I'm working on a class which involves a look at Mark 6:1-6. Take a look:
He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. "We had no idea he was this good!" they said. "How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?"Question: Jesus doesn't do much healing in his home town. Why, exactly, is that? One reference I have (NIV study Bible) says that Jesus chooses not to perform miracles in this "climate of disbelief." Another reference (Oxford Annotated Bible) says that Jesus required faith to perform his miracles. Does that mean, if he required faith, that he was not ABLE to perform miracles because of the lack of faith? Or does it mean that he CHOSE not to perform miracles.
But in the next breath they were cutting him down: "He's just a carpenter—Mary's boy. We've known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?" They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further.
Jesus told them, "A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child." Jesus wasn't able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that's all. He couldn't get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.
I like the phrase, "could not get over their stubborness." Was he surprised by the reception he received at home? As I thought about this passage on the way into work this morning, it occurred to me that this was not one of the many towns of strangers that Jesus would find himself in during his ministry -- this was his home town (obviously, I know, but sometimes it takes a brick). Who were the people who made up the community? Families for which he had built furniture or with which he had built their homes. Friends of his parents who were comfortable enough with him to yell at him when he behaved in a way they considered inappropriate. He had eaten with them, worked with them, perhaps even dreamed with them. He had most certainly worshipped with them.
What did it cost him to walk away? I understand that he was pragmatic enough to realize that no one in his community was going to be able to hear his teachings past their history with him, but did he just "shake the dust from his shoes" and walk on? Did he hope one day to send someone back to continue the work that he was unable to complete? If, as the Oxford Study Bible suggests, Jesus chose to perform no miracles without their faith, then imagine how hard his choice became. To walk away because he is UNABLE is one thing; to walk away by CHOICE is another.
I think another question is raised by this passage. If Jesus could not (not chose not, but COULD not) perform miracles because of the community's lack of faith, does that create a requirement for grace to act?
Or, could it be that the community members, by choosing to not believe, were unable to receive grace?