Written July 5, 2018
Perhaps it’s because I have been preparing for the class this evening, which will focus on God’s unlimited power. This little verse from the Gospel passage for this coming Sunday caught my attention: “Jesus 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 6:5-6).
What’s going on here? Does Mark mean to suggest that Jesus’ power was hindered by people in his hometown? This would place limits on the power of God the Son. What are we to make of this perplexing verse? Two thoughts come to mind.
First, I do not think Mark is trying to indicate here any sort of lack or deficiency in Jesus’ power. Mark did say Jesus laid hands on and healed a few people. Mark is focusing here not on Jesus’ ability (or lack thereof); he wants to draw our attention to the lack of receptivity toward Jesus from people in his own hometown. These are people who watched Jesus grow up. They knew him well, or at least thought they did. It was their own preconceived notions about who Jesus was that prevented them from recognizing and welcoming him.
Knowing Jesus the hometown boy, they resisted him as God’s anointed one. I think the point and take away for us is to look for ways in which our own ideas about who Jesus is, and what he will do, restrict our ability to recognize and cooperate with the work of God in our own lives.
My second thought gets us into the deep end of the theological pool in a hurry… The New Testament tells us that although Jesus possessed all divine power and majesty, he let go of it and emptied himself of divine power in the Incarnation (Philippians 2:6-7). Scripture and Church teaching informs us Jesus was both fully human and fully divine – with the two natures of Jesus existing in perfect harmony. Jesus had full access to divine power, yet he had it as a real human being. How this union of divine and human worked out in Jesus in each and every moment, it is difficult for us to fathom.
What we want to get away from is making Jesus into some sort of comic book hero. We need to reject the idea that Jesus walked around pretending to be one of us, yet he had his ‘super power’ in his back pocket ready to be taken out and used whenever the situation demanded it. This idea amounts to a denial of the reality of the Incarnation. Both Scripture and Church teaching tell us this isn’t the way it worked in Jesus – the union of the two natures was much more complex and deep and mysterious than we can imagine. Jesus is not Superman, he is the word made flesh who dwelt among us (John 1:14).
See you Sunday!