When Jesus Marveled
Mark 6:1-6; Matthew 8:5-13
The word marveled can indicate "a sense of astonishment, whether critical or
inquisitive, or admiration with a nuance of awe or fear..." (Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament p. 316) The word is sometimes translated
wondered, amazed or astonished. It occurs frequently in Luke especially with
regards to the miracle stories.
Jesus walked this earth as the Son of God, yet we find two occasions in the New
Testament where he was actually astonished. He was astounded, first at the lack
of belief in his hometown (critical astonishment) and second at the faith of the
Capernaum centurion (admiration).
Case 1: Mk. 6:1-6 The Unbelief of the Nazarenes
Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples
followed Him. 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! "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?" And they were offended at Him. 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." Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a
few sick people and healed them. And He marveled (wondered, NAS, was amazed, NIV)
because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit,
The saying, "familiarity breeds contempt" is attributed to the ancient
philosopher Publius the Syrian. Perhaps Phillips Brooks clarified the true point
of the saying when he modified it to read "familiarity breeds contempt, only
with contemptible things or among contemptible people." The folks in Jesus'
hometown thought they really knew Him, but their contempt for Him says nothing
about Jesus and everything about them! (Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Commentary,
Vol. 1 pp. 129-30.) The people did not expect their Savior to come from among
them. They did not expect a carpenter to lead them to the Promised Land. When
the people perceived that even His own brethren rejected Him, they were
"offended at Him." His familiarity stood as a stumbling block to their belief (Isa.
8:14; Rom. 9:32,33; 1 Pet. 2:8). "They could not explain Him, so they rejected
Him." (Wuest's Word Studies)
William Barclay suggests that nothing can be done if the atmosphere is wrong. A
man cannot be healed spiritually, if he refuses to be healed. An atmosphere of
critical coldness and bland indifference will stifle the message of the best
sermon. Finally, there can be no peace making in the wrong atmosphere. "If men
come together to hate, they will hate. If men have come together to refuse to
understand, they will misunderstand. If men have come together to see only their
own point of view, they will see no other." On the other hand, "if men have come
together loving Christ and seeking to love one another, even those most widely
separated can come together in Him. There is laid on us the tremendous
responsibility, that we can either help or hinder the work of Christ. We can
open the door wide to Him - or we can slam it in His face." (DSB-Mark, p.141)
No man is immune to bouts of unfaithfulness. Consider the unbelief of such
religious men as Abraham (Gen. 17:7), Moses (Num. 11:21; 20:12), The Disciples
of Christ (Mt. 17:19,20; Lk. 24:11), and Zacharias the father of the Baptist (Lk.
1:20). Each in their own fit of weakness turned their back on the Lord for a
time. We must use the examples of these religious men as a warning and
exhortation to faithfulness.
Warnings concerning unbelief are found throughout
the Gospels and Epistles.
Jesus had to rebuke the eleven Apostles for not believing the report of His
resurrection (Mk. 16:14).
Almost everyone with a minimum of Bible knowledge can quote John 3:16, but what
about verse 18b? (... but he who does not believe is condemned already, because
he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. See also verse
In John 8:24 Jesus charged the Jews thusly, "Therefore I said to you that you
will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in
In His final private time with the disciples he reiterated His promise to send
the Holy Spirit as the Comforter and furthermore said, "And when He has come, He
will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin,
because they do not believe in Me..." (Jn 16:8,9).
Paul warned the Thessalonians "that they all may be condemned who did not
believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess 2:12)
The measuring stick used in our final judgment will be the Word of God. ("For
the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and
is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Heb. 3:12)
God has never promised any of His people that once they were saved they could
never be lost. ("But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the
Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed
those who did not believe." Jude 5) Point of interest: This Jude is Judas the
Lord's brother of Mark 6:1-6. One of the very ones that had held Jesus in
contempt. With his prior unbelief behind him, Jude has left us in his little
letter one of the strongest indictments of false teaching and unbelief to be
found anywhere in the New Testament.
Case 2: Mt. 8: 5-13 The Faith of the Capernaum
Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with
Him, saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully
tormented." And Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." The centurion
answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.
But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. "For I also am a man under
authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes;
and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does
it." When Jesus heard it, He marveled (was astonished, NIV), and said to those
who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not
even in Israel! "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and
sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. "But the sons
of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and
gnashing of teeth." Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go your way; and as you
have believed, so let it be done for you." And his servant was healed that same
A centurion was an officer over 100 men in the Roman army. Every centurion
mentioned in the New Testament was a man of great character and a sense of duty.
This centurion's concern for his paralyzed servant indicates the type character
he did possess. The few times that Jesus did interact with Gentiles during his
ministry all point out the great amount of faith possessed by these outsiders.
The centurion recognized that no one could possess authority unless they
themselves are under authority. As the centurion counted on his relationship
with the Roman government to back up his commands, he knew that Jesus had
heavenly authority behind His commands.
Faith that is not under - obedient to - God's authority is no faith at all (Jas.
2:14ff). Though the centurion was raised a heathen from birth, without any
special privileges (Rom. 3:1-2), he not only demonstrated his faith by appealing
to Jesus to heal his servant, but he showed that he understood the mechanics of
faith in a way unmatched by any Jew, including the disciples! (Chumbley, The
Gospel of Matthew p. 154.)
The centurion joins a list of other men and women of great faith. These were men
and women who would not necessarily be the ones that the religious world then
(or now) would turn to as examples of faithful servants of God. Matthew records
for our edification the stories of the Leper (8:2), the Ruler (9:18), the Blind
Man (9:28), the diseased of Mt. 14:36, and the Canaanite Woman (15:28). A study
of their circumstances reveals the kind of faith that God expects of all
believers - a kind of faith that found lacking would even nullify one's initial
The examples of Jesus' astonishment stand as a warning to us as fishers of men.
We are not to judge where to throw out the nets, but are obligated to fish this
entire world. We cannot always judge who will be receptive to the Gospel of
Christ nor can we predict who will reject it. We as Christians are required to
continue the work of the Apostles as the Lord commissioned them. "Go therefore
and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that
I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Amen. (Mt. 28:19,20.)
By Carey Dillinger
From Expository Files 8.2; February 2001