Today we are in Mark 6:1-6.
There is a pattern developing in the ministry of Jesus, he teaches and then ministers to large crowds of people who bring their sick and those oppressed by unclean spirits. And miracles take place.
Jesus is entering his hometown, Nazareth, after an extraordinary day of miracles. A woman plagued by 12 years of medical trauma was healed simply by touching his robe. Then a 12 year old girl was raised from death.
In Jesus there is power to heal life’s deepest hurts.
In Jesus there is grace to heal life’s deepest hurts.
In Jesus there is hope greater than death.
What’s going to happen next?
In Nazareth, Jesus teaches in the synagogue and the people there experience the typical response. Where does he get this teaching?! Where does this wisdom come from? How does he do these miraculous things? The people are amazed and perplexed.
What will they do with that amazement?
The gospel of Mark is all about what Jesus did and how people responded to Jesus. In Nazareth Mark gives us an example of what not to do.
First we see in Nazareth the tension of unbelief.
Isn’t this the carpenter, Mary’s son?
When Jesus arrives in the fullness of his Messianic ministry, it causes a crisis of belief in his hometown. Isn’t this our Jesus? Isn’t this the boy that grew up next door, playing with my kids?
Psychologists have a term for this experience – it’s called cognitive dissonance.
“Cognitive dissonance is a term for the state of discomfort felt when two or more modes of thought contradict each other.”
This Jesus standing in the synagogue proclaiming the kingdom of God does not look like our Jesus.
These two apparently conflicting presentations of Jesus caused discomfort. It caused pain. Many of us will experience that same discomfort.
When by idea of Jesus is challenged by new experiences or new data, it creates discomfort.
This is a recurring experience in the development of the kingdom of God.
When reports began to spread of sightings of a risen Jesus, there was discomfort. Thomas couldn’t believe it. My Jesus died. What do you mean you had a conversation with him?
When the apostles began to preach a message of justification by faith alone, there was discomfort. What about our tradition? What about Moses? What about hundreds of years of the law?
When the Jewish believers began to share fellowship with gentiles, there was discomfort. You want me to sit under the same roof, at the same table, eating the same food as gentiles? You want me to call them brother and sister?
When Martin Luther and the reformers rediscovered the 5 Solas and the priesthood of all believers in the reformation, there was discomfort. Their teaching contradicted a thousand years of tradition.
When George Whitefield began to preach to crowds in fields the church was scandalized. When his friend John Wesley followed his example and people began to cry out and shake and fall down under his preaching, the church was scandalized. This is not how church is done!
In our understanding of Jesus, there is inevitably a mixture of perception and reality. Growth in the knowledge of Jesus will sometimes involved the discomfort caused when perception is challenged by reality.
What will you do when that discomfort comes?
Personally, a renewed study of the NT has challenged by beliefs about the work of the Holy Spirit and the place of miracles in the church today. That has made me uncomfortable.
The people of Nazareth felt that discomfort and they chose the shortest path to comfort. They fell back on their old understanding.
They chose tradition over truth. They chose the familiar over the facts.
They took offense at Jesus.
Rather than carefully examining the Scriptures and the data in front of them, they retreat into the familiar comfort of their perceived reality.
Mark writes in hope that we will not repeat their mistake.
When life experience or the Scriptures present a challenge to your view of Jesus, you can retreat into your comfort zone or you can push through the discomfort with your Bible open and gain a more accurate knowledge of Jesus.
The consequence of unbelief.
The result was that Jesus could do no mighty work there.
It’s a tragic statement!
Jesus has arrived with all of the grace, power and hope of heaven. And the people there shut the door on him in their unbelief.
Matthew provides nuance with an alternate wording.
And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
Jesus is not like Tinkerbell. He does not need the kids in the audience to clap their hands and shout that they believe in fairies in order to live and work his magic.
The power of the kingdom, the Spirit of God upon him, existence independently of outside perception.
It’s not the strength of our faith, but the object of faith that opens the door to Jesus.
But we have to open the door.
This is the way of the kingdom of God.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
The kingdom comes through faith.
And faith requires pushing through discomfort.
That’s probably why most of the people who display faith in the gospels are people who are desperate or people who are on the fringes of society.
They are already uncomfortable.
It’s easy to read this passage and say, that’s crazy that the people of Nazareth responded like that!
We may be more like the people of Nazareth than we would like to admit.
Those who are the most familiar with Jesus are the ones most in danger of missing him completely.
We who have gone to church for years are very familiar with Jesus. We’ve read our Bibles and heard sermons about him for years.
It’s easy to believe we have a grasp on him and yet miss him. We miss the explosive power of the gospel. We miss the radical demands of the gospel. We miss the extraordinary promises of the gospel.
What do you think this room would look like on a Sunday if we really knew Jesus? If we really knew the grace, the power and the hope available in Jesus as presented in the gospels?
I can tell you what it would look like.
We would be dancing! And shouting! We would be dragging our friends and bringing our needs to the feet of Jesus and expecting miraculous things to happen.
Heaven’s view of unbelief
When Jesus saw the door shut, Mark tells us that he marveled at their unbelief.
That word comes up a lot in the gospels, but is used twice to refer to Jesus. Here and in Luke 7:19 in response to the faith of a centurion seeking help for one of his servants.
Jesus marveled when those who should have believed did not.
And he marveled when those least likely to believe demonstrated faith.
John Piper said that “Faith is what a child does when he is happy to be helpless in his father’s arms.”
The arms of Jesus are safe and strong, friend. Will you open the door and trust Him this morning?
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown