When we study the New Testament, one of the major themes is faith. But equally as prominent is the concept of unbelief that is a major hindrance to miracles.
Unbelief basically cuts a hole in our reservoir of faith allowing it to seep away. There are many things that can cause such a rip.
One of them is offense.
In Mark 6, we read how Jesus had arrived at His home town, Nazareth, and on the following Saturday popped into the local synagogue where the leaders invited Jesus to teach.
At this point, Jesus’ reputation was starting to grow.
From the congregation’s reaction, it was clear people were aware of the reports circulating about His miracles. Now as they listened to Jesus teach, they were “astonished” by what Jesus had to say.
But not everyone. Some were offended.
They had been attending the synagogue faithfully for years and now “this man” a carpenter, the son of Mary, was teaching their congregation. They had been attending this synagogue for years and now this upstart was teaching them.
“And they took offense at Him.” (v 3)
It was rooted in the age-old problem of jealousy, when Caan killed his brother Abel because his sacrifice of blood was preferred over Caan’s offering of grain and fruit.
The word “offense” is from the Greek word “skandalizo” where we get the word “scandalized.” Literally the word means to throw a stumbling block or some other impediment in front of a person causing them to stumble. Other derivatives referred to a trap or snare — an old hunter’s trick of catching prey.
Metaphorically the word came to refer to an offense.
The tense implies that they were in the process of being scandalized, they were becoming offended. It was growing and spreading.
Then a strange thing began to happen. In the synagogue where they at first professed amazement at Jesus’ teaching, unbelief started gnawing away at their profession of faith.
The spiritual climate changed. And Mark makes this cryptic note that despite performing a few miracles, the outpouring Jesus had experienced in other places was not happening here.
Mark says, “And He [Jesus] wondered at their unbelief.”
Where the congregation had been “astonished” by Jesus’ teaching, now in contrast Jesus was equally “amazed” by their unbelief.
Cooling faith can be a symptom of a much more serious problem — offense. It may indicate you are offended at someone in the church. It’s why those who are offended, not only move on to another church, but sometimes wander away from the faith, because if unresolved offense drains away a person’s faith.
You could be offended by a coworker, a family member or even a neighbor. But whoever it is, this offense punctures a hole in your faith.
But when Mark says, “And He [Jesus] could do no miracle there,” it is a challenging statement, because it was the only place where Jesus’ miracles were restrained.
The verse implies that Jesus could not do miracles, but this is troubling because it implies the Nazarenes’ unbelief limited Jesus’ ability to perform miracles. Maybe it did.
Others have tried to get around this by suggesting that Jesus “would not” perform miracles, versus “could not.”
But perhaps another explanation of what happened is found in John 5:19, when Jesus told His disciples He could only do what He saw His Father in heaven doing.
God saw the unbelief of the people of Nazareth and God told Jesus to perform no miracles there. Maybe God forbade it.