed at the level of unbelief he encountered… here among friends and family.
One solution, it might seem to us, would be for Jesus to simply provide some spectacular miracle that would convince them all that he was more than just the carpenter they thought they knew. The passage says that the lack of faith there hampered Jesus’ ability to minister to them, though. He did lay hands on a few sick people and healed them, but “he could do no mighty work there”.
In other places, crowds flocked to him. People came to him from the length and breadth of Israel – from Tyre in the North to Idumea in the South. People were content to just touch the hems of his clothes, and had faith that doing so would be sufficient to heal them. Here in his home town, though, he was a “Prophet without honor”.
Familiarity can breed contempt, and some of us display that tendency. We know plenty about Jesus. We’ve heard the stories so many times that it is easy to breeze right through them without giving them a second thought. Some of us have been taught them ever since we were babies who couldn’t even talk, and now pay little attention to them as we hear them yet again.
How often do we ask ourselves, “Where did this man get these things? What is this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!”. Not that just asking those questions is enough – it wasn’t for the people in his home town. How often do we move from that starting point to really hear the words of Jesus? To recognize his wisdom in that teaching? To marvel at his power? To grow our faith from there?
It’s easy for us to wish for Jesus to do some mighty thing in our lives, to help us believe more. It rarely happens that way, though. Faith is the starting point for Jesus to do mighty things in our lives. It doesn’t have to be amazing faith. Faith the size of a mustard seed will do. Without it, we limit what he’s able to do – what he longs to do for us and with us.
Does he marvel at our unbelief?
Mark 6 also includes the stories of the death of John the Baptist, the feeding of the 5000, and Jesus walking on water.These are covered in depth in the post Bring It To Me (Matthew 14).