In the first part of this article, we looked at what our text in Mark 6:1-6 means and what it does not mean. This part contains examples of God overruling unbelief and accomplishing His will…
Some examples of God acting despite unbelief
Help my unbelief!
Jesus healed the demon-possessed boy in Mark 9 even though his father didn’t really believe:
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
In this case though, at least the man had enough faith to at least bring his Son to Jesus, more than can be said about the Nazarethians.
Jesus calms the storm
In Matthew 8:23-27, Jesus calmed the storm even when his disciples didn’t believe, were scared out of their wits, and didn’t even have a clue he could control the elements too. When they woke him up they were probably expecting him to dial 911 – call on the Father for help. Instead, he directly addressed the sea and it obeyed.
27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and the sea obey him?”
The dry bones shall rise again
Ezekiel 37 is popular for the miraculous raising up of the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision. But most preachers forget or ignore the context. It was about the Jews in Babylonian captivity who had lost all hope of ever being restored to their land. Humanly speaking, it was practically impossible and probably without precedent. Exiled people groups usually get absorbed into their new societies, and over time, their cultural identity and distinctives are lost and they just become a part of whatever country they’re in and never go back to restart or rebuild their own nation again. The people of Judah in exile had given up all hope and resigned to their fate (verse 11).
But God gave this vision to Ezekiel to reassure the people he will keep to his word and restore them to their land in due time (Ezekiel 37: 1-14, Daniel 9:2). God reiterated his plans to restore the Jews, even though they had given up and lost hope! They were not exactly exercising faith. Still, God did it anyway.
The healing at the pool
Jesus’ encounter with the man who’d been paralyzed for thirty-eight years in John 5:1-8 indicates he acted despite an obvious absence of faith on the part of the sick man.
To be fair, the man probably had no idea who Jesus was and instead of answering his very simple question, went on to narrate his woes. He seemed like he thought Jesus was about to volunteer to help throw him into the pool before anyone else, the next time the water was stirred. But Jesus promptly commanded him to get up and walk, which he does.
The feeding of the 5000
In John 6 we have the record of one of Jesus’ most famous miracles, the feeding of the 5000, which took place without a scratch of faith on the part of everyone involved besides Jesus.
Seeing the throng following him into a deserted area, Jesus tests his disciples with the impossible task of feeding all those people out there. Even with all they’d seen him do, not one person even caught on to what Jesus had in mind. They all just lamented the hopelessness of the situation. Even when Andrew points out there was a boy present with a few barley loaves and fish, it was still to emphasize just how bad the situation was. All that didn’t stop Jesus, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The raising of Lazarus
The scene is the same in John 11 when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead I summarize:
- His disciples thought they were going to Bethany to die alongside Jesus (verse 16).
- Martha only believed her brother would come back to life along with everyone else at the Resurrection of the dead on the last day (verse 24).
- Mary lamented Jesus’ absence before her brother’s death. She believed he could have healed him and kept him from dying (verse 32).
- Some of the Jews around felt Jesus was too late and like Martha, wondered if Jesus could have kept him from dying, had he come in time (verse 37).
- Martha warned Jesus about the stench coming from the tomb since he’d been buried dead four days prior (verse 39).
- As you can guess, Lazarus himself wasn’t standing around, believing and full of faith. He was dead.
The point is no one believed Jesus was about to raise a man who’d been dead four days and whose body was decomposing already!
And it was not their fault, nothing like that had ever been done or imagined in human history before that day. But their limitation did not stop Jesus, who went on to effortlessly perform perhaps the greatest single miracle of his ministry, all without the faith or cooperation of all the people present.
Matthew – Parallel Reading
Lastly, the parallel account of this passage in Matthew 13 reads differently. The verse (58) says:
And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (emphasis added)
Here we have the same story with a slightly different choice of words used by Matthew. Jesus did not do many works in Nazareth because the people did not believe.
This misconception is a false but common loophole exploited by false miracle workers who appeal to it as an excuse for their many failures when their attempts at performing a healing or miracle fall through, proving them to be the pretenders they are. They often use this verse as a copout, implying that even Jesus had a bad day in his career as a miracle worker. This is untrue. Jesus and every truly God-appointed Prophet or Apostle never failed at performing or completing a sign or healing they attempted. Their ability was never in question or limited by people’s unbelief.
In closing, let it be clear to all that the God of the Bible can do anything he so wishes, with or without faith or unbelief, with or without cooperation on the part of man. He is truly sovereign and needs no one or nothing outside of himself to accomplish all his purposes, and I am so glad this is the case.
All Scripture quotations from the ESV except where otherwise stated.