What Jesus CAN’T Do

Jesus went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 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.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”

He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

– Mark 6:1-6a

That’s interesting. There’s only one time when it says that Jesus couldn’t do any mighty work. Just one time, out of all the stories they tell of all the amazing things that Jesus did.

Our official theology is that God can do absolutely anything. Nothing is impossible for God! There’s no place where God can’t go. There’s nothing that’s too big or too small or too wide or too tall for God to handle. There’s no burden that’s too heavy for God to carry.

But in today’s story, it says that Jesus could do nothing. Everywhere else in the gospel, it’s all about healing, forgiveness, miracles, signs and wonders, casting out spirits, you name it. But back home in High Point, Jesus could do nothing.

This is the one place where Christ the Savior, the Promised One who was filled with the power of Almighty God, could do nothing. To me, in a way, that’s more interesting than all of the other stories put together. What made this one time different? What went wrong?

Come on, you all heard the story just the same as I did! Why was Jesus helpless? Why couldn’t he do anything?

Jesus couldn’t do anything because of the attitude of the people in his home town. When Jesus started to teach, they all said, “Who does this guy think he is, anyway? We all know this Jesus. He was just a carpenter’s kid when he lived here, and now he thinks he can tell us something? We know him, and his family. We know what kind of people they are. Where does he get off, talking to us about God like that?”

That’s what did it. It wasn’t that Jesus was any less than who he was in other places. The problem was that they couldn’t bring themselves to believe in him.

It seems as though God needs something from us in order for great things to happen. God needs our cooperation. God needs our willngness to listen. God needs a right attitude on our part, in order for anything great to take place.

Their attitude was, “We’ve seen all this before!” Their attitude was, “This isn’t anything special!” They all thought they knew Jesus, and they had written him off.

Actually, it doesn’t say that Jesus was completely helpless. It says, “He couldn’t work any miracles there, except to heal a few sick people by placing his hands on them. . .”

To those few sick people, Jesus must have seemed like someone special, sent directly from God. But to everyone else in town, Jesus was a nobody. They knew him. And they weren’t about to believe anything good about him.

Do you remember a few weeks ago, we read the story where Jesus said, “If you have faith, you can tell that mountain over there to get up and move over, and it will happen. . .”? (Mark 11:23)

That’s the power of faith. That’s the power of belief. Moving mountains. Unlocking prison doors. Healing old wounds. Opening hearts. Changing lives.

Today’s story is the opposite. It’s about the power of unbelief. Instead of saying, “If you have faith, you can move mountains,” today Jesus might have said, “If you don’t believe, that mountain’s going nowhere.”

I want to be real clear about this. Jesus wasn’t any different, in himself, whether people believed or not. I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying that Jesus could only heal weak-minded people who he hypnotized somehow.

What I’m saying is that our belief, our attitude, our faith, somehow frees up the unlimited power of God to go to work.

That’s something to think about.

Because we wonder, a lot of the time, “OK, where’s all this power of God that it talks about in the Bible? How come we don’t see it? If God is so powerful, why doesn’t God come down and clean up this mess?”

Maybe part of the answer to those questions lies in this morning’s reading. God needs us to be able to work. Maybe more accurately, God can work any place where people believe.

One of the things we see over and over again in the Bible, is how God uses ordinary people to make great things happen. A shepherd boy, like David. A young woman, like Mary. Fishermen. Tentmakers. Tax collectors. Many of the Christians in the early church were slaves.

God takes ordinary people, and makes them extraordinary. God takes humble people, and raises them up, to be apostles, teachers, healers, leaders of all kinds.

Paul used to say, “Don’t let anyone despise you as a leader, just because you’re young.”

Peter used to say, “Who you are doesn’t matter. Your young people will see visions. Your old people will dream dreams. Both your sons and your daughters will be prophets. Even slaves, both men and women, will be filled with the Spirit.”

But the people in Jesus’ home church didn’t see that. They said, “He was so poor, he was born in stable! They’re not even sure Joseph was his real poppa! He never went to school. He’s nobody!”

Maybe when Jesus was working in the carpenter shop, he hit his thumb once, and swore a little. And they held it against him forever. Maybe he went out and partied one time, when he was a teenager, and they never let his family forget it.

When you read the gospels, Jesus never had any trouble healing people who trusted God, who had faith in God’s love and mercy. He never turned away anyone who came to him for help.

The only people Jesus had problems with were people who were hard-hearted, who were scornful, like the people in today’s story. Jesus had trouble with people who were hypocrites, who were self-righteous, or who were judgmental.

The people in today’s story had written Jesus off. They said he was just a carpenter’s son. He was just a poor kid from Nazareth.

Instead of welcoming him home as one of their own, instead of celebrating what Jesus said and bragging that they’d taught him everything he knew, the people in his home town rejected Jesus.

You’ve all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. That’s true. It also takes a group of believers for leaders to arise. I believe that when we ask God to help, God sends us the leaders, the teachers, the healers, the organizers that we need. Most often, those people are already among us.

I believe that a church the size of Springfield shouldn’t just have one minister. We should have several. A church that’s been here as long as we have should have sent out twenty missionaries, instead of just one, who we sent out 75 years ago.

I think we have lots of leaders, if we just listen to each other. Being a leader isn’t a matter of being a great person. Believe me – I know! And if you don’t believe me, just ask my wife!

Leadership is mostly about listening and praying. It’s about seeing all the places where God is already at work, and drawing people’s attention to them. Leaders are people who are persistent. Leaders let God’s love shine through them. They listen to God. And they try to follow.

Jesus was a leader like that. But the people in his own home town didn’t believe in him. And because they didn’t believe, Jesus couldn’t do anything.

They didn’t believe in Jesus. They also didn’t believe in themselves. They said, “God never did anything through us. God certainly can’t do anything through him – he’s a nobody!”

I want you to take a look out the window over there for just a moment. Do you see that small building? That used to be our home.

Can you imagine how few people they had, to fill that place? We can hold a lot more people in here.

After the war, people in this area were hurting. Dozens of families had left. Many of their beloved elders had died.

The economy of this area had collapsed after the war. All of the Confederate money became worthless, overnight. People went back to the barter system for a whole generation. Allen Jay reported that most families right here in our meeting never saw more than fifty dollars in cash in a whole year.

Do you know what we did? We started a school. We took in children from the whole neighborhood. We went on to help start or rebuild 60 schools. Most of the teachers were gone, so for 8 or 10 years, we held a teacher training program here and at Deep River, every summer.

We had a farm – it was just over there – that brought thousands of visitors, every year, to teach people the skills they needed to earn a living again. We ran a fertilizer mill, right here on the property. We did all kinds of things.

It didn’t happen because we were rich. It happened because people believed it could happen. It happened because people had vision, and faith. It happened because people gave what they could. It happened because our old people and our young people dreamed dreams and listened to each other.

It was the work of God. It was a miracle. And it happened right here.

Don’t you ever tell me that change is impossible. You know better! Miracles are in your bones! They’re part of your genetic package.

You’ve all heard the old saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” I want to correct that saying. When it’s God’s will, then God opens a way. And if there is no way, then God makes a way.

Don’t say that anything is impossible. Don’t say God can’t make things happen. Because if you do, the people who are lying out there will rise up and testify that you’re mistaken. They didn’t have money. They had vision. They didn’t have high-powered leaders. But they listened to the leadings that they had.

And they worked miracles. When it’s God’s will, then God opens a way.

The questions we should be asking are, “Who is Jesus? What is he looking at? What things are moving his heart? What is he praying for? What is he dreaming about?”

And then we should ask, “How can we help? What little step can we take? What can we pray for? What little green shoots of faith are springing up around us? OK, we can’t do everything – but what’s a small step of faith look like?”

Don’t ever say that anyone is a nobody. No one is just a carpenter’s kid. No one is just another nobody. God doesn’t work that way.

God takes ordinary people, and whispers in our hearts. God takes unknown people, and gives them dreams. God takes people with all kinds of faults, and helps us to try again. God helps us to see greatness in each other. God gives us gifts that we didn’t know we had.

God can be blocked – at least for a little while – by people who deny that Christ is among them. That’s what this morning’s story says. But God can do anything with people who believe.

Copyright © 2016 by Joshua Brown

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