(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
Lack of faith
14th December 2006
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:
And Paul wrote:
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:
And we are promised the same power that Jesus had, also by being baptised in the Holy Spirit:
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:
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:
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.