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Monday, January 17, 2011

Jesus Could Not ... For The Bible Tells Me So

A beloved friend posted this on his status on Facebook recently:
"In 7 days I will preach a message on Acts 3, which leads to discussion of signs and wonders. I have three questions and would value any input:
1. Why do we not see more evidence of healing/miracles in the West?
2. Do you have a "verifiable story of healing and or miracles that you have witnessed.
3. If not a verifiable story you have witnessed how about from a trusted source?"
I wonder if the lack of healings and miracles seen in the West relates to the following passage in the Gospel of John. I have had plenty of conversations with believers who say that the lack of miracles in the US relates to our lack of faith and that we have put our trust in science instead of God.

We all then point to the plethora of miracles that happen in overseas communities that supposedly have more of a belief in the spiritual, supernatural realm. Since we don't have that widespread belief in the US, we don't have widespread miracles.

Mark 6:3-6 NIV

3 "Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith."
Stunning. The text says, "He could not ...".  It doesn't say he "would" not. It says he "could" not. Is that not shocking to say that the Son of God, Jesus, "could not"? It does not appear to be a translation issue here. All other translations and a normal rendering of the Greek all appear in harmony of the translation of saying "He [Jesus] could not do any miracles there, except ..."  He's the Son of God, why couldn't he? That's outrageous!

The text really is not crystal clear. One common understanding is that verse 6, "He was amazed at their lack of faith." explains why he could not. They lacked faith. They didn't believe so they didn't receive.

We know that faith is important in receiving from God. Jesus says the women who touched him in Mark 5.34, was made well because of her faith. Later in the NT, James says, "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; ..." Faith is certainly an important component of receiving from God.

Others might argue this was a pre-resurrection text and should not apply to a post-resurrection context. In John 14:12ƒ Jesus future told of a reality where his disciples would do "greater things than these" referring to the "evidence of miracles" in v.11, and that this would take place post-resurrection. I suppose that just throws gas on the fire of wondering why we don't see more miracles.

As I've reflected on this passage recently, I've wondered if Jesus' limitations in doing miracles was not entirely related to his hometown's lack of faith but related to the lack of honor. Shockingly, instead of being impressed and giving glory to God for the signs and wonders done in their midst, they mocked him and "took offense" at him. In my mind, that is much more heinous than a lack of faith. It's one thing to have doubts, but altogether different to heap lack of respect on top of that.

Perhaps we don't see more miracles in the US both because of our lack of faith but also because of our lack of honor.

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