Putting Limits on Jesus

“And He marveled because of their unbelief." Mark 6:6

Some things Jesus cannot do. That's what Mark tells us.

In the sixth chapter of his Gospel he described Jesus’ return to his hometown. As was His habit He taught in the synagogue, and the crowd was amazed at His teaching. But their amazement seems to have a different quality from the crowd’s amazement at the Sermon on the Mount. There, the people heard a message that rang true and had an authority to it. It was appealing in a deeply satisfying way.

In His own hometown, however, the crowd was offended. They did not believe this carpenter could have such insight. They had seen Him as a boy. Yes He appeared to have wisdom, and yes they had heard about the mighty works, but where did He get all of this? Maybe jealousy was the problem. Or, more likely, they simply did not want anyone coming in and upsetting their familiar religion and notions of what God is really like. Whatever the case, Jesus commented that a prophet is seldom honored in his own hometown.

Then Mark notes for us: “he could do no mighty work there except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.” He could do no mighty work there. Some things Jesus can't do. That phrase has stuck with me since I heard it from a professor at seminary when we studied this part of the Gospel of Mark. It was Dr. Simmons who told of using this in a sermon one time only to have a man come up to him afterward, quite agitated, and claim, “there’s nothing my Jesus can’t do.”

Well, of course, that man is right on one level. Jesus, God, is able to do anything. He is omnipotent (all powerful) and sovereign (not subject to anything or anyone), but He has obviously put a limit of some nature and extent on what He will or will not do. In this story from the Gospel of Mark we clearly see that He was unwilling to force himself on anyone. He would not cross the line He had drawn. Therefore, He was unable to do a mighty work there.

The sixth verse takes us to the heart of the matter. “Jesus marveled at their unbelief.” There’s the problem. Unbelief. The word belief, of course, is the same as the word faith. They had no faith. Jesus will not enter a life unless faith has opened the door. He is not in the habit of kicking in the door. He could, but forced obedience does not produce the character He really desires. Only belief, trust and submission can produce the love God really wants from us.

Faith at its root is an openness to God. When He finds faith He performs a mighty work. When He finds unbelief, He waits. By our lack of faith, trust, and obedience we can limit what God would do in our midst.

God will bless you today. What you see and hear from Him may be meager or plentiful. It depends on faith. Be open to God. The Creator wants to reveal Himself more clearly to you today. Welcome Him in faith.


Dr. Terry Ellis

April 29, 2013