Today’s text is sad and surprising, even to Jesus. Despite all the great miracles He had done, Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth rejected Him when He stopped there on His ministry tour. Even today, we still see that a lack of faith will keep people from the joy of seeing the Savior work.
The Text (Mark 6:1-6)
1 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.
Jesus has just done His greatest miracle yet – raising a little girl from the dead. Mark tells us that He returns home to Nazareth, and we expect to see His hometown welcome Him as its hero. Instead, when the people of Nazareth hear Him teach in the synagogue, they reject Jesus. They simply will not believe that a humble carpenter could be the Son of a God. They will not accept His authority to teach them from the Scriptures. The people of Nazareth are offended at His ministry and message. They may even be attacking Him as an illegitimate son because they refer to Jesus as the son of Mary rather than the son of his father Joseph (remember that Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit before she married Joseph). They know Jesus’ four brothers (who are named) and his sisters (unknown number and names), who according to other evidence in the New Testament and early church history were not believers at this time (back in Mark 2:21, Jesus’ family actually said that they thought He was “out of His mind”). In their pride, the people of Nazareth will not look past human appearances to make a righteous judgment about Jesus based on His godly character, miracles, and teachings
It is hard to understand why Jesus’ own people reject Him, but they suffer for their unbelief. Jesus does only a few healings in Nazareth and then leaves to preach and teach in other towns that will be more receptive to the gospel. In tomorrow’s passage, we will see Jesus instruct His disciples to follow His example, staying to minister where they are welcome but “shaking off the dust” of the places that reject them. We don’t know exactly what Mark means by saying that Jesus “could do no mighty work” in Nazareth. Jesus was always God and His power could never be limited by people. Yet Jesus often taught that great faith would lead to God doing great things. At the same time, He rebuked people for their lack of faith throughout His ministry. Unbelief is always linked with sin and hardness of heart in the Scriptures. By the words of the people of Nazareth, we see not so much an inability to believe as a desire not to believe in Jesus. Their sin is their conscious, intentional turning away of the Son of God. The tragic consequence is that Jesus gives them their wish and leaves them, moving on to help those who want Him.
I think that Jesus marveled that day in Nazareth at the very thing that should still marvel us today – the incredible hardness of the human heart. The historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is powerful (if you are not sure about this, check out Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ”). The testimonies and lives of Christians who have been changed by Jesus cannot be denied. The beauty and design of nature cry out to us that there is a Creator, while our guilty consciences convict us that we have sinned against that Creator and need His forgiveness. God’s mercy and patience for lost sinners to come to Him is so great, His graces that He shows all of us so many. And think of how many people still reject Jesus today. With tears we witness to lost friends and family, to lost teammates , classmates, or students, praying that God would break their hard hearts of stone and make them understand the gospel. We marvel that people could be so foolish as to not see the danger their souls face and the awesome salvation that God offers. So does Jesus. But we must believe that our prayers matter and keep on interceding for those whom God lays on our hearts. God is the One who saves people, but He uses our witness and prayers to do it.
Even for us as Christians,we can still be tempted to doubt our Savior’s power or goodness or wisdom. No one really understands how prayer works. But we know from the Word and our own experience that when we pray, we exercise our faith and our trust in the Lord grows. And even once we are believers, our faith or lack of it is still linked with our hearts. When we desire Jesus more, we pray more for Him to work in and around our lives and we witness His work. When our hearts turn after other things, our desire for Jesus diminishes and we pray less, and then God seems more distant. I pray that Jesus would be near to us today as we put our trust in Him.