Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. 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?" Then 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.
Then Jesus told them, "A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family." 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. And he was amazed at their unbelief (Mark 6:1-6 NLT).
Why did Mark include this event in his story of Jesus?
Mark is the shortest gospel. He has fewer episodes than Matthew or Luke. He is not writing a biography — there are no birth stories and no stories from childhood. Mark does not include many events from other parts of Jesus' life. So why did Mark record this event? In a gospel emphasizing Jesus' power, why put in a story saying that Jesus "couldn't do any miracles among them"?
I believe this verse is the key:
Then Jesus told them, "A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family."This verse is the key and the New Living Translation captures the family emphasis of each term well — hometown, relatives, family! Mark is warning that unbelief in Jesus' family has the power to limit what Jesus can do!
So who comprises Jesus' family today?
We do! We are Jesus' family! We are Jesus' relatives! The church is Jesus' hometown. Mark's words are for us! Mark's words are a warning for us! Our lack of faith in what Jesus can do limits what Jesus will do among us, for us, and through us. So...
What opportunities have we wasted because of our lack of expectation?
What miracles have never happened because of our unbelief?
What moments of renewal and mission have been missed because we don't believe?
What great works to bless the broken and save the lost never occur because we don't trust Jesus to do them through us?
These are the questions of self-introspection that Mark wants to provoke in us.
So what are we going to do to believe in Jesus for more?
Let's begin on our knees where Paul began, in prayer* asking God to open our eyes to the power available to us through the Spirit because of our all-powerful Lord.
Let's re-claim the book of Acts as our family story — the heritage of our faith and the basis of our expectations. We believe Jesus acted through ordinary people then to do extraordinary things. Let's trust that Jesus longs to do those kinds of things today.
When Jesus comes to his family today, let's greet him with great expectations! Our mission as a congregation may need to be rooted in reality.** but what we "ask or imagine" needs to be tied to our faith in the sovereign Lord. Jesus longs to work through us without our limited and shortsighted expectations getting in his way. If we are going to invite Jesus to church, let's expect him to do more!
* Before Paul wrote the great doxology of Philippians 3:20-21, he had previously prayed these prayers:
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God's people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come (Philippians 1:15-21).
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Philippians 3:14-19).
** Rooting our mission in reality is important IF we don't limit our power to address that reality through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Here are some good articles on finding our mission:
- It Starts with Mission — by Tim Woodroof
- Prayer and Mission — by Mark Frost
- Studying Scripture to Find Our Mission — by Phil Ware
- People in the Process of Mission — by Greg Anderson
- Gifts and Mission — by Tim Woodroof
- History and Mission — by Mark Frost
- Community and Mission — by Phil Ware
- Needs and Mission — by Tim Woodroof
- Today and Mission — by Tim Woodroof
- The Mission Matrix — by Tim Woodroof