And because of their unbelief, he [Jesus] 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 6:5-6 NLT — Underline added.).
I grew up with my mom always responding to my, "I can't!" statements with an unhesitating reminder: "Can't never could do anything!"
Ours was a "I can!" household, not an "I can't!" home. Love will find the way around a people problem. God will empower us past a barrier to our obedience of him and work for him. Resolve will help us through the so-called "impossible" challenges. Team work will help us overcome life's hiccups, hurdles, and trips through the suburbs of hell. With God on our side and the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we were raised to be "I can!" people.
When I married Donna, God blessed me with another I can person. As a first and second grade teacher, one of the things I loved that she did at the beginning of the year was to take orange juice cans and decorate them with a new cover and put two eyes on them. The children would put their pencils and other supplies in their "Eye Can" to remind them that when things were challenging, they could say, "I can!"
When I came face-to-face with the reality of what the Holy Spirit was saying about Jesus' trip back to his hometown, it was a hard word for me to swallow. Mark doesn't say, "Jesus wouldn't do any miracles among them." Mark doesn't say, "The people wouldn't allow Jesus to do any miracles among them." Instead, the Bible tells us that Jesus "couldn't do any miracles among them"!
Mark's gospel is about the Jesus who had the power to do anything he wanted, yet he went to the cross to seek, serve, and save us by ransoming us from the clutches of the evil one (Mark 10:45). Why would the Holy Spirit lead Mark to tell us that Jesus "Couldn't" do anything?
For this "I can!" guy, Mark's "Couldn't!!" was most troubling. I read and re-read this episode from the ministry of Jesus. I prayed for understanding. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me see what Jesus wanted me to learn from this story. Then one night somewhere between twilight sleep and sleeping like a rock, a surge of insight bubbled to the top of my consciousness and jolted me awake: "Look at those who rejected Jesus; those who caused the 'Couldn't!'
Who were they then?
Who are they now?"
Jesus describes these "Couldn't" folks:
Then Jesus told them, "A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family" (Mark 6:4 — Underline added.).
Jesus' big "couldn't do any miracles..." moment happened where people thought they knew him better than anyone else knew him. They were from Jesus' hometown. They were Jesus' relatives. They were Jesus' family.
The burning answer that the Lord used to answer my question was another question. "Phil, where is my hometown today? Who are my relatives and my family today?"
How like Jesus to answer a question with a question! And my oh my, how convicting the question was to me. I'm sure it was also very convicting to those in the early church who heard Jesus' words in the same way I was hearing them.
I believe that the Holy Spirit led Mark to share this story to confront us — Jesus' followers in every age. The Lord wants us to ask ourselves, "What are we preventing Jesus from doing among us and through us because of our unbelief?"
Rather than answering that question for you, I want you to be troubled with the question as it confronts you. I encourage you to ask this question of yourself, your family, and your faith family.
I don't want heaven to say of my generation that Jesus "couldn't do any miracles among them... he was amazed at their unbelief."
O dear God, please forgive me. I claim to know Jesus. I say that I believe Jesus is Lord. But deep down, there are so many areas of my life that I don't open to Jesus to do his work in me and through me because of my unbelief! I believe, Father, but help my unbelief. Help me as I seek to yield to Jesus as Lord and trust you as the one who is able... In the mighty name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
I want to encourage you to share this insight with others. It's time for our lives to match the biblical saying many of us have hanging in our homes: