I apologize for the long layoff around here for the last couple of week. I have been working on a project in the book of Nahum that has kept me quite busy. But in the weeks leading up to Christmas I have some plans for the blog including (you guessed it) some material on Nahum, and maybe even a return visit to the doctrine of limited atonement. For now, we are going to jump back into the book of Mark to finish looking at Mark 6:1-6a.
II. The Response to Unbelief (vv. 4-6a)
a. Jesus points out the problem
The response of the people toward Jesus made it clear that they did not believe in Him. This was even Jesus’ diagnosis in v. 6. And it was this response on the part of the people that led Jesus to respond to their unbelief. Jesus responded first by pointing out the problem with the people’s response. He points this problem out by quoting a familiar truism, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown and among his relative and in his own household.” The point of this quote is clear. The only people who do not revere a prophet are those who know him best. ILL: A famous ball player at home in the offseason.
This was true of many of the prophets in the OT. For instance, Jeremiah was tortured physically by his own people. And now, in this passage, Jesus is being rejected in the same way. It is all because his own people were too caught up with what they knew about him physically to see the spiritual truths He was trying to teach them. Because of pride, these people were not able to see Jesus as anything but a hometown boy. This was the problem that Jesus is pointing out.
For us today there isn’t really a danger of getting caught up with what we know about Jesus physically. However, there is a constant danger that we will become so familiar with the great spiritual truths about Jesus that we will take them for granted. A perfect illustration of this is the way Christians talk about God’s sovereignty. Usually the statement “God is in control” is thrown around like some cliché, to the point where it almost become cheesy to say it to someone experiencing difficulties. The point is that we become so familiar with it that we forget how amazing God’s sovereignty really is.
b. Jesus addresses to the problem
Jesus not only pointed out the problem, but He also addressed it by the way He ministered in Nazareth. Mark tells us in v.5, “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.” At first glance this verse seems a little strange. It seems to be saying that Jesus was physically unable to do a mighty work, but then Mark tells that Jesus does a “few” things that seem like mighty works to me. So what’s the deal?
First of all, mark is not saying that Jesus was physically unable to do mighty works. Jesus, as God, is omnipotent. He had the power to perform the miracles, this proven by the fact that he does heal several sick people. The point of v. 5 is not that Jesus did not have the power. The point is that Jesus chose not use that power. He chose not to exhibit His power on the same level that He had done in Capernaum because it did not fit with His purposes. You see, Jesus was not in the business of impressing people with miracles. He used His power for spiritual good. We saw this in 5:21ff. There Jesus used His power over human frailty to grow the faith of the woman and Jairus. Jesus’ power was not dependent upon faith, it was meant to help people’s faith. And if there were not faith present then there was no reason to use that power. This is why Jesus did not use His power. He was responding to their lack of faith by withdrawing his power from them.
At the close of this passage v. 6 tells us that “He marveled because of their unbelief.” The fact that the people refused to accept Jesus’ teaching was a travesty. They had already tried to kill him, yet He came back because He loved them. He wanted them to know the truth. Despite this, however, they refused to accept him. They would not believe His message. This unbelief is shocking. In fact, Jesus marveled at this unbelief.
It is interesting to note that the only other time that this word for marveled is used to refer to Jesus is found in Matthew 8:5-13 where he marveled at the faith of the Centurion. In these two passages we have a sharp contrast between belief and unbelief. And in these passages we see how Jesus responds to belief and unbelief. Those who do not believe in Jesus will not receive the benefits of His work. The question is, do you believe?
Whether or not you really believe in Jesus may seem like a simple enough issue to clear up. However, it may be trickier than you think. Remember, the people of Nazareth would have claimed to “know Jesus,” but in reality they had no idea who Jesus was. That is why this passage is so instructive for us today. The people of Nazareth took it for granted that they knew who Jesus was, and so they missed His true identity. Unfortunately, the same thing is true in many local churches today. You see, it is possible to know all the right Sunday School answers, and be “in church every time the doors open: but never really know Jesus—never believe in who He really is. I guess that you could say that today the church is “Jesus’ Hometown,” and in many cases He is not being honored in His own hometown. Some claim to know Jesus, but never acknowledge His authority over their lives. Some call themselves Christian, but go through the day without even thinking about Jesus and His will for their lives. The problem is that it is easy to become of familiar with what we think it means to be a Christian that we totally miss Jesus. So I ask you, have you missed Jesus? Have you responded to His teaching with belief or unbelief? These are important questions, don’t blow them off. There will be many people standing before Christ at the final judgment that realize for the first time that they missed Jesus (Matthew 7:21-23). Don’t let that happen to you.
Additionally, this passage is a warning for those who have truly believed. It is reminds us that we must never take Jesus for granted. [Ill: Work habits usually degenerate] Just like our work habits can degenerate so can our spiritual lives. This passage is a reminder not to let that happen to you. DO you remember what Christ said to the church at Ephesus in Revelations 2:4? He said, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Could this be said of you? Have you become so familiar with Jesus that He has become “just plain ‘ole Jesus?”