The Expository Files

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, teaching. (NKJ)

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 36.)
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 your sins."
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 Centurion
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 hour. (NKJ)

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 belief.

Final Thought
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