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Amazed at Unbelief

Mark 6:1-6

Message #18

Only two times does the Bible say Jesus was amazed. Once, he was amazed by a high level of belief. Once, he was amazed by a high level of unbelief.

Jesus was amazed by the level of belief of a gentile Roman Centurion in Matthew Chapter 8, and today we see Jesus amazed by the level of the unbelief of people in his own home town. What does it take to leave Jesus amazed at our unbelief?

Remember, Mark often writes things in threes to help us get the big picture. When we last left Mark, we finished looking at a trilogy of messages that all showed the power that Jesus has over all things on this earth.

In this message, we start another trilogy in Mark’s Gospel, and I would call this trilogy The Cost of Sharing the Good News. We’re going to start today with what it cost Jesus to share the good news with the people in his own home town. Next week, we’ll see what it cost the disciples to share the Good News in other towns. And finally, we’ll look at what it cost John the Baptist to share the Good News with Herod Antipas (Roman Governor of Galilee).

And my prayer in this trilogy of messages is that you and I would learn to embrace the cost of sharing the Good News with those we love, with strangers, and even with those who can harm us.

We were last with Jesus in Capernaum, with the people pressing in on him so much that he could barely move through the crowd. There was such belief there, such faith in the crowd, that a woman reached out and touched the robe of Jesus, and she was healed, and the Jewish Synagogue leader’s daughter was raised from the dead!
That environment was one of incredible faith and miracles and a huge following. And then we read in Mark 6:1,

Mark 6:1 (NLT)
1 Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown.

So often, we see Jesus do the exact opposite of what Church growth books tell us to do today. You can’t find a Church best-seller today that says just when things are getting off the ground, just as you’re getting a really good following… leave that place and go to a place where you know the people are going to totally reject you and where you’ll have zero success.

We need to be very careful using the world’s logic to do God’s work, right? Because most of the time, the world’s logic is contrary to God’s ways.

So, Jesus had grown up in Nazareth; in fact, he lived there with his family until he was thirty years old. Nazareth was a very small town on the edge of a rocky little hill, with scholars estimating its total population around 500 – which means everyone knew Jesus and his family.

And so, we have to ask ourselves, why did Jesus leave the growing mega-following in Capernaum and return to Nazareth, his hometown? It may have been because there was something there Jesus wanted his Disciples to see, and when they saw it, it was going to prepare them for their own next step in following Jesus. And if we will see it today, it will prepare us as we continue to follow Jesus.

Jesus was about to teach his Disciples by example, the amazement of unbelief.

But to really grasp where we’re going, we have to first review two events that occurred prior to our text today. For the first event, notice Mark 6:1 says Jesus returned with his Disciples to Nazareth because Jesus had already been to Nazareth once.

I can only review these two prior events for you today, so write these Scriptures in the margin of the Bible you bring with you each week, and then you can read them for yourselves later.

For this first one, write Luke 4:14-30 – after the Temptation in the Wilderness. Luke 4:14 says Jesus returned to the area of the Galilee FULL of the Holy Spirit’s Power.

And Jesus was going town to town in the Galilee with his reputation preceding him, and when he got to Nazareth, in the Synagogue, on the Sabbath, the scroll of Isaiah was handed to him, and Jesus read the famous verses about the coming Messiah from Isaiah 61.

Then, Jesus explained very clearly that he, himself, was the Messiah promised in Isaiah, and at this point, Luke 4:29 says the people mobbed him. They drug him to the edge of a cliff and they tried to throw him to his death.

That was the first experience of Jesus sharing the Good News with the people in his home town of Nazareth. They all decided it was best to go ahead and kill him. Can anyone relate to that?

The second event we need to review is one we looked at back in Mark Chapter 3. Write Mark 3:20-35 in your margin. There, as Jesus was teaching in a house, and the crowds were gathering around him. Suddenly, his own family showed up and they were very concerned for him. And verse 21 says they tried to take him away (meaning by force) because his family thought he was out of his mind! Then, in verse 31, his family even tried to set a trap to get Jesus alone to take him away by force, to get him to stop making a fool of himself.

So, those are the two big run-up events that set the stage for Jesus returning to his home town in order to share the Gospel with the people he grew up with, and (it seems to me) to prepare his Disciples for when they would go out to share the Good News themselves.

So, with that background, let’s reread verse 1 along with verse 2.

Mark 6:1-2 (NLT)
1 Jesus left that part of the country
(Capernaum) and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown.
2 The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?”

Many who heard Jesus – were AMAZED

But this is a different Greek word than we’re going to see later when it’s used for Jesus being amazed at the unbelief of the people here. This Greek word is most often translated “astonished.” One translation says, “they were completely flabbergasted” when they heard the words of Jesus and when they heard of all his miracles. The townspeople who all knew Jesus growing up, were astonished – they were flabbergasted!

They had acknowledged and were astonished by the wisdom of his words and the power of his miracles. It’s not that they didn’t have the facts about Jesus. It’s not that they didn’t have the proof about Jesus.

They had the facts, and they had the proof. But listen, please. They had a predisposed opinion that drove their response to the Good News about Jesus. Here it is, Mark 6:3.

Mark 6:3 (NLT)
3 Then they scoffed,
(they had the facts – they had the proof - and they scoffed) “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

There’s a lot of information in this verse. First, “he’s just a carpenter” speaks of the people’s familiarity with Jesus, which colors, or filters, everything they hear from him.
Then, “He’s the son of Mary,” which (contrary to some common view) is not respectful to either Jesus or Mary. A man was always called by his father’s name unless the mother wasn’t married or didn’t know who the baby’s father was. I know we just sang these words at Christmas, but this is actually an insulting “predisposed view” of both Jesus and Mary.

Finally, although (again) the Catholic Church has an explanation for this, all other Bible scholars and historians are clear these are (most likely) the four birth brothers of Jesus, who, along with his sisters, were all children of Mary and who grew up with Jesus – in Nazareth.

But with all those interesting facts, the important point is at the end of the verse.

Mark 6:3 . . . They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

The Greek word for “deeply offended” is a heavy word. It means “to be filled with disgust or revulsion for someone.” The people who were closest to Jesus while he was growing up – sinless – were now filled with disgust and revulsion toward him, and I think Jesus really wanted his Disciples to see this, first hand.

I think some of us need to see this first hand. Not for us to get judgmental or angry, but to remember if it happened to Jesus, who are we to think it shouldn’t happen to us?

And then Jesus gives us the best probable reason for this in the next verse.

Mark 6:4 (NLT)
4 Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.”

This is the same response Jesus gave at his first visit, and it was actually a well-known saying at the time, and still is today. Why is that? I think partly because of another famous saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Although, it shouldn’t have with Jesus because he never showed a sin side of himself to these people (he didn’t have one).

But I think, more importantly, this is a clear display of the raw power of unbelief. Truly believing in Jesus Christ is a very, very powerful thing. But, the raw power of determined unbelief can be equally as powerful.

I think the biggest lesson here, and by far the scariest lesson, is the sheer, direction-setting power of determined unbelief. The people of Nazareth had heard the supernatural wisdom of the words of Jesus. They had seen (or heard of) the supernatural power of his miracles and they simply and completely denied the facts and denied the proof of all they had heard and seen.

Have you experienced this – maybe with family or friends or someone you care deeply about? The evidence is there, the facts and the proof are undeniable. But it seems like the person had made a pre-determined commitment to not believe anything you say before you have even spoken one word.

And here is the truly scary part. This determined unbelief actually impacts what God is able to do in that person’s life. Look at Mark 6:5.

Mark 6:5 (NLT)
5 And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them.

This does not mean that Jesus didn’t have the power. It means that he didn’t have the purpose. Listen, please. Jesus is not going to perform a miracle to convince you to believe. Jesus is going to perform a miracle because you believe and because it advances his purpose and his Kingdom.

Guys, faith is not believing because you see, but seeing because you believe. And Jesus knew, in Nazareth, no miracle was possible because there was no believing there. But, as always, for the few who humbly came to him, he placed his hands on them, and he healed them – probably without many other people even seeing it.

Here then, finally, is the real story – the most important point.

Mark 6:6(a) (NLT)
6 And he was amazed at their unbelief . . .

Jesus was amazed at their unbelief. This Greek word for “amazed” means to wonder or marvel at a thing. Jesus “marveled” at their unbelief. He was amazed at their commitment to not believe. Determine unbelief is really powerful. It is amazing how unbelief can respond in the face of facts and proof. It is so amazing that it startles Jesus here.

The people of Nazareth acknowledged the wisdom of his words. They were aware of the proof of his miracle. Yet, they were so committed to not believing that it left Jesus amazed.

The famous scholar JC Ryle said this;
It is neither the lack of evidence nor the difficulties of Christian doctrine that make people unbelievers. It is lack of will to believe.

It reminds me of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. The rich man and Lazarus both die. Lazarus goes into the presence of God (Abraham’s Bosom). The rich man is separated from God by his unbelief, and the rich man asks “Father Abraham” to send Lazarus back from the dead so that his brothers will believe and not end up in the same place as him. And in Luke 16:31, Abraham says to the rich man, “If they won’t listen to [God’s testimony], they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”

Please, if you are listening today, please don’t be so hardened in your unbelief that even if someone were to rise from the dead, you still wouldn’t believe.

The Bible says eternal life and eternal death hang in the balance of your belief or unbelief.

The Bible is the most supernatural, miraculous, divinely inspired writing that has ever existed. With 2,000 years of proof in every possible area of science and history, and yet people so easily say, “Well, here’s what I think.” And they take their own opinion, fashioned from their own experience and they put it above the most supernatural, miraculous, divinely inspired writing in existence on earth. Please, if you are hearing my voice today, please do not do that!

Unbelief is a very powerful thing, and the more you are determined in it, the less you will be able to see and respond to the truth, no matter how it is presented or proven to you.

What you don’t want, is what the last half of verse 6 says.

Mark 6:6(b) (NLT)
6 . . . Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people.

The Bible is clear – there can come a time when “Jesus has left the building” in your life. At some point, Jesus will allow you to become too hardened in your unbelief that you will no longer be able to hear from him or respond to him. Please do not let that happen in your life.

Keep your heart and your mind open to who the Bible says Jesus Christ is and the gift of eternal life that he came to give all who would believe in him.