I had a vivid dream last week involving the name of Jesus—such a beautiful name! In the dream, I was ministering to a large crowd of people in an outdoor setting. Next, the dream shifted to an indoor sanctuary, where more ministry was occurring. I had a sense in the dream there were many who did not know Jesus, some of whom were skeptical of the gospel. In fact, I knew many people did not believe the truth that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
The dream was suddenly interrupted by a proclamation; three times I heard,
“Acts 4:12, Acts 4:12, Acts 4:12!”
If you remember the account in Acts 4, Peter and John have been jailed and brought before the religious authorities for healing a lame man in Jesus name. Thousands have come to Christ at their preaching! The authorities want to know by “what power or by what name” the lame man was healed.
Peter’s final response is Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” There is only one Name, one authority under heaven Who heals the sick and liberates the oppressed—Jesus Christ of Nazareth! But His name offends and divides. It did then, and still does today.
In society, we can talk about God in vague terms and people are usually ok. We may say, “God bless you” or “God Bless America,” and except for atheist groups, don’t receive too much push back. But bring Jesus into the conversation, and you can see the “hair stand on end” for many in our culture. Society would tell the Church, “Take care of the poor, take care of the needy, but leave that Jesus preaching out of the conversation!” The Church should take care of the poor and needy, but we should also boldly proclaim the Name of Jesus Christ as the only Name for men to be saved!
This week we continue our study of Mark and read how even the people of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth were offended by Him. Their anger and offense at Jesus were so dramatic that Jesus “could do no mighty miracle there!” A sad commentary for the town Jesus grew up in.
Unbelief in Nazareth—Mark 6:1-6
Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.
After the miracle accounts in Mark 5, Jesus now travels about 25 miles south-west from the western shore of the sea of Galilee to His childhood hometown of Nazareth. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue (vs. 2).
Luke’s gospel provides a more detailed account of what He taught in the synagogue that day (Luke 4:14-30). Mark did not record what Jesus taught, it seems his primary interest was the negative response of the people toward Jesus and His ministry. Mark writes that the “people were astonished at His teaching,” and then asked, “where did this man get these things?”
It wasn’t Jesus wisdom, or depth of His teaching, or miracles that trouble them; rather, it was His heritage! After all, He is just “one of the guys!” His humble beginnings did not point to His greatness. They watched Him grow up in town, mistakes and all, and could only see Him as one of the “town’s kids.”
“Is He not the carpenter, the son of Mary …” The crowd’s human knowledge and reasoning caused them to stumble over the real identity of Jesus.
After all, He is only a carpenter by trade and He is “Mary’s son.” The fact that there is no mention of Joseph could mean that Joseph, the stepfather, had already passed away. The statement, “Mary’s son,” could have been a reference to her conception of Jesus before she married Joseph. No doubt, Jesus was viewed by many in Nazareth as the “illegitimate son of Mary.” Bottom line, the people of Nazareth would not accept Jesus as a man of God, much less the “Son of God!”
A carpenter (tektron) was a builder who worked with stone, wood etc. Carpenters occupied the lower echelons in society. In the first century, there was no such thing as upward mobility; Jesus was expected to remain a carpenter and take over the family trade. It was scandalous to think that God would come to humanity through such a lowly family and ordinary trade.
Sadly, those who should have known Him best did not know Him at all. The result, “they were offended at Him.”
The English word offended comes from the Greek word skandalizomai, meaning, “to stumble over an obstacle.” The idea that Jesus, their hometown carpenter, could be inaugurating the kingdom of God was outrageous; it did not conform to their preconceived ideas about how God would and could act.
Sadly, their preconceived ideas became an obstacle to faith. Like the “outsiders” described earlier in Mark 4:12, they “look and see but do not perceive, and hear and listen but do not understand.” The people of Nazareth were blinded by their own judgments of God and Jesus.
Our carnal nature and human reasoning can easily be offended with God and with others. Often, our preconceived ideas how God will or should act become stumbling blocks to our faith and relationship with the Lord. We judge (predetermine) how something should be and become offended when God or others take a different course than what we expect.
God is merciful, gracious, and always good. But, how God moves and answers prayer or breaks into our world is at times unpredictable. God does not conform to our preconceptions about Him! Don’t be offended at God when God does not act or respond as you believe He should.
Your radical commitment to follow Jesus often offends those on the outside of the Church, and frequently, those on the inside of the Church. Your biggest critics can come from close friends and family—those who know you well.
Jesus replies to their outburst with a proverbial statement relevant in their time,
Jesus, linking Himself to OT prophets before Him, indicates the rejection or violence is because of the unpopularity of their (His) message. He is held without HONOR!
God often sends “messengers,” even prophets, but their message, or even the person, is rejected by many—both in society and in the Church. We frequently lack honor towards the gift. Honor releases life and the grace that gift carries. The honor of others builds unity, helping to release God’s presence in our midst.
The Apostle Paul discussed with the Ephesians the importance of the ascension, or office, gifts Jesus gave the Church, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” (Eph. 4:11-13 NKJV).
These office gifts help build and mature the body of Christ for ministry—they are active and needed today, just as they were in the first century. When we devalue the office gift a member of the body of Christ operates in, we rob ourselves of the grace and power of God that gift can bring into the Church and society. This often happens because we “know” the person—we see them according to the flesh and not by the Spirit. Healthy honor toward the office gifts is needed to release greater grace in our midst!
Jesus was unable to perform any miracles and was amazed at their lack of faith (Mark 6:5-6) Offense stops miracles!
Nazareth experienced no miracles, only a few sick healed through the laying on of hands. In Mark 5, we observe faith making a demand on Jesus; as a result, miracles occur as normal.
Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not soften or omit this statement that seems to limit the power of the Son of God. Mark desires to highlight the necessity of faith—at least a basic receptivity to God’s power at work in Jesus—as a factor for healings & miracles.
Nazareth could have had a revival, instead, they rejected the move of God because they could only see Jesus from a human perspective.
Miracles, signs, and wonders in and of themselves do not guarantee that people will “hear” and believe the message of Jesus. In fact, miracles often drive people away!
Paul directs the Corinthians, “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” (2 Cor. 5:16) The people of Nazareth blocked what Jesus wanted to do for them because they only saw Him according to the flesh. Jesus won’t force Himself on anyone, nor does He force His messengers and gifts He sends upon us!
Are there people we reject because we think we know them? Or are there people whom Jesus has transformed and we ignore them because we still see them in their former life?
Or young people who mature, receive education, grow in the faith, gifts and calling of God but we still see them as “little Suzie or little Johnny?”
“The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.” (Prov. 14:1) Church, bride of Christ, be a wise woman! Work with Jesus, the master builder and carpenter. He is the head, we are His body, “the Church is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.” (Eph. 1:23 CEB)
Principles for Overcoming Unbelief
Focus on Jesus
If you need more faith, look to Jesus! “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2)
Faith to move mountains begins and ends with Jesus. Jesus is the object and goal of our faith. Real faith is to know Jesus well enough to know what He wants to do in any situation.
Read consistently the gospel accounts of Jesus life and miracles. Read Acts, observe how the Holy Spirit moved through early Church. Faith develops by hearing what God is saying. Read Church history and how God has and still is moving through the Church.
Remain in Jesus
Jesus said clearly to all disciples, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.” (John 15:4-5 CEB)
Fruit is produced through intimacy. Faith and fruitfulness are related.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with more faith. Prayer, worship, and time in God’s word are ways to grow in faith. Learn to remain in Him, living and moving in Him, “for in Him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:28)
Walk with Jesus daily, talk with Him, and live out of your divine union with Him. Remember the disciples on the road to Emmaus—believe He is with you always—for He is! Worship, pray, and commune with Him consistently—unbelief will fade and faith will grow!
Chose to follow Jesus and obey Him explicitly, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 CEB) Do you know His commands? Read and memorize the Word of God. The Holy Spirit will quicken (Rhema) the Word (Logos) and make it alive.
Faith arises when we hear “now” words—often related to God’s written Word that the Spirit has breathed “now” upon. The more we read of God’s miracles, the more testimonies we hear, the greater our faith will grow. But faith also increases through intimacy and obedience.
Do the great commandment and the great commission! Love people, and love Jesus enough to take the gospel of the Kingdom to our world. Faith grows as you go!
For a more in-depth look at how offense can stop the movement of God, watch this sermon from Passion Church, “Offense Stops Miracles”: