I am presenting the passage of Mark 6 to my Greek class tomorrow. It has been a fun chapter to study, analyze, pray.
It has been interesting to see how Mark up to this point in the narrative has been painting this picture of Jesus as this inexorable character unhindered by demons, diseases, or detractors. In fact most of these things seem to just happen naturally in His presence. He is attracting mobs of people and everywhere He goes He is surrounded.
That is what makes the beginning of Mark 6 so striking. He goes home and there His authority is questioned because they knew his mother, his brothers, and sisters who stilled lived there. They even say, “Is this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” The text says that they were offended by Him. This is already troublesome but even more so is the last part. It says, “And he could not perform a miracle there except lay his hands on a few and heal them. And he was amazed by their unbelief.”
I find it hard when I see that Jesus was not able to do something. Obviously Jesus has the ability to do miracles as we see throughout the Gospel of Mark before and after this pericope (right after this he feeds 5,000 men and walks on water). But why was He not able here? It seems that the unbelief and their offense were reasons enough for Jesus to limit His powers.
What about today? Why don’t we see Great Works here in the United States? I know some who are offended at the idea that miracles still do happen. I am afraid for many, Christianity is just part of the culture going no deeper spirituality than their favorite sports team. The Gospel becomes all too familiar in our comfortable lives that we are offended to think more might be expected of us or that we could even expect more from God. We don’t want to see miracles because it might cost us if we actually end up believing.
I think about this power of unbelief in my own life. Do I just pray for the things I think can happen? Or do I pray for things that seem beyond my imagination? Does Jesus limit his power because of my unbelief? Unbelief is a powerful thing. It infects and is contagious. But, I want to believe and I want my prayers to reflect that. I want to pray big because my God is big.
It is encouraging to see a different story at the end of this chapter. After Jesus walks on water, He and the disciples come to the shore and the people recognize Him immediately. They start bringing the sick from all over only to touch the “fringes” of His robe. The text says, “as many as touched it were healed”. They were fervent in their belief.
We must believe. May God help our unbelief.