Amazed by unbelief

It is not for lack of evidence that belief that people don’t believe in Christ.  They do not believe in spite of the evidence that they are given.  As one writer has noted, “What a man does not want to believe, he can find a way to deny.”

Unbelief has always been a common response to Christ.  Even in the time of Christ.

The Gospels note that Jesus was amazed and astonished at signs of faith where it “should not have been” — as in the case of the Roman centurion (Mt. 8:10).  And He was astonished at unbelief where belief should have been evident.  The latter is the sad situation in this morning’s Bible reading (Mk. 6).

Jesus had taught in the synagogues, and it was quite evident that His teaching was remarkably insightful and authoritative.  No one taught like Jesus taught (Mk. 1:27; 6:2).  No one acted like Jesus acted.  He had authority over the souls of men in His teaching and He had authority over demons, nature, and illness and death in His miracles.  Everything He said and did declared that He was the promised Messiah.

And in the country He was born (Israel) and in the town he was raised (Nazareth), He was rejected.  In fact, the refusal to accept Christ was so great in His own hometown (they just couldn’t reconcile the Messiah being born to a carpenter), that Mark tells us that “He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.”  The reason that He could not perform miracles in Nazareth was not because of any inability, but because of a moral refusal.  He would not do miracles because of their rejection of Him, just as He would not teach publicly, but would teach primarily in parables, because the Pharisees attributed His power to Satan (Mt. 12-13).

This unbelief was so inexplicable, so perplexing that Mark tells us, “He [Jesus] wondered at their unbelief” (6:6).  The word “wonder” means, “to be extraordinarily impressed or disturbed by something.”  Their unbelief was so thorough and so curious that Jesus — the eternal God-Man — was disturbed by it.  They had been given every reason to believe and yet they still refused to believe.

And being rejected in His own home town, Jesus left and evidently never returned to Nazareth.

Here are some sober reminders for us:

  1. There will always be those who reject Christ despite the evidence and despite our best pleadings and calls.
  2. Unbelief will, at some point, result in the removal of God’s message and the ability to hear and receive.  Unbelief, as one pastor has written, “robs the church of her power.”
  3. When we see unbelief, we should not be surprised (they reject Christ to His face!), but it should also be a sorrowful disturbance to us.
  4. Unbelief should stimulate us to pray, for only the sovereign God can break down the barriers of hardened hearts.

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