Mark 6:1-6 1 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And 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. And he went about among the villages teaching.
Up to this point in the book of Mark the crowds in Israel were amazed at everything Jesus was doing. The scribes and the Pharisees who taught the people had come against Jesus because His teachings were contrary to what they taught but the crowds on the whole were amazed at Jesus of Nazareth! They flocked to see Him and to find out what He would say and do. But were they following Him for the right reasons? Then, in Mark 3 we read how Jesus taught His disciples the significance of the Kingdom of God- this spiritual eternal kingdom in which He is the King. Jesus manifested the Kingdom of God in their presence through very challenging circumstances recorded in Mark 4 and 5. But now as Jesus returns to His hometown of Nazareth what kind of response did He get? Everyone is proud of someone from a small town who makes it to the NHL or another professional league and they install signs or plaques in their honor but this is not what happened with Jesus. Instead of honor he was treated with disgust. They took offense at Him. Why? Does this make any sense? Beginning at Jesus’ baptism the Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was being revealed to the world and He spoke with authority and performed amazing signs and yet the people from His own community still rejected Him. Why? Did He bring shame to their name? What was their problem?
It ultimately came down to the difference in who Jesus was revealed to be now vs. the Jesus that they claimed to know. The parallel account is given in Matthew 13:53-57 but Luke 4:16-30 describes Jesus’ first encounter with the people of Nazareth following His baptism and temptation in the wilderness. Jesus returns home alone after defeating the devil in the wilderness and He preached in synagogues along the way and the people glorified Him and His message but when He came to Nazareth it was a different story. In Nazareth, on the Sabbath, He reads the prophecy from Isaiah (58 and 61) and the Psalms (146) that spoke of the coming Christ and He declared that He fulfilled these Scriptures. But then Jesus went on to say that they would not believe that He is the Christ and that they would reject Him just as the prophets of old were rejected by their own people. He saw their end from the beginning and they became so angry that they tried to kill Him (Luke 4:29). So why would Jesus now return to Nazareth with His disciples only to be rejected again? The people still would not believe. Nothing had changed. Why go see them again? I believe that Jesus was teaching His disciples about the true nature of unbelief and showing His disciples through the response of the people of Nazareth what would ultimately lead to His death in Jerusalem. Israel as a nation would reject Him just as Nazareth did. This is His first teaching upon the suffering that awaited Him.
We all like to think we understand the world around us but we fail to grasp the effects that the corruption of sin has had upon all of us as a result of the fall. The more familiar we are with something the more confident we are that we know the truth in regards to it. So it was with the residents of Nazareth. In their eyes Jesus could not be the Christ because they knew Him. They knew His family. They could honestly say that they knew this carpenter and what He was like and yet they did not know Him at all. They now heard the stories of all the amazing signs that Jesus was doing in Galilee and yet they still could not believe. It was impossible to believe for they claimed to know Jesus. As the evidence grew as Jesus’ ministry continued that He was indeed the Christ the more stubborn they became in their false beliefs about Him to the point where Jesus marveled at their unbelief.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is only received by someone who is willing to re-evaluate everything that they know. Not just to learn something new but to examine everything around them with new eyes: new spiritual eyes as the Holy Spirit opens their understanding to the Truth. And the danger always is that if you become more and more familiar with the Word of God but only know it in a superficial way and it never moves you in the depths of your soul to see a need of salvation through Jesus Christ you will just like the people of Nazareth become more and more steadfast and stubborn in your unbelief. It was the Jews familiarity with the Scriptures in this manner that made them so confident in the end that Jesus could not be the Christ. Their familiarity with the Word of God which should have led them to salvation only increased their unbelief.
So be wary of what you already know or what you think you know. Jesus had performed great signs and wonders teaching His disciples about the Kingdom of God but He could not here in Nazareth. He could do no mighty work here because it was already a wasteland spiritually because of their unbelief. The same danger applies to the Church today. Our familiarity with the Scriptures should lead to our salvation and a manifestation of the Kingdom of God upon the earth. But if our understanding of Jesus Christ is nothing but a false understanding we will end up becoming the very ones who will oppose the true Gospel message and we will only become more hardened in our false views of Him.
Do you see the dangers of unbelief? Does this apply to you? Do you really know Jesus Christ or do you just think that you know Him? Don’t become steadfast and stubborn in your unbelief! Don’t let your past experiences prevent you from knowing Jesus Christ for who He really is! May Jesus be marveled at your belief instead of your unbelief! Search the Scriptures daily for the salvation that is to be found in them! Come to know the God who loves you and wants to save you! Jesus Christ died and rose again to save sinners from their sin. He is the only way that anyone can be saved! In Him alone is the way open to heaven and a life filled with joy and peace and love as we come to know Him and to love Him! May you know His presence and receive His grace!
Pastor Murray Hack