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Mark’s first-century biography – page 18

He (Jesus, c. AD 30) 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. 
Jesus had just raised from the dead the 12-year-old daughter of the synagogue ruler in a nearby town (page 17) and also cured a woman from chronic bleeding. Now he has returned to his home town of Nazareth where he was brought up and to its synagogue of the Sabbath day. 

Many in the congregation there “were astonished” by hearing him. But they reasoned that he must have received these teachings from someone else, that he must also have been “given wisdom” by someone else, and that in some way “such mighty works” could not have been done by him. 

How do they confirm their rational conclusion that he cannot be real in his teaching, wisdom and works? By reminding themselves that they know his mother and his brothers. And his own sisters live down the road. 

‘Our greatest sins are those of the mind.’ (Thomas Goodwin, preacher and pastor, 1600-1680) 
And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour, 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. 

Most of us are familiar with the truth behind Jesus’ statement that a prophet is not accepted among his or her own people. But this statement was trebly true when we think about the words “his own people”. Neither his own family, nor the people of Nazareth, nor the religious in the synagogue, nor his own people the Jews, nor, by and large, his own human beings honour him.

But this dis-honouring had two consequences there in AD 30. First, “no mighty work, there, could he do.” Second, “he marveled at their unbelief”. He used the Greek word a-pistis meaning literally no-faith, no belief in him.

Today, there are several meanings to the word faith. When Jesus used “no faith”, was he marveling at their lack of religion? Would “religion” (even Christian religion or the Jewish religion) have made a difference there in AD 30? No? Well, when Jesus used it, was he marveling that they didn’t have irrational faith? Was he expecting them to believe something obviously untrue? No? What then did he mean by unbelief, by “no faith”? Was he expecting them to believe the evidence and not rationalize it away? 

And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 

The disciples, unlike those in that synagogue, did have faith in Jesus. Not religion. Not blind faith. But faith in what they had seen and heard. He called them and sent them out and gave them authority over the unclean intangibles. Their faith cannot have been a matter of religion or a matter of believing what they knew was impossible - because they were sent out with – with absolutely nothing to sustain them. Only the power of Jesus. And they went …

 ‘Faith is knowledge passing into conviction and faith is conviction passing into confidence.’ (John Murray, professor and writer, 1898-1975) 
And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 

These final instructions to them from Jesus were also impossible to fulfil without true faith in him, true conviction as to his identity. They were to expect rejection – and were to respond only with grace, leaving all in Jesus’ hands. 

So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. 

Wonderful results came from the faith of the disciples in Jesus himself alone. He did the “mighty works” elsewhere.

Sinner Syvret

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