Summary: Two types of people amaze Jesus - those who have great faith just by what they know about Jesus and those who lack faith even when they see him at work.
Mark has made it clear how Jesus amazed people. He amazed them by his teaching; they were definitely amazed at his casting out demons. He amazed them by his healings; he amazed his disciples by calming the storm, and he amazed two parents by raising their daughter to life. The amazement wasn’t always positive. Sometimes it was the kind that was of fear or anger. The religious leaders became more and more opposed to Jesus; one town wanted him to go away. They didn’t want the kind of amazement he was causing.
But there are two times in the gospels where even Jesus is amazed. Matthew and Luke tell of the time a Roman centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant who was near death. The story is similar to the one about Jairus’ daughter that we just looked at? Hear is the difference. In the previous story, a pious Jew asks Jesus to come lay hands on his dying daughter. He believes that Jesus’ touch is necessary, or at least his presence. The centurion merely asks that Jesus say the word where he is, and he knows that healing will take place. The centurion recognizes what I have been saying before: Jesus doesn’t heal through exercising power, but by exercising authority.
Here is what I mean. Miracle healers today will speak of having a gift for healing. There is some kind of power they possess by which they can cause healing to take place. Jesus, of course, has power and is quite capable of causing anything to happen that he desires, but he acts more out of authority than power. For example, you take your car to an auto garage. You tell the head mechanic your problem, and he replies, “No problem; I’ll have it fixed in a few minutes.” He may then do one of two things. He might actually open the hood and work on the car himself. That’s using his power to fix the car. Or he might call a mechanic under him to fix it. That’s using his authority. The first way demonstrates his ability, the second his position of authority.
The centurion was himself a man of authority. He gave orders that were obeyed because of his position. He recognized the same in Jesus. That was insight the Jewish people had yet to grasp; it was faith that no one else had yet to demonstrate. And Jesus was amazed. The only other time Jesus is reported to be amazed is in our present story. He is again amazed by faith, this time, however, by the lack of it.
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. His hometown is Nazareth, about 15 miles west of the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee. How exciting this trip must have been. The disciples get to see where Jesus grew up. Hometown friends and relatives get to see him, now that he has become famous. Remember, news about him had been broadcast throughout Palestine.
But then, just how excited is family? The last time we hear of them, they had tried to take Jesus home because they thought he had gone out of his wits. Now that we think about it, there must have been some ambivalence in the town about Jesus. Nazareth, by the way, would have only had a few hundred citizens. It truly would have been a town where everybody knows everybody, meaning everybody knows everybody’s business. From what we gather so far from Mark, Jesus’ mother and brothers have not been bragging on him to the neighbors. “I don’t know,” one of his brothers might have said in response to an inquiry by a neighbor about Jesus. “He’s my older brother, but he never seemed to quite fit in. And these miracles: he sure never did any for me and I could have used a few.”
So Jesus returns. We don’t know what day of the week, nor are we told of his reception. Mark picks up in the story on the Sabbath. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
This is Jesus’ pattern as we learned in 2:39. He traveled about in Galilee teaching in the synagogues on the Sabbath day. It was common in the synagogue worship to call on distinguished visitors to read scripture and then make appropriate commentary. Jesus undoubtedly would have been issued an invitation. We don’t know what he taught, although we can be fairly sure that it encompassed the gospel. Whatever the text and the sermon, he amazed them.
It seems, then, that things are going well. The hometown boy whom they’ve heard so much about has preached one fine sermon. But let’s try to follow the peculiar logic that leads the people to actually reject him.