The Anatomy of Unbelief

Tom Pennington |

November 27, 2018


Familiarity had bred contempt

One of the greatest dangers to our souls is the deadly danger of familiarity, that is, becoming overly familiar with spiritual things, even with Christ Himself.

Tragically, the worst example has to be the people Jesus grew up with, the people in His own hometown of Nazareth who simply didn’t see this great danger. Their hearts were hard toward Christ and His gospel, and the cause was their familiarity with Him. It their case, familiarity had bred contempt.

In Mark 6: 1-6, Jesus returns for a second time to his hometown of Nazareth. To Jesus’ first visit a year before, they had responded with violence and uncontrollable rage. They tried to kill Him.

But in His second visit to Nazareth a year later, they responded with cool indifference and personal insult. That’s the anatomy of unbelief. The unbelief that comes with familiarity.

Jesus’ response to indifference and unbelief

How did Christ respond to their indifference and unbelief?

  1. He explained their response with a proverb. He said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.’” He unequivocally claimed to be a prophet. And He said, “This is how the prophets have been treated.” The closer you got to Christ, the more purely His righteous character shined.
  2. He refused intentionally to do miracles where there was unbelief. “He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them (v5).” In Matthew’s account, Matthew makes it very clear that the issue was not a lack of power but an intentional choice. Matthew 13:58 says, “And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” It was Jesus’ choice.
  3. He was personally amazed at their unbelief. “He was amazed at their unbelief (v6).” In Mark’s Gospel, he often uses the word “wondered” of the crowd’s response to Jesus several times. But only two times in all the Gospels are we told that Jesus was “amazed.”
  4. Jesus responded by leaving Nazareth for good. He left His hometown for the last time we know of in His earthly ministry. It’s a solemn reminder that God doesn’t always strive with man. God gave Nazareth 28 years of His Son from two years old to thirty, and twice more during His earthly ministry. Then He left and never returned.

Now is the acceptable time

If you’re not in Christ, don’t assume you will ever get another opportunity. Don’t say “tomorrow.” Now is the acceptable time. Paul tells the Corinthians, “Behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Don’t harden your heart against the truth of who Christ is.