Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jesus Unempowered. Last night at our Bible study at TWT we looked at Mark 6:1-12. There are two sections to this passage, and the first part, the part dealing with Jesus returning to his home town of Nazareth, raises the question (at least in my mind) of the extent to which or the way in which one's will participates in God's redemptive work.

The townspeople reject Jesus. Really, they go beyond that. Their remarks imply that his power is not from God but from Satan, that, if we take away these evil powers from Jesus, what we have left is a mere laborer and, actually, worse than that, we have the son of a fornicator. Pretty nasty stuff.

In this passage, Jesus "could not do any miracles there [in his home town], except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them." Jesus apparent inability to perform miracles is clearly linked to the lack of faith of the townspeople. "And he was amazed by their lack of faith".

The only other part of the Gospels where Jesus is described as being "amazed" is in Matthew 8, where Jesus is amazed at the greatness of the faith of the Roman centurion. That faith is connected with Jesus healing the Roman's servant from a distance.

There are many places where faith is linked to God's intervention and great works.

Maybe this is a lot simpler than I think it is. But sometimes I read theology that seems bent on banishing the significance of one's works from the most profound questions of a person's relationship with God. So the idea of "faith" (which is a kind of work, is it not?) having such a profound influence on the working of God's will seems new and surprising.

But, of course, there is a sort of Catch 22 here. The counterargument seems to go like this. One has this "saving faith" only because the Holy Spirit is working in one's heart. Grace is, finally, irresistible. So, really, we do not have an individual "work" of one's will. We have a work of God. Hmmmm. Not a completely satisfying argument. This is why I don't make my living as a theologian.

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