Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
As far as I’m concerned, Mark 6:5 may be the most under-explored text in the whole Gospel.
He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Seriously? He could not do any miracles there? We are talking about one in whom the Holy Spirit dwelled without measure. This is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the Alpha and Omega, the Way and the Truth and the Life, and we could go on.
He could not do any miracles there . . .
Seriously? Did he just not want to do any miracles in his hometown or could he not do any miracles there? How can we say God could not do something? Okay, so we aren’t saying that. The Bible is saying it. I do take comfort in the fact that we aren’t given a story of Jesus trying to do a miracle and coming up empty. How are we to understand this? We need to look at the end of verse 6.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
So what does our faith have to do with Jesus’ ability to perform or not perform miracles? Apparently, faith has a lot to do with it. So how is this different from the idea of faith-healing, which we typically associate with fraudulent televangelists? What about when a person is not healed and they are told they weren’t healed because they didn’t have enough faith? What are we to make of that? I think it’s an abusive way to respond to a person who did not get healed. What if the little girl had not come back to life at the command of Jesus? Imagine people blaming her for her lack of faith! At the same time, if we believe the Bible, we can’t get around the clear connection between faith and miracles.
We are told two things: Jesus could not do miracles there, and he was amazed at their lack of faith.
So what if miracles are a social phenomenon. What if they require a certain kind of community in order to happen? It gets us away from connecting miracles to the faith of the individual person in need of a miracle; though Scripture is also clear that an individual’s faith plays a role in the process. Jesus told the hemorrhaging woman that her faith had made her well. Jesus only took those parents and the three insider disciples into the home of the dead little girl. Faith had something to do with that.
Where does this leave us? First, we need to understand that miracles are a sovereign act of the love of God. Faith does not make miracles happen. God makes miracles happen. However, there are places where miracles tend to happen and places where they do not tend to happen. What’s the difference? God is the same regardless of place. I think we’ve resolved that it does not come down to the faith of an individual person.
I will forever remember a marquee sign I saw several years ago, on a bank of all places. The sign said, “Where there is great love, miracles always happen.” I think the issue is love, or the lack thereof. The power of God sovereignly works miracles in response to the faith of a community moving in love.
Could it be we don’t see miracles too much these days because of the anemic levels of biblical faith in our communities? By biblical faith, I mean faith anchored not in the love of power but in the power of love. I’ve been in a lot of situations where people of faith wanted to see a demonstration of power and it didn’t happen. I think the Holy Spirit is in search of communities who long to see a demonstration of holy love. Where there is great love, miracles always happen.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
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