MARK 6:1-6 (ESV) | He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 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 honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And 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. And he went about among the villages teaching.
You have GOT to be kidding!
Who does this guy think he is? Where does he get off teaching scripture? We all know the truth about his life because we've watched it unfold in all its ignominy. I can not believe he is a part of what God is doing to bring his Kingdom here! Surely there is another way, a more qualified leader, someone other than him!
I wish I was paraphrasing the Nazarene response to hearing Jesus teach, but I'm not. I'm quoting my own thoughts and words in response to hearing about who is discipling someone we've just met.
Boris* has a ton of potential to catalyze a gospel movement in a sector of the culture we haven't had access to yet. However, when I found out that Mihilo* was discipling him my heart sank. Mihilo is a broken leader. And I don't mean a stumbled and regained his balance and now oozes humility and grace kind of broken leader. I mean a messy, sin-boldly and don't look back kind of broken, the kind of leader that makes me question whether or not we can make a difference here.
A week after that disheartening conversation, I read the opening verses of Mark 6 and was drawn to verses 5 and 6: And he could do no mighty work there … he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching. I felt sorry for the narrow-minded, blind, arrogant folks in Nazareth. They missed having Jesus work mighty miracles among them. Instead, he moved on to the villages, taking his eternity-shifting power with him.
Then I picked up my devotional book and read, "...I will bring to pass miracles—when you walk in uprightness and with mercy toward your acquaintances and even toward your enemies. Do not imagine for a moment that I can do any mighty works in an atmosphere of hostility, evil, and rebellion.”
It wasn’t Mihilo that would thwart the works of the Kingdom, but me…my lack of mercy and compassion, my hostility and judgment…my unbelief.
I long to see God's Kingdom break forth in this place: sinners saved, captives freed, sick healed. I don't want Jesus to marvel at my unbelief and move on! But am I willing to let God do it his way, to have him use the foolish...the broken things? Or will I stifle the work of the Holy Spirit with my arrogance and unbelief?
I wish I had a colorful bow with which I could tie up this story as I present it to you. However, this is my real life and not a TV drama that resolves in 60 minutes, minus commercial breaks. So the tale continues.
God faithfully reminds me that when he says, "Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps," he is NOT opening the door for me to critique the righteousness of others. He is talking to me about my righteousness (or lack thereof).
And each day that I choose to lay down my hostility and unbelief, he is heightening my anticipation to see him do the unexpected!
*Not their real names
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- Who are the people that you have trouble believing can be powerfully used by God?
- What are the pockets of unbelief in your own heart that may be stifling the powerful work of God in your context?
- Look back at this scripture passage and consider how your previous experience with Jesus colors what you believe he can do for others. What new thing does he have to show you?
This reading is part of our "On Earth as It Is in Heaven" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jody Hovda is the general director of the Ethne collective. She and her husband, Paul, have lived and served in Novi Sad, Serbia since 2012. Prior to that, they served in Caracas, Venezuela for eight years.