The Marvel Of Unbelief
Mark 6 Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His
disciples followed Him. 2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in
the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this
Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such
mighty works are performed by His hands! 3 Is this not the carpenter, the Son
of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His
sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
4 But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own
country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.”5 Now He could do no
mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and
healed them. 6 And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about
the villages in a circuit, teaching.
“He Began To Teach”
Jesus could have saved people by force, snatching sinners out of sin and
making them righteous (theoretically this is argued by virtue of sovereign
divine power). But there is every reason to believe God did not want robots,
leaving their sin and doing His will without personal choice. God wants people
who love Him to decide to serve Him by choice, not compulsion. So it was the
purpose of Jesus to preach and teach (Mrk. 1:38,39). His miraculous power was
never used to capture sinners against their will and drag them into the
kingdom. He delivered God’s message, telling people of their sin and offering
gracious forgiveness, inviting a response of active faith (Matt. 11:28).
Jesus, who raised the dead (Mrk. 5:41; Jno. 11:43,44) and performed other
miracles, gave priority to preaching. God intends for His people to spread the
word, to support and be engaged in the preaching of the gospel. Paul wrote to
Timothy and we have the literary work in the New Testament, but in that
volume, Paul said “preach the word,” and Timothy was to find other men to
train and charge to deliver the word (2 Tim. 4:2; 2:2). So Jesus “began to
teach.” And after this attempt in Nazareth, He left there but continued
“teaching,” (v.6). Have we started?
“Many hearing Him were astonished”
To be “astonished” is to be amazed, but not necessarily changed (Matt. 7:28).
Preachers have this experience all the time, when someone leaves the building
with unrestrained celebration of the sermon, yet the celebration falls short
of real life change after the exit from the building/event. Many who heard
Jesus immediately knew He was unique and they could not categorize him with
their usual teachers. But, to take His teaching and listen to change; to give
Him and His message inner access, often did not occur. This reminds us to be
hearers who become engaged (Jas. 1:21-27).
“Where did this man get these things?”
“These things” refer to what He said and may also include what He did (note
the series of four miracles that precede this section). It is enlightening –
in these early chapters of Mark – to discover these two pressing questions:
(1) “Who can this be?” in Mark 4:41, and (2) “Where did this man get these
things?” To have the answer, the people needed to “stay tuned,” to keep
listening with good and honest hearts. The vital inquiries about the person
and work of Christ are answered clearly in four books I highly recommend:
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You will see who He is and you will learn where
He got what He said. “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God,” (Jno.
“They were offended at Him”
Here was the Son of God speaking to them exactly the message they needed to
hear from God, about how to change their lives and serve each other. They took
offense! They were put off or annoyed by Him. It is a sign of weakness and
immaturity on their part, produced by self-centered unbelief. Jesus became –
to the unbelievers – a “rock of offense.” They stumbled as many today, who
hold strong determination of heart that is against the truth of God and that
favors self or attachment to a religious system.
And this prompted Jesus to make the statement: “A prophet is not without honor
except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.”
Blindness to the truth can take people to such a place, they resist truth when
it appears very close. Here (and in Jno. 1:46), there is evidence of what we
often see today – that we make very quick judgments about people based on
nothing more than the superficial. Indeed, as we have oft heard, “familiarity
breeds contempt,” and (as David E. Garland said): “The expert at a conference
is usually the one who has come from farthest away!” A local handyman
(carpenter), telling us about our relationship with God, who sounds so much
different from our rabbis? “No way,” to use modern vernacular. So . . .
Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief”
This was not just a typical or passing thought, “wow, these people don’t
believe the truth when they hear it.” He was astounded and grieved that they
would remain in their sin and continue under the ill-conceived oversight of
selfish leaders. He cared and out of that care came his astonishment. The
people of Nazareth enjoyed so many advantages. Jesus lived among them. He
preached to them with power. They knew of His miracles. But they were blind to
his identity, deaf to his message and hardened their hearts against Him, to
their own peril and loss.
Jesus is not physically here on earth today. But His people are here and His
message is sounded forth. Human responses often duplicate that of the people
of Nazareth. The stubborn unbelief of sinners who are offered gracious
forgiveness and life in Christ, is astonishing.
Matthew Henry: “If we cannot do good where we would, we must do it where we
can, and be glad if we may have any opportunity, though but in the villages,
of serving Christ and souls. Sometimes the gospel of Christ finds better
entertainment in the country villages, where there is less wealth, and pomp,
and mirth, and subtlety, than in the populous cities.”
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 19.12; December 2012