Yesterday, I continued our series through Mark’s gospel. My text was Mark 6:1-6, a passage with much truth about unbelief. In Mark 6:1-6, Jesus entered His hometown of Nazareth and preached a very unique sermon in the synagogue. He took the scroll from the attendant and unrolled it. He then read from Isaiah 61 and said that He was the fulfillment of that prophecy (we receive this information from Luke in his account). Following the sermon, Jesus simply sat down. No miracles, signs, or wonders were performed in the presence of the people. Sure, Jesus could have performed miracles, but He chose to withhold them from the people. What happened next is nothing less than amazing.
The people at first were astounded with the wisdom that Jesus possessed. How could He speak with such wisdom having never received formal education? They had certainly heard about the many miracles done by His hands in surrounding locations such as Capernaum (only 20 miles away). They reasoned with themselves – “How are such mighty works done by his hands?” They continued to think this whole thing through, and the more they thought about it, they more they were outraged. What audacity of Jesus to walk into the synagogue and speak with such authority! Everyone knew who He was. He was Mary’s son and brother to James, Joses, Judas, and Simon – along with His sisters. They knew Him well and yet He stood and spoke with such authority.
As a side note, we can learn from this text that the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary is simply not true. It’s abundantly clear from Mark 6 that Jesus had brothers and sisters. After Jesus’ birth, Mary’s “firstborn,” other children followed.
Quickly their astonishment with His wisdom was turned to wrath. They became angry that they could not see the miracles and signs that other places had seen. Rather than believing the truth He preached, they rejected Him. In fact, Luke provides us the more detailed account of what happened next:
Luke 4:28-30 – When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.  And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.  But passing through their midst, he went away.
What a hometown reception for Jesus, right? He was literally ran out of town by a bloodthirsty mob who desired to kill Him. His family considered Him to be out of His mind (Mark 3:20-21) and that same thought apparently had spread throughout Nazareth. Unbelief had gripped the entire town. The very place where Jesus grew up as a boy was a dark hole of unbelief. William Hendriksen, in his commentary on Mark writes, “Familiarity brought contempt, that is, the very fact that the people of Nazareth were so well acquainted with Jesus’ family, having known them for so long a time, cause them to look down upon him.”
Before leaving Jesus spoke a proverbial word of judgment upon Nazareth. He said, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” While a prophet can certainly have honor in other places, it’s not guaranteed. In fact, a prophet can have honor even in his own hometown, but not Jesus! Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth wasn’t willing to submit to His authority and believe the truth. Commenting on this passage, J.C. Ryle writes:
We can never be too much on our guard against unbelief. It is the oldest sin in the world. It began in the Garden of Eden, when Eve listened to the devil’s promises instead of believing God’s words, ‘you will die.’ It is the most ruinous of all sins in its consequences. It brought death into the world. It kept Israel out of Canaan for forty years. It is the sin that especially fills hell…It is the most foolish and inconsistent of all sins. It makes people refuse the plainest evidence, shut their eyes against he clearest testimony, and yet believe lies.
Jesus could have performed miracles, but due to their unbelief He withheld them. This further intensified their wrath toward Him. In a town where Jesus had grown up, instead of being received with open arms having heard of His preaching and miracles, they refused to believe and ran Him out of the town. In only two instances do we see Jesus amazed by events in His earthly ministry. The word “θαυμάζω” translated astonished or amazed or marveled is used quite frequently throughout the gospels. It’s repeated 30 times through all four gospels. However, it’s only used 3 times (in two different instances) regarding Jesus. Once it was used to describe how Jesus felt when He saw the faith of a gentile centurion. The same word was used to describe Jesus in this text, as Jesus witnessed the unbelief of His hometown.
Beware of unbelief. It’s a dark trap. It’s a dangerous snare. A refusal to believe Jesus leads to an acceptance of the devil’s lies.