This morning, we come again in our study to the thirteenth chapter of Matthew. Matthew chapter 13. We have concluded looking at the seven parables of this chapter, and now come to the final section of the chapter from verses 53 through 58; and I want to read that, and then really just introduce the passage to you this morning to complete it next Lord’s Day. But I think you’re going to find some fascinating things as we share together in the Word of God. Matthew chapter 13, beginning in verse 53.
“And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. And when He was come into His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished and said, ‘From where hath this man this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? From where then hath this man all these things?’ And they were offended in Him. But Jesus said unto them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.’ And He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”
Now we get the theme of the section from that last statement, “because of their unbelief.” And I want us to look at this passage under the title “The Power of Unbelief. The Power of Unbelief.” Now I think we all know the power of faith, or the power of belief. In fact, our Lord said that if a man had faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, he could remove mountains, he could do the impossible. We all know the power of believing, the power of faith in God.
David believed God and was enabled to slay Goliath. Martha believed God and her brother was raised from the dead. Abraham believed God and became the father of a great nation. A lame man believed God and was healed. A nobleman believed God and his son was raised. The leper believed and was made whole. The centurion believed and his servant was made well.
The people in Numbers 21 believed, and they looked at a brazen serpent, and were healed of their disease. A father believed and his child was healed. Two blind men believed and were instantly able to see. Daniel believed God, and the lions could not harm him. Israel believed God and they walked across the Red Sea on dry land.
The Philippian jailer believed God and was saved, and his whole household. A sick lady believed and touched the hem of Christ’s robe, and was made whole. Naaman the leper believed and was healed of his leprosy. A palsied man believed and picked up his bed and walked away. Jairus believed God and his daughter was raised from the dead.
The children of Israel believed God and the walls of Jericho fell flat. Peter believed the Lord and walked on water. Paul believed the Lord and was able to face his own death with joy. Three Hebrew young men believed God and stood in the midst of a flaming furnace unhurt. And people believe God and are passed from death unto life. The power of believing. The power of faith.
But on the other hand, we need to understand the power of unbelief. As believing saves the soul and enables the power of God to be released on behalf of the person in its fullness, so unbelief halts the full release of the power of God. Unbelief dams up the flood of God’s blessing. Verse 58 says it so well: “He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” The power of unbelief to stop God from doing what He could do.
Now as we approach this subject – and we’re going basically today to introduce it today. In fact, I’m going to go off into all kinds of things. You know that it says that you’re supposed to go into all the world and preach the gospel, so we’re going to do that; and we’re going to pick up all kinds of thoughts that are going to make this passage rich.
First of all, this section fits marvelously into Matthew’s layout. Matthew has designed to present Jesus as King, as you know; and he’s done everything he can to do that, from the genealogy of Christ, the birth of Christ, the circumstances of the Oriental king-makers, the magi coming to affirm that He was indeed the King, the announcement of John the Baptist, the credentials of the King through His miracles and His message. And he has presented not only the King, but the King has presented His Kingdom. All of the characteristics and principles of His Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount, the demonstration of the power of His kingdom in His miracles.
At the end of all of that, as we’ve moved through Matthew’s gospel, we’ve seen that people basically have rejected Him. And so we’ve been looking particularly at the rejected King. And as the Lord looks out over the people in the ninth chapter, He sees them as a mass of people who will not hear His message, who are on their way to judgment, and He cries for God to send forth laborers; and those laborers turn out to be the disciples. And so beginning in chapter 10, we’ve come to a training time. We’ve seen the mounting rejection, and at the same time, the training of the twelve.
Now the summation of their training has come in this chapter 13, as the Lord has taught them, through seven parables, what to expect. In chapter 10, He basically told them how to carry on their end of it. In chapter 13, He says how the world is going to react to them, what it’s going to be like out there as they labor and minister in the harvest. So He is really through with this element of their training, and it is time now to move out. And so we read in verse 53, “He departed from there.”
And I believe, in a sense, this is the time when they move out into the harvest to warn men of the judgment; and in a sense, I see them coming back for a debriefing in chapter 16. And so from this passage at the end of 13, through the beginning of 16, we find Jesus out now in the harvest, proclaiming the message as the rejected King, still calling men to come to His kingdom.
Now the major mark – keep this in mind – the major mark of this period of time of the King’s rejection, from His rejection to His return when He will be received in power and glory, the major mark of this is that it is a time of mixed good and evil. Remember that? That’s the main message mainly of the parables. It is a time of good and evil. It is a time of faith and unbelief, believing and not believing. And so He is saying, in effect, to His own and to us, “As you go out into the world, expect that some will believe and some will not.”
So to illustrate this, Matthew gives us, beginning in this text, eight incidents in the life of our Lord which illustrate the kind of response that there will be to the King, and they are masterfully presented. I’ve never seen this in my study before, and it just seemed to come clear as I went through this section so that I’d know what to anticipate, and I began to see what the Holy Spirit was really doing in this section.
Having said in chapter 13, “Expect rejection, expect unbelief, and expect here and there that some will believe, and there will be the good with the evil growing together.” The Lord now illustrates that as they move out. First, they go to Nazareth, and we see at the end of chapter 13 the incident there. And what was their response?
Look at verse 57. “In Nazareth” – it says – “they were” – what? – “offended. They were offended.” They were not at all interested in the message They were not all interested in the messenger. They would have nothing to do with it. They were offended. Now if you compare this with the most important of the parables, which is the parable of the four soils, we could say they were what kind of soil? Stony ground, hard soil, no response.
Now as you move to chapter 14, you come to the second of these eight responses. And this is Herod; and Herod, you’ll remember, the tetrarch, lived in that area, and had a particular dwelling place in Tiberius, so he was very close. And he had heard about the fame of Jesus, and his reaction was fear, because verse 2 says he thought it was John the Baptist risen from the dead, and he sure didn’t want that, because he had beheaded John the Baptist. He wouldn’t get near Jesus; he was afraid, because of his guilt.
And throughout all of history, there will be people like that. There will be those who are offended at the whole thought like, you know, the Jews to whom Christ is a stumbling block. They’re offended over the whole thing. And then there are those who are afraid. They don’t want to get near it, because of the overwhelming sense of guilt. And that’s the way Herod was; and he’s more of that hard, stony ground.
Then as you move along in chapter 14, verse 13, you come to a crowd. Verse 14 says it was a great multitude; they were Jews. And at the end of verse 13, it says, “They followed Him. They followed Him; and He fed them.” But there is no statement made about the fact that they believed, or that they were taking part in His kingdom. We could say that they were curious, they were curious; and they would be like the shallow soil, or the weedy soil, where there is life for a little while, and eventually it dies away.
And then you have the fourth incident with the disciples, and it comes in verses 22 to 33; and all you need to do is look at 33 to see their response. “Then they that were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Of a truth, Thou art the Son of God.’” What was the response of the disciples? One word: worship, worship. That’s the real stuff. That’s what kind of soil? Good soil.
So in Nazareth, you have the hard ground. In Herod’s case, you have the hard ground. In the case of the curious Jews, you have a mixture of that shallow ground and that thorny, weedy soil. And in the disciples, you have the good soil. Then you come in chapter 15 to the next incident, and this is one with the Pharisees and scribes that runs all the way down to verse 20. And just look at verses 1 and 2 and you can get the picture. “They came to Jesus, and they said, ‘Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders, and eat without washing their hands ceremonially?’” Now their approach to Jesus was one of condemnation. They came to condemn Him. They didn’t want to hear anything, they came to blast Him. That is hard ground – no penetration.
And then in verses 21 and 22, we meet a woman from Canaan, a Canaanite woman; and she cried to the Lord and said, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David!’” And then in verse 28, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, great is thy faith!’” There’s good soil; that’s good ground. Great faith. “O Lord,” – she said – “have mercy, Son of David.” All the right terms, and great faith in her heart. There’s that good soil.
And then you come to the Galileans in the next section. Look at verse 31. Great multitudes are coming along; and the lame, and the blind, and the dumb, and the maimed, and many others; and Jesus healed them all. And it says, “insomuch that the multitude wondered.” Here you have amazement; amazed they were. And they glorified the God of Israel.” They weren’t too sure about Christ, but they believed that God was in this. And here again, you have the shallow soil and the weedy soil where there seems to be a response of amazement. Or like the curious Jews in the earlier record; they are interested to a point. But short of worship of Christ and short of great faith like the Canaanite woman.
And then the last of the eight comes in chapter 16. And here it’s the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and they came to tempt, or to test. What is their approach? The attack. They come to attack Jesus. They’re against Him. And here you have the hard ground.
And you know what I find interesting about this? Just the curiosity of the majesty of the intricate mind of the Holy Spirit. You have eight accounts. Out of those eight, only two, only two are good soil. That’s the same ratio exactly as the one good soil in the four. So the mind of the Spirit illustrates beautifully what that parable is saying.
Now as we go in the world, we can expect the same kind of things. Now and then there’ll be that good soil. Very often, there’ll be that hard, resistant soil. And sometimes that curious, amazed sort of temporary response kind of soil. After these eight incidents, we see the disciples gathered with Jesus in a debriefing in verse 13 of chapter 16.
Now they have come into the borders of Caesarea Philippi, very far in the north now; and He calls them together, and He says, “Now we’ve been out doing this. We’ve been seeing all these responses. Now let me ask the basic question: Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” Oh, what a question that is. “What is it? What is it they’re saying? Who do they say I am?” And they said, “Well, some say You are John the Baptist.”
Who said that? Herod did, didn’t he. “And some say you are Elijah, and some say you’re Jeremiah, and some say you have to be one of the prophets.” Got all kinds of things going on. “Who do you say?” And Peter became not only the spokesman of the twelve, but the spokesman of God, and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And in effect, Jesus said, “You said it; you got it.”
So these incidents demonstrate what Jesus taught in the parables about how men would respond in this age. Now let’s go back, with that in mind, and look at incident number one: Jesus coming to Nazareth. Now in verse 53, we read this: “It came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there.”
“There” is Capernaum. He had been ministering with Capernaum as a base for about a year; and now He left. He departed after the giving of these parables. And do you remember at the very beginning, we told you early in chapter 13, that the parables were hidden from the people, and revealed only to the disciples, because the people were not willing to believe.
In fact, back in 11, chapter 11, and verse 23, Jesus said, “And thou, Capernaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? Thou shalt be brought down to hades; for if the mighty work which had been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee.” In other words, Jesus had pronounced a curse on Capernaum; and when it says that very simple little statement at the end of verse 53, “He departed from there,” Capernaum’s history ended, and God’s damning judgment began. It was the beginning of the end.
He never went back, except in passing; never reestablished a base there. Capernaum had its opportunity. He had come into that city, demonstrated power that could only be interpreted as from God, and now it was over; and it marked a crisis in the town’s history from which it never recovered. And if you go today to Capernaum, no one lives there; it is utter ruin, and one of the most beautiful places on the earth, and no one is there. It has felt the hot breath of the curse of Jesus Christ for its unbelief.
When He left Capernaum, He went back to Nazareth, verse 54. “And when He was come into His own country,” That’s Nazareth. And it’s walking distance from Capernaum. All of this is so close; you could walk it all in just a day. He went back to Nazareth where He had been raised, where He was since a child. The comparative account in Mark feeds in interesting insights; and you can compare them in your own reading. But we know without doubt it was Nazareth, His own country.
And it says He went into the synagogue and taught them. This is not the first time He’s done that. At the very beginning of His Galilean ministry, He went to His own hometown. That’s right. I want you to see what happened, because it’s so very important in understanding this passage. Look at Luke chapter 4. Luke chapter 4. This is a year earlier, or approximately a year.
He is just beginning His ministry in Galilee, verse 14 of Luke 4 says. He went into Galilee in the power of the Spirit. There went out a fame of Him through all the region about, and He taught in the synagogues. And here, I think, is very likely the first synagogue He taught in – Nazareth.
“He came to Nazareth, where He’d been brought up,” – Luke says in 4:16 – “and as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.” Now that is very normal. Every little town had its synagogue, and on the Sabbath day, everything stopped and everyone went. They sat in a very prescribed manner in a very prescribed place. It was very routine, very familiar faces, very familiar activities and events. And you can imagine that it had only been a brief time since He had been there as a citizen of Nazareth, and now He’s beginning His public ministry.
And so He goes to Nazareth, and He does as He always did. In fact, were He there on the Friday night, just as the sun was setting down, He would have heard a very familiar sound. He would have heard two trumpet blasts. Those two trumpet blasts would have come from the trumpet in the hands of the minister of the synagogue, who climbed up onto the roof of his house, and just as the sun was beginning to set on Shabbat, Friday evening, he would blow two blasts, warning of the impending beginning of the Sabbath. A little time would intervene, and he would blow a second time; this time one blast. And at that blast, all work halted. And then there would be a little space of time, and he would blow another single blast, and then instantly put his trumpet down, lest he should defame and dishonor the Sabbath by carrying the trumpet now that the third blast indicated it had begun. He would not defile the Sabbath.
Jesus would have heard the trumpet blasts, and with the people, and gone to a place to partake in the Sabbath activity. In the dawn of the Sabbath morning, He would have found His way into the synagogue, which had been so much a part of His life for the years in Nazareth; and He would have taken His seat and seen many familiar faces, people He knew so very, very well, even from the human viewpoint. They were the same, but He wasn’t, because in the intervening time since He had been gone, He had become famous. Hometown boy no more; very famous man now. And there’s a curiosity about Him because of all that has been said. And it was so in those days that if you were a famous person in a synagogue, you were recognized as a famous teacher; you were given the right to speak.
And so He became the speaker. And He went, as was His custom, but He did something He never done in that synagogue before. It says, “He stood up to read.” They always, by the way, stood up to read. The standing posture was indicative of the authority of the Word of God. And then, by the way, they sat down to teach, lest the people think that man’s teaching had the same authority as God’s Word. They stood to read; they sat to teach.
You see, even when they read the Hebrew and an interpreter interpreted it into the Aramaic, which they spoke, the interpreter was not permitted to read his interpretation, lest the people think that it had the same authority as the written Word of God. So they gave a very high place to the reading, so He stood to read. And He would have read, at this particular point, the haftorah, the prophets, as was the custom in all synagogues. And they gave Him the book, verse 17, and it was to be read from the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah.
“And He opened the book, and He found the place, and He read this:” – verse 18 – ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’” Now that is a very important text. It is a Messianic text that describes the ministry of the Messiah, and it also described to the very letter the ministry of Jesus Christ.
“He was saying, ‘The Messiah is here. He is in your midst. This is fulfilled. This is a monumental claim. This is a banner day above all days in the history of Israel. This is the day when the promise is fulfilled, the greatest day in all history.’ And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and He sat down. And He sat down to teach, and the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.’” Now He probably said a lot more than that, and no doubt became specific. He was saying, “I am the fulfillment of this prophecy.”
“And they all bore witness, and they marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son? How did He get so erudite? How did He get so famous? This is Joseph’s son.’ And Jesus said to them” – and, boy, did He ever go for the throat, ‘Ye will surely say unto Me this proverb: “Physician, heal Thyself.”’”
Do you know what that means? “If You’re such a good physician, and You heal so many people, let’s see You do it right on the spot. Heal Yourself.” In other words, “Don’t tell us stories about what You’ve done, do something right here.” “Whatever we’ve heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Thy country. Charity begins at home, don’t forget. Do it here.”
Well, there was really no need for that. He had done miracle, upon miracle, upon miracle. He said, “Verily I say unto you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.” Why they’ve already given evidence of that in the statement, “Is not this Joseph’s son? He can’t be anything too special.”
“And I’ll tell you a truth,” He said. “There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout the land; but unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only unto Zarephath, a city of Sidon, unto a woman who was a widow.” In other words, He says, “Hey, there were a lot of Jewish widows, and God never sent a prophet to any of them; but He did to a non-Jew.” Boy, you just don’t say that in a synagogue.
You see, He’s defending the right that He had to minister as the light to the nations. In Matthew 4, He said He had come to be a light to the nations, and He was reaching out to the nations, the people who were not God’s people, and He says to them in effect, “Look, God’s not going to do anything special for you.” And why? Well, because of their resistant, hard-hearted unbelief. God does not cast His pearls before swine.
In verse 27, He says, “Many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman who was a Syrian.” Here’s another Gentile. And some people call Naaman the Hitler of his time; he was the worst. And God cleansed his leprosy. Jesus is saying, “I’m not come to bend to your provincial hardheartedness; I’m come to be the Savior of the world to those who will hear and listen.”
Well, verse 28 says, “When they in the synagogue heard these things, they were filled with wrath.” To claim to be the Messiah, and say you have come like Elijah and Elisha, to others and not to your own hometown, and to ignore them, was the height of indifference – intolerable. They rose up, threw Him out of the city. And they would have thrown Him over the cliff; but He, passing through the midst of them, went away. They tried to kill Him. That’s how it is in your own hometown. They tried to kill Him. Hard soil; oh, hard soil.
And He left there, and made His home in Capernaum. And a year intervenes, and now we are back in Matthew 13 – about a year later. And His desire is to return now, a second chance, another opportunity for Nazareth; another time for that narrow, prejudiced, jealous, proud, conceited, cliquish town. He went back fearlessly, boldly, courageously, graciously, lovingly, to those people who had tried to kill Him.
And verse 54 says, “He taught them in their synagogues, their synagogue, insomuch they were astonished.” He went right back into the teeth of the storm, right back in the synagogue, and He taught them.
You know, as a teacher, I have oh so often wished that I could have heard how Jesus taught. I mean I know we have the words in the Bible, but there’s so much in technique; and to hear Him. I’ve always wished there were tape-recorders; and, you know, “You can have the Shroud of Turin, I’ll take a cassette,” you know? How it would be to hear Him, and how was it when He taught, when He went into a place? And how He must have been able to bind people in the spell of His magnetism. Well, let me see if I can’t paint the picture for you.
People would all be sitting there. And synagogue worship was very much like a boring church service today. I mean don’t read anything great into it. It was just like many boring experiences people have today in many ways; they did it out of routine. And one of the ways they decided to try to alleviate some of their boredom through the years was to have the teacher, the one with all the information whisper it in the ear of somebody else who was the speaker.
You know, teachers can be boring. All of us who’ve been through seminary have experienced some. And, you know, some people say, “Well, you know, the content was good, but it’s hard to stay awake when they guy is talking,” see. So their solution was you get the guy with all the information, and he tells it to some hotshot who can really get it on, see, as a speaker. This one was called the Amora, and he stood beside the teacher who whispered into his ear, and he gave it pizazz. Not a bad idea in some places.
Edersheim, the great Jewish scholar and historian, describes the Amora in these terms. He says, “He was mostly characterized by vanity, self-conceit, and silliness.” Isn’t that interesting? Vanity, self-conceit, and silliness. He was trying to be funny all the time. And it says, “He stood beside the teacher and was far more interested in attracting attention and applause to himself than of befitting his hearers.” He was putting on a show.
The speaker, or the Amora, was to have – and here are the qualifications they set up for one. He had to have a good figure and form. He had to have a pleasant expression, a melodious voice. His words were to come like those of a bride to a bridegroom. He had to have fluency, speech as sweet as honey, and pleasant as milk and honey, finely sifted like fine flour. His diction was to be richly adorned, like a bride on her wedding day. He was to have sufficient confidence, never to be disoriented. And above all, he had to be conciliatory and avoid being too personal.
And that’s what they usually had: vanity, self-conceit, and silliness. They were trying to keep people’s attention in the meaningless routine which was so much a part of their religious life. But Jesus sat down and did it Himself. He didn’t need any hotshots. He just overthrew the normal procedure, and He taught, and they were astonished.
Have you ever wondered why His speech was so amazing? Basically it was characterized by five things we find in the New Testament. If you want to know why He was an effective speaker, here are the five keys. Number one: He was authoritative.
In Matthew 7, it says that people marveled at His teaching, because He spoke as one having authority. He was authoritative, and authority means to speak with conviction. Wow, I think that’s so important. It just bothers me when people say great things as if they were indifferent. Speak with authority.
Like the guy who told me, he came to Grace, not because he believed what I said, but he liked the way I said it. It pumped him up for his sales job. You know, when I was doing at one time a graduation ceremony for the police academy, one of the men told me that they had to flunk out a student out of the graduating class of the police academy because of his voice. That’s right. Said he didn’t have enough authority in his voice.
You can’t go up behind a robber and say, “Stick ‘em up, you’re under arrest. Halt in the name of the law.” Now I don’t know with the new deal where they’ve got the women in there how they work that out. I don’t know whether they train the women to talk like this or not. Something to be said for authority.
And whenever Jesus spoke, He spoke with the conviction that carries authority. Second thing. In John’s gospel, chapter 7, and verse 15, it tells us something else about His speech. It says the Jews marveled when He taught, and they said, “How does this man know letters, or have an education, never having gone to school?”
Second thing about Him was He had knowledge. Boy, there’s nothing worse than a guy talking who has absolutely no knowledge. But He had knowledge. Had an incredible, vast knowledge of all the truth of God. And here you have a man who has authority and who has knowledge.
Thirdly, He had grace in His speech – warmth, gentleness, love, sensitivity. Your speech is to be always gracious, seasoned with salt, Paul says. And in Luke 4:22, as we read, He spoke, and they marveled at the graciousness of His words. Gracious.
Fourth characteristic of His speaking was it was powerful, powerful. In Luke 4:32, it says, “And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with power.” Authority speaks of the speaking itself. It is coming with authority. Power speaks of its effect.
You know how sometimes you can sit and listen to a speaker, and the whole time he’s speaking, you’re arguing with him? I don’t buy that; I don’t believe that. You couldn’t do that with Christ; you couldn’t fight Him off, see. The power was so great and consistent that you were knocked over with it. You couldn’t fight it off; you couldn’t duck the shots. He spoke with such devastating impact. He penetrated the mind and the heart. And there were no loopholes in His logic; there was no way out.
And there’s a fifth characteristic of His speech. In John 7:46, they said, “Never a man spake like this man.” And I think this is an absolutely essential element for one who is an effective speaker. His speech was unique. He didn’t stand up and say what everybody else said, He said what nobody else said. He was unique. He didn’t say the obvious, He said what wasn’t obvious. He cut through the traditions to the stuff they had never saw and never heard.
And the power that He had when He taught in Nazareth was the same that He had when He taught anywhere; it was the power of a tremendous conviction that came through His authoritative speaking. It was that great wealth of knowledge, that when He opened His mouth, the truth of God came flooding out. And truth has its own impact. And then it was the graciousness of the way He said it; the tremendous, irresistible power when it was said; and the very uniqueness of the message itself.
Now if you want to study to be an effective teacher, those are the things you need to have. And what was their response? To one who was authoritative, knowledgeable, gracious, powerful, and unique, they were astonished. Sure. They were blown away by Him. They were astounded. They were amazed.
Know what it led to? Look at verse 58: “He did not many works there because of their” – what? – “unbelief.” Didn’t lead to anything. You can be amazed at Jesus. You can be astounded at Him. You can be astonished. Doesn’t mean anything if the heart is filled with unbelief, unbelief.
I mean how can you explain that? How can you be unbelieving when you have just heard this? How can you be unbelieving when the mass of the things that He has done is so obvious? Let me tell you how: because unbelieving is a choice. It’s an act of the will.
Unbelief is something you determine. You will not believe. Unbelief is the hard ground, the stony ground. It’s not like the man who said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief. I’m trying to believe; help me the rest of the way.” But theirs was that hard, hard unbelief. “Doesn’t matter what the evidence is, we don’t believe.”
Now I want to show you the power of unbelief, and I’m just going to give you the first point of these four, and I want you to see how absolutely devastating this is. How in the world can you hear Jesus teach, see Him grow up for thirty years in your midst in a little town, know that He has preformed miracle, upon miracle, upon miracle, upon miracle that could never be refuted, and not believe? Let me show you how unbelief works.
Number one: Unbelief blurs the obvious. It is the nature of unbelief to blur out what is obvious. Look at verse 54. Here He teaches, and they’re astonished. And look at the question they ask – unbelievable: “From where hath this man this wisdom and these mighty works?”
Now that is an absolutely stupid question. That is a dumb question. “From where hath this man this wisdom and these mighty works?” I mean if that isn’t obvious, nothing is obvious. I mean where do you think supernatural miracles come from? Where do you think divine wisdom comes from? I mean a child knows the answer to that. But, you see, it is the nature of unbelief to make the choice to reject, and then blur out what is obvious.
Every time I read a liberal commentator on the Scripture or a liberal theologian, I see them do this all over the place. I mean they just eliminate the truth, and then they begin to concoct some impossible scheme to explain away everything; and then they stand back and pat themselves on the back and commend their intellectualism. Stupid.
I mean you’ve seen the miracles and the healings, and you’ve heard these words, and now you say, “Well, where did He get this information? Where did He get this power?” See, they are denying what is obvious. The connection is obvious.
Nicodemus knew it. Nicodemus came to Jesus, in John 3, and this is what he said: “We know that Thou art a teacher come from God;” – why? – “for no man can do these things that Thou doest, except God be with him.” I mean that was obvious. It was obvious. He did miracles all over the place; and these people had seen some of them.
It says, “He did not many mighty works.” Now I don’t know whether or not He may have done just a few. But if He didn’t do even any in Nazareth, He had done them in that area; and you could walk in less than a day, and maybe an afternoon from Nazareth to Capernaum. And the word was all over everywhere. And the lame were walking, the blind were seeing, and the deaf were hearing; and believe me, they were telling about it. And there was no question. In fact, they even said in the question, “From where does the man get His wisdom and His mighty works?” They don’t deny either one.
Now may I add a footnote here for those of you who are into apologetics? This is one of the greatest apologetics or defenses of the deity of Christ on the pages of Scripture. You say, “What is it?” It is the fact that it isn’t His friends, and it isn’t His disciples, and it isn’t the Christian church that affirm that He did these miracles; it is His enemies. And over and over and over in the Bible, it is His enemies who never ever try to refute that He did these things.
You can read through the whole gospel record, and you will not find them denying that He did them. How could they? I mean there were thousands upon thousands of such miracles, so much so that John 21:25 says, “The books of the world could not contain them.” So much that John 20:30 says, “And many other signs did Jesus in the presence of His disciples which are not written in these books.”
Banishing disease from the land of Palestine, opening His mouth and teaching profoundly on every conceivable subject related to life, and death, and time, and eternity, and God and man, heaven and hell. And over and over again in the gospel of John, Jesus says, “My words and My works, My words and My works are sufficient to prove to you who I am.”
John 5:36, “I have greater witness than that of John the Baptist; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish, the same works that I do bear witness of Me.” How can you deny that? You have to make the obvious connection between supernatural manifestation and God.
In the eighth chapter of John, verse 37, He says, “You seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I keep teaching and speaking the truth; but because you won’t receive it, you turn Me off.” “You can’t hear My word,” – He says in verse 43 – “because you’re of your father, the devil. And so I tell you the truth, and you won’t believe Me.”
In chapter 10 and verse 37, just a tremendous statement: “If I do not do the works of My Father, then don’t believe Me. But if I do, and you don’t believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me.” “Even if you don’t want to believe Me, you’ve got to believe the works.” Chapter 14 – He says the same thing – of John. Chapter 15 of John, same thing again.
And, you know, the interesting thing, as I said, is that His enemies didn’t deny that. They didn’t deny His wisdom. Look at it here, it says, “For where does this man get this wisdom?”
Now let me ask you a basic question. You know a little about the Bible. Basic question: What is the one thing of all things that a Jew knew came from God? What is it? Wisdom. I mean if they knew anything, they knew that. They were weaned on that. They knew that wisdom comes from God. They knew the fear of the Lord to be the beginning of wisdom. And they say, “Where does He get all this wisdom?”
I mean He taught them about regeneration. He taught them about worship, about salvation, about sin, about evangelism, about judgment, about heaven, about hell, about rejection. Taught them about fasting, and praying, and giving, and marriage, and divorce, and murder, and hate, and anger, and love, and stealing, and retaliation, and adultery. He taught them about lying. He taught them about swearing.
He taught them about loving God, loving their friends, and loving their enemies, and loving their family, and money, possessions. He taught them about false doctrine, false teachers. He taught them about Sabbath. He taught them about the law, about obedience, about discipleship, about grace, about blasphemy. He taught them about signs and miracles and wonders.
He taught them about life and death, and tradition, and humility, and pride, and persecution, and the church, and light, and life, and freedom, and bondage, and faith, and unbelief, and evil, and Satan. He taught them about hypocrisy. He taught them about repentance. He taught them about election. He taught them about service, about children, about the beginning of the world and the end of the world, and about rewards, and about damnation. And He taught about everything, and everything about everything they needed to know.
And they knew it was wisdom. I mean they knew it. No man could ever even catch Him in His words. When the Pharisees would come to Him, they’d go away scratching their heads. And these stupid people say, “Where did He get this wisdom?” Did they think they had an advanced course at the Rabbinical Training Institute? Hardly.
They knew where it came from. They knew it came from God. They knew that. “And where does He get this power to do these mighty works: heal the sick, and raise the dead, and give sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf, and heal the lame? Where does He get this power?” You see, that’s the stupidity of unbelief.
Now listen very carefully to this. If a person says, “Look, I need more evidence; I want more proof,” that is not the issue. Following? That isn’t the issue. You see, they had all they needed; they just wouldn’t make the connection. It was not a question of evidence.
You’ll find that, for example, you’re witnessing to your uncle, or your nephew, or your niece, or your brother, or whatever, and they keep saying, “Well, prove it to me.” Right? “Well, prove the Bible’s true. Well, how do I know Jesus Christ is really the Messiah?” Maybe you have Jewish relatives. “How do I know? I mean prove it,” and they keep wanting more evidence, and more evidence; that is not the issue. It is not a lack of evidence. It is not a lack of evidence.
You say, “What is the issue?” I’ll show you, John chapter 3. Here’s the issue. John chapter 3, verse 18. And this is really critical. You need to get this, because it’ll help you in your evangelism – and we’re going to wrap it up with this thought: “He that believeth not on Him,” – now here’s where we are in Nazareth; they don’t believe.
“He that believeth not on Him is condemned already.” Okay? “He that believeth is not condemned. But he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
All right, now here you have somebody who has not believed. Now watch this: “And here is the reason He’s condemned: because light has come into the world.” Now let me ask you a question. Is light visible? I mean you’ve got to know the answer to that.
Yes, very good class. It’s visible. So light comes into the world, “And they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. And everyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
Do you know why they don’t believe? It isn’t lack of evidence, it’s love of evil. It’s a love of evil. Keep that in mind, would you? When you witness to people, and they keep asking you for more proof, that is not the issue in most cases.
Now there are some who truly seek, and they truly want to be seeing the evidence; and they will respond to that. But basically, when Jesus did His signs, John 20:30, it says, “These signs did He in the presence of His disciples.”
You see, evidence affirms the faith of those who already believe. Like, “Lord I believe, but help my unbelief.” But those who are hardhearted and those who are resistant, for those who are – and this is so common – continually demanding more and more and more of that kind of evidence, that isn’t the issue.
And I think people sometimes sort of run back, and they’ll come to me, and say, “How can I prove to my friend that Jesus is God?” or, “How can I prove the Bible is true? They keep asking for more.” That isn’t the issue. It’s not lack of evidence; love of evil.
You know what the problem was in Nazareth? They loved their sin, and they didn’t want Christ at all, at all. That’s why when they came to Jesus, they said, “We want a sign. We want a sign.”
What did He say to them? “I will give no sign to this” – what kind of generation? – “evil, adulterous generation. Your problem isn’t that you need proof, your problem is you love sin. That’s your problem.” And that’s the issue. So unbelief blurs the obvious. Three more things unbelief does, and we’ll see those next time.
Lord, we are grateful again for the time that we’ve shared in Your precious Word. And we pray for any who might be in our midst this morning who are unbelieving, who are condemned already because they believe not in the Son of God; and are condemned because they do not believe for the love of their sin, for the love of their darkness. Father, we pray that the light of the glorious gospel would shine unto them, and they would see the truth in Jesus Christ.
Help us to be faithful to go into the world, even though it is much like Nazareth – hard, in many places unbelieving. May we, with the same fearlessness and the same boldness of our blessed Lord, confront even those places, that if they repent not, they yet shall be heaped upon with greater judgment; for You are glorified in Your judgment as well as in Your salvation. In Christ’s name, amen.
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