An Amazing Lack of Faith

What ‘amazes’ you? amaze – surprise greatly, fill with astonishment – That’s how the dictionary defines this often over-used word. ‘That was amazing!’ is a summarizing comment used in a variety of contexts after a great meal, a dynamic concert, etc.  I’ve made that comment recently myself after a church service that impacted me deeply.

In Mark 6, Jesus returns to his hometown, Capernaum, where he had chosen to base his earthly ministry.  Remarkable, isn’t it that the Lord chose a community so far away from Jerusalem the hub of ‘religious activities.’

On the Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples headed to the local synagogue for worship, and he provided the teaching.  After the regular readings of God’s word, this rabbi instructed those gathered. We don’t know the text, as we do on other occasions when he taught, but his teaching left many amazed.  What was it that gripped them? Was it his extensive knowledge of the Old Covenant? Was it his insightful assessment of their spiritual condition? Was it his authority? Mark doesn’t provide details.  We’re not asked to speculate!

We do hear the chatter in the congregation in Mark’s recorded aftermath. In the courtyard, on the walk home a series of questions were on the agenda.

1. Where did this man get these things? 

2. What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles?

3. Isn’t this the carpenter?

4. Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?

5. Aren’t his sisters here with us?

One question led to another. Was he a man–or much more than a man? How could such an ordinary ‘man’ speak with such wisdom and perform such miracles? Is this the same man that worked with his dad in carpentry? Aren’t his brothers and sisters here?

Questions are important.  Asking the right questions is a skill set we should all cultivate.  Learning to dig deeper into God’s word requires careful analysis.  We can all improve our questions.

Sadly, Mark concludes these five questions with a summary critique.  The questions were not leading to faith but to friction. “And they took offense at him.” They couldn’t handle Jesus.  They didn’t know how to receive him, so they rejected him.  Too many questions, too many issues led them to justify their rejection.

How did Jesus respond to their assessment? He ‘called them out.’  The hometown ‘hero’ challenges his own community with their hostility. “Only in his own house is a prophet without honour.” While other communities had welcomed him and crowded in to gain any help they could, this group was missing the moment.

What a sad comment is provided in the final paragraph of this section.

“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.”

It was an amazing day. An amazing God-man was in their midst and their response was ‘amazing.’ Unbelief. Rejection. The ‘Man of Sorrows’ had a heart filled with grief that day over the evident impact of sin.  After all, isn’t the core issue for many people unbelief?  

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