The Marvel Of Unbelief
Warren E. Berkley
Mark 6 – 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.
“He Began To Teach”
Jesus could have saved people by force, snatching sinners out of sin and making them righteous (theoretically this is argued by virtue of sovereign divine power). But there is every reason to believe God did not want robots, leaving their sin and doing His will without personal choice. God wants people who love Him to decide to serve Him by choice, not compulsion.
So it was the purpose of Jesus to preach and teach (Mrk. 1:38,39). His miraculous power was never used to capture sinners against their will and drag them into the kingdom. He delivered God’s message, telling people of their sin and offering gracious forgiveness, inviting a response of active faith (Matt. 11:28). Jesus, who raised the dead (Mrk. 5:41; Jno. 11:43,44) and performed other miracles, gave priority to preaching.
God intends for His people to spread the word, to support and be engaged in the preaching of the gospel. Paul wrote to Timothy and we have the literary work in the New Testament, but in that volume, Paul said “preach the word,” and Timothy was to find other men to train and charge to deliver the word (2 Tim. 4:2; 2:2). So Jesus “began to teach.” And after this attempt in Nazareth, He left there but continued “teaching,” (v.6). Have we started?
“Many hearing Him were astonished”
To be “astonished” is to be amazed, but not necessarily changed (Matt. 7:28). Preachers have this experience all the time, when someone leaves the building with unrestrained celebration of the sermon, yet the celebration falls short of real life change after the exit from the building/event. Many who heard Jesus immediately knew He was unique and they could not categorize him with their usual teachers. But, to take His teaching and listen to change; to give Him and His message inner access, often did not occur. This reminds us to be hearers who become engaged (Jas. 1:21-27).
“Where did this man get these things?”
“These things” refer to what He said and may also include what He did (note the series of four miracles that precede this section). It is enlightening – in these early chapters of Mark – to discover these two pressing questions: (1) “Who can this be?” in Mark 4:41, and (2) “Where did this man get these things?” To have the answer, the people needed to “stay tuned,” to keep listening with good and honest hearts. The vital inquiries about the person and work of Christ are answered clearly in four books I highly recommend: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You will see who He is and you will learn where He got what He said. “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God,” (Jno. 3:34).
“They were offended at Him”
Here was the Son of God speaking to them exactly the message they needed to hear from God, about how to change their lives and serve each other. They took offense! They were put off or annoyed by Him. It is a sign of weakness and immaturity on their part, produced by self-centered unbelief. Jesus became – to the unbelievers – a “rock of offense.” They stumbled as many today, who hold strong determination of heart that is against the truth of God and that favors self or attachment to a religious system.
And this prompted Jesus to make the statement: “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Blindness to the truth can take people to such a place, they resist truth when it appears very close. Here (and in Jno. 1:46), there is evidence of what we often see today – that we make very quick judgments about people based on nothing more than the superficial. Indeed, as we have oft heard, “familiarity breeds contempt,” and (as David E. Garland said): “The expert at a conference is usually the one who has come from farthest away!” A local handyman (carpenter), telling us about our relationship with God, who sounds so much different from our rabbis? “No way,” to use modern vernacular. So . . .
Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief”
This was not just a typical or passing thought, “wow, these people don’t believe the truth when they hear it.” He was astounded and grieved that they would remain in their sin and continue under the ill-conceived oversight of selfish leaders. He cared and out of that care came his astonishment. The people of Nazareth enjoyed so many advantages. Jesus lived among them. He preached to them with power. They knew of His miracles. But they were blind to his identity, deaf to his message and hardened their hearts against Him, to their own peril and loss.
Jesus is not physically here on earth today. But His people are here and His message is sounded forth. Human responses often duplicate that of the people of Nazareth. The stubborn unbelief of sinners who are offered gracious forgiveness and life in Christ, is astonishing.
Matthew Henry: “If we cannot do good where we would, we must do it where we can, and be glad if we may have any opportunity, though but in the villages, of serving Christ and souls. Sometimes the gospel of Christ finds better entertainment in the country villages, where there is less wealth, and pomp, and mirth, and subtlety, than in the populous cities.”