Just about the time you figure that there’s nothing Jesus couldn’t do, being God and all, and that he had the power to heal anyone, as he seems to do, and change anything, as you’d think he would, we read the Gospels, and we realize that maybe we don’t get how it is that God works, or how Jesus showed us that God works.
There has long been a traditional understanding among many people (but not all theologians or Biblical scholars, by the way) that among other uniquenesses God has these three attributes: all-knowing (omniscient), all-powerful (omnipotent), and all-loving (omnibenevolent). That would seem to mean that God can be aware of everything, can control everything, and always make good things happen for people. And it is possible to conclude from that perspective that when anything goes wrong, God must have intentionally done it, for one of three reasons. If something bad happens, maybe that means God chose not to stop it, which makes God NOT all-loving. Or if something bad happens, maybe that means God didn’t know about it, which makes God NOT all-knowing, Or if something bad happens, maybe that means God knows about it, doesn’t want it to happen, but CAN’T stop it, which makes God NOT all-powerful. It seems that anything that happens that isn’t perfect calls one or more of God’s “all-“ attributes into significant question.
It is easy to react to horrible things happening by blaming God, isn’t it? And if Jesus is God, then he too should be in charge, and caring, and know to stop bad stuff.
This week’s story from Mark 6:1-13 calls into question a lot of the “Jesus is God” with those same “all”-attributes.
The grown-up Jesus goes back to his hometown, and the folk there who remember him as a kid growing up, and remember his family (some of whom still live there), seem to lack the ability to get past that. They seem to think he’s gotten “too big for his britches” (as my grandfather would say), and “they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3b). They knew him when, so that’s who he is—the kid from back in time. And in a completely stunning statement for one who you would think would be all-powerful, being God and all, Mark 6:5-6: “And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them”. The guy who has just healed a woman with a 12-year hemorrhage, and just saved Jarius’s daughter from the brink of death, cannot do deeds of power there, except for a few. What?
If Jesus, as God, is all-powerful, then why can’t anything powerful happen there? If God has complete control, then why would it matter what the people thought of him? Because it seems that this is not how God works. God needs our cooperation, because God gives US the power to choose if we want help or not. God gives US freedom, rather than overwhelming us with power. WE can choose. WE have free will. Our belief matters—as verse 6 says, “And he was amazed at their unbelief”.
WE can choose to tap into God’s power, or not. WE can choose to receive God’s grace and mercy, or not. It’s like a wrapped present, placed in our hands. It is there. If we choose not to unwrap it, that’s on us—like those people in Jesus’ hometown.
GOSPEL Mark 6:1-13
1He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. 2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is 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.4Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honor, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce