Phil Cox

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Lack of faith

14th December 2006

Mark 6v1-6
Jesus left there and went to his home town, accompanied by his disciples.
When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "Whatís this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isnít this the carpenter? Isnít this Maryís son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Arenít his sisters here with us?" And they took offence at him.
Jesus said to them, "Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour."
He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went round teaching from village to village.

The Greek word translated "took offence" in verse 3 is skandalizo. The people in Jesus's home town were scandalised that Jesus would teach with authority and perform miracles! They thought what he was doing was wrong. Why? Because they knew him. Because He grew up living in the next street, because He and His father had built their furniture or repaired their houses. He was familiar to them. And familiarity breeds contempt.

Are there people in your local church who have valuable gifts and great character but who are undervalued because they've been there a long time? Jesus said (verse 4):

"Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour."

And the same is true of pastors, Sunday school workers, musicians, teachers and every other ministry area in the church.

Verse 5 tells us:

He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.

I love the end of that sentence, "except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them". Mark thought it was so remarkable that Jesus only healed a few people that he wrote it down for us! I wish that Christians in every church were disappointed on a Sunday when God "only healed a few sick people".

What does Mark mean when he says Jesus couldn't do many miracles? Jesus can do anything he wants! But during his Earthly ministry, Jesus said:

John 5:19
... "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing...Ē

And Paul wrote:

Philippians 2:5-11
...Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to deathóeven death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

For his time on Earth, Jesus made Himself nothing, He took the nature of a servant, He was found in human likeness. Although He is (and always was) God, He came as a man. He laid aside His divine power. He performed miracles the same way we do Ė by being baptised in the Holy Spirit:

Matthew 3:16
As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.

And we are promised the same power that Jesus had, also by being baptised in the Holy Spirit:

John 14:11-17
Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever ó the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

So, yes, in a sense, Jesus was limited at that time in what He could do Ė He limited Himself to do only what the Father was doing, and He was dependant on the Holy Spirit. In this as in so much else, He sets a great example for us to follow.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that God can do anything He wants! He doesnít need our faith - He doesn't need our help at all. We're part of His creation, which He managed without our help. He's omnipotent! So, again, what does Mark mean when he says that Jesus couldn't do more?

The parallel passage in Matthew says:

Matthew 13:58
And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

That is, it wasn't impossible for him to do more; it would have been inappropriate.

God can do what He wants, whenever He wants, but He often chooses to display His power where we have faith. I think this is because He wants to the credit for what He does - He wants us to admit that it was Him that did it. He wants mankind to give Him the honour that He deserves. He taught us to pray, "Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name..."

The people of Nazareth lacked faith. But what was it that they lacked faith in? They knew Jesus could preach with wisdom, and they knew He could do miracles. Remember verse 2 - they were amazed at His wisdom, and openly acknowledged that He performed miracles! Believing in miracles was easy for them - they were hearing stories from all over Galilee about the wonderful things Jesus was doing. They'd probably met several people who'd been healed. And they'd seen some healings in Nazareth. It was who Jesus claimed to be that they didn't believe. And that's what disqualified them from Godís blessing! This is what Luke said about the same event:

Luke 4:17-21
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lordís favour."
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Many of us have been falsely led to believe that the blockage to our seeing a miracle is that we donít "have enough faith" for it. But the people of Nazareth did believe in Jesus's miracle power! Their "lack of faith" was a deeper problem - they didnít really believe in Jesus Christ Himself.

He made the Earth in 6 days. He did mighty works in the Old Testament, during His Gospel ministry, and during the Acts of the Apostles. And Heís been doing great things ever since. Not necessarily many miracles in Nazareth, or in your local church. But all over the world. Do we believe He doesnít have infinite power? Not really. Do we believe He doesnít love people? Not really? We believe God to be both omnipontent and loving. So what is it that gives us a problem with miracles?

Maybe it's that we are looking to our faith Ė and not to Jesus Christ. We believe He loves people but do we believe that He loves us?

So much is lost because - deep down - we still think we need to earn God's blessing. We try to earn it by living good lives. And we try to earn it by having faith. We forget that it's grace - a free gift. God blesses us because He loves us.

Of course it's right to live good lives. And of course it's good to have faith. But fundamentally, God doesn't heal us and help us and teach us and bless us because we've got faith. He does it because He loves us. And because He has the necessary power. There is NO power in faith. There is NO power in prayer. All the power resides in GOD Himself.

If we have faith in God, it's because of who He is. We pray to Him because of who He is. And He blesses us because He loves us. May God give us grace to get our eyes off how much faith we've got, and onto who Jesus really is.