This week’s gospel reading contains one of the most startling statements in all of Scripture. Jesus returned to His hometown and, frankly, it did not go very well. The people were skeptical and suspicious of Him, and the Bible explains, “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people.”
Whoa, what gives? He was not ABLE to perform any mighty deed?! It doesn’t say Jesus decided not to perform miracles; it says He was not able. How can this be? What’d He do, forget to take his Mighty Deed Multi-Vitamins that morning?
How can Jesus not be ABLE to work a miracle? I mean, He’s the Son of God, one-in-being with the Almighty Creator of the universe. And yet, after returning to His hometown, He couldn’t even do a simple card trick? Amazing.
When Jesus came back home to Nazareth, He went into the local synagogue on the Sabbath and taught with incredible wisdom. Did the townsfolk say, “Wow, this is great. Local boy makes good! We’re so proud of him.” Nope. Instead they sneered, “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” The Bible tells us “they took offense at him.”
I’m not surprised the locals mocked and ridiculed Jesus. Sinful human nature can make people awfully shallow and stupid at times. (Hence our need for a Savior.) What bothered me for a long time, though, was the fact that Jesus was not ABLE to perform any miracles. It sure seemed like his supernatural powers must be limited.
Is it possible that the power of the Almighty is not all that mighty? Nope, it turns out my concerns were unfounded. There was nothing wrong with Jesus’ supernatural powers. The key is to understand the nature of God. God is all powerful and all-mighty, yes, but He also is all-loving. And love never forces itself on someone.
Love is a two-way street. For love to be genuine, both parties must freely enter into the relationship. Anything less would not be love; it would be coercion. It’s the same with God. He created us for one purpose: to enter into a loving relationship with Him. But in order for that love to be genuine, we must be free to say no. This is why God created us with free will. (C.S. Lewis observed that history demonstrates God’s decision to give us free will was a very risky thing to do. But apparently, God thought it worth the risk.)
God could have created us without free will. He could have made us into obedient little robots who always do the right thing and worship Him. That would’ve spared the world a lot of heartache and misery, but it would not be true love. It would be coercion.
The people in Jesus’ hometown had free will. They were free to accept Him or reject Him—just as we are free, two thousand years later, to accept Him or reject Him. Unfortunately, they chose to reject Him. The last line of the reading says, “[Jesus] was amazed at their lack of faith.”
No miracles occurred that day, not because Jesus’ power was limited, but rather because of the lack of faith of the people. Jesus is a gentleman. He never forces Himself on us. He needs our permission—our faith—before He will use his supernatural powers to change our lives.
Jesus could have done hundreds of spectacular miracles in His hometown. His power was ready and raring to go. But the people did not believe He could do it, so nothing happened. It’s the same today. If we have faith, if we use our free will to embrace the love of Jesus, He has the power to work miracles in our lives.