“‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without horror, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.’ And he could do not mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:3-6)
Crowds far and wide were astonished by Jesus’ ability to heal (Matthew 9:32-33, 25:30-31; Luke 8:25, 13:17). They were captivated by the deeply knowledgeable, inexplicably wise, and otherworldly manner in which He spoke (Matthew 7:28-29; Mark 1:21-22, 6:2; John 7:15). But when He returned in His hometown of Galilee, no amount of the miraculous could persuade the people He was anything more than a carpenter’s son.
And Jesus marveled at their unbelief.
It’s hard to imagine doing anything grand enough to make God-in-the-flesh marvel, but the people’s stubborn resistance to having their minds changed did exactly that. The thing is, we read our Bibles and harshly judge the men and women who got it wrong, but we’re all far better at unbelief than we are at belief. We’re quick to resis and slow to surrender. We want more proof, more persuasion, more of our personal expectations met. We withhold faith as though God needs to do more before we’ll accept what He’s already done.
I wonder how often we make Him marvel.
The people in Jesus’ day expected the Messiah to be kingly and powerful and way more impressive than He was. And their unmet expectations led to their unbelief. The people in our day have specific expectations of God too, but the Creator doesn’t owe more to His creation than every gracious thing. He’s already put on display. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So (the people) are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
Because of His kindness and love, God is patient when we struggle through matters of faith. He knows unmet expectations can be painful, confusing, and even derailing for a time. His heart is soft toward us, not wanting anyone to perish in unbelief (2 Peter 3:9), which is why He gives us every opportunity to believe. It’s why He put His power and character on display for all to see through creation itself and then by entering into that creation through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Indeed, we’ve been given every opportunity to believe. But make no mistake; God sees our hardness of heart and our stubborn resistance to having our minds changed. Like the people in Jesus’ hometown of Galilee, if we persist in our unbelief, it will be King Jesus Himself who ultimately holds us accountable for it.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Confess the ways you struggle with unbelief. Of course, God already knows what’s in your mind and heart, but saying things out loud to Him in prayer helps you actually deal with them. Ask God to increase your faith and grow your understanding of what’s true. Thank Him for being patient, loving, and merciful toward His creation, and for giving you every opportunity to know Him and believe in Him.
- In what ways are you struggling with unbelief?
- Read Romans 1:20 and 2:14-15. Underline in your Bible how creation as well as your own conscience bears witness to who God is.
- How has God proved Himself to you in the past? How should remembering those things impact the way you’re currently struggling to believe that God is who He says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do?