We read lots of stories in the gospels of people being amazed at what Jesus can do: heal the sick, raise the dead, teach with authority, walk on water. We still find ourselves amazed at some of the events in the life of Jesus over 2,000 years later. What we may read over and forget is the story about how we can amaze Jesus.
In Mark 6:1-6 we read about Jesus returning to his hometown. It is obvious that these people know him well. They name his family members, know where his mother lives, and probably even know his favorite Psalm to sing. What they do not know is where he gets the power to do the things they have heard about Jesus doing in other places.
Mark tells us they are scandalized by Jesus. They have tried to place Jesus in all their known and familiar containers: Mary’s son, brother of James, carpenter. Healing and teaching are not skills learned in any of these categories. So where did Jesus get this power?
The people of Nazareth are not so much amazed by what Jesus does as by the fact that Jesus does these things. They have stumbled over their familiarity with Jesus. They know him so well, they cannot believe he is able to do such things.
This is when we uncover what amazes Jesus: unbelief. Mark says Jesus was able to do very little in his hometown. He healed a few sick people but was not able to do any great miracle like he had done in other parts of Galilee or even in Gentile territory across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was amazed that his hometown crowd could not believe in his ability to do such things.
Imagine Jesus coming to his own people and turning away, amazed that their unbelief keeps them from experiencing some of the radical outbreaks of God’s kingdom like feeding thousands or casting out demons. What deeds of power might Jesus be trying to work among his people, the church, today? Are we limiting what Jesus can do among us by trying to contain him in familiar categories and labels?
Of course, Jesus will not be limited by our unbelief, any more than he was limited by the people of Nazareth that day. Instead, Jesus goes forward and expands his mission by enlisting his disciples to begin carrying his message and mission forward.