Calvary Road Baptist Church

“A SOVEREIGN RESPONSE TO UNBELIEF”

Matthew 13.58

 

My text for this morning is Matthew 13.53:

 

53     And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence.

54     And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?

55     Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?

56     And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?

57     And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.

58     And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

 

This morning’s message is a very simple one. There is nothing complex about the truth that I want to set before you in convincing fashion, since complexity is not what we need right now. What we need right now is a reminder of what we already know.

This passage would be conducive to summarizing the parables the Lord Jesus Christ had taught to this point, and to rehearsing what parables are and how they are properly applied to life’s situations.

This passage would be conducive to summarizing the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry to this point, and to rehearse facts related to His incarnation, to His deity, and to His mission to redeem the lost.

This passage would be conducive to challenging the Roman Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, and to expose Rome’s refusal to accept the straightforward teaching of this passage. The Lord Jesus Christ was Mary’s first child, and she most certainly was a virgin when she delivered the Christ child. Baptists are not wobbly when it comes to the virgin birth of the Savior. However, this passage clearly shows that Mary subsequently gave birth to at least four sons and two daughters after the birth of Christ, making Mary a godly, but very normal, married woman. Chosen by God to bear the Christ child? Yes. A virgin when she delivered her firstborn Son? Of course. But a perpetual virgin? No.

This passage would also be conducive to showing the opposition the Lord Jesus Christ faced in His own home town of Nazareth, upon the occasion of His return to that region for the first time since His baptism by John the Baptist and the start of His public ministry of preaching and working miracles.

Therefore, you see, there are all kinds of things we could do with this passage that would be interesting, that would be challenging, and that would be beneficial. However, today we keep it very, very simple. There are many things you know, but which you benefit from being reminded of. Today’s is that kind of sermon.

Keep in mind that ours is a gospel preaching church. Our mandate is the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ to preach the good news of Christ’s death for sins, His burial in a rich man’s tomb, His resurrection from the dead three days later, and His ascension to the right hand of the Father on high. Our confidence is in the blood of Jesus Christ, and the knowledge that it pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

These things in mind, and recognizing that ours is a faith ministry, that we preach faith in Christ, that we urge sinners to place their faith in Christ, and that all of God’s dealings with His people are by faith, my text is the last of the verses we read moments ago, Matthew 13.58:  “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”

 

Three things about the Lord Jesus Christ:

 

First, WE SEE HIS REFUSAL

 

Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ did some mighty works there, but He did not do many mighty works there. From the time His public ministry began, when He was baptized by John the Baptist, His fame spread throughout the region for His preaching and working of miracles. But when He came back to His own hometown for the first time, “he did not many mighty works.”

Please understand that the issue was not one of ability, but choice. The Lord Jesus Christ, who had turned the water into wine, and who would walk on the water and calm the seas, who would raise the dead and cause the lame to walk again, who would heal withered limbs and give sight to the blind, simply decided He would not perform many miracles in Nazareth.

It was not that He could not perform many mighty works in Nazareth, but that He chose not to. Consider what He had earlier said to those in Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida only a few months before:

 

20     Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:

21     Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

22     But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

23     And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

24     But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.[1]

 

What a stunning revelation. He worked many miracles in Capernaum, in Chorazin, and in Bethsaida, yet the citizens of those cities were in the main unresponsive. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ rebuked them by telling them that had those same miracles been performed in the ancient wicked cities of Tyre, and Sidon, and Sodom, they would have repented.

The implication is very clear. The Lord Jesus Christ could have done miracles in those ancient cities of great wickedness and idolatry, but He refused. He could have done many mighty works in Nazareth, but He unexpectedly refused. So you see, there are things the Lord Jesus Christ can do, and things that He both has done and will do, that He does not have to do at this time, in this place, with this people.

 

Next, WE ARE TOLD HIS REASON

 

Okay, so He did not many mighty works in Nazareth. Why not? He refused. Why did He refuse? Is it because He is arbitrary and capricious? Does He do and then not do for no reason, just to demonstrate that He can do anything He wants to do?

I think we would all agree that it demeans the character of the Savior to insist that His choices to do or not to do are choices that He makes for no reason. Surely, we grant that the goodness and compassion of the Savior would find expression in the reasons why He does or does not do something. He has reasons for what He does or does not do, even if we do not know what those reasons are.

Thankfully, in our text we are given the reason why the Lord Jesus Christ refused to perform many mighty works among them. Notice the last phrase of Matthew 13.58:  “. . . because of their unbelief.” Think about that. There were some crippled people who were not healed, perhaps some blind who were not given sight, certainly some lost who were not saved, “. . . because of their unbelief.”

Because of whose unbelief? Because of the unbelief of those who lived in Nazareth. There were people in that city who might have been healed, who might have been cleansed, who might have been raised from the dead, and who might have been saved from their sins . . . if only other people had had faith.

Do you doubt what I say? Consider Mark chapter 2, where we are told of four men who had to lower someone who was sick of the palsy down through a roof to get him to the Lord Jesus Christ, because there were so many people surrounding Him. Mark 2.5 reads, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” “When Jesus saw their faith . . . .”

Just as on one occasion someone was saved because of the faith of others, so in Nazareth we find an occasion where presumably some are not saved because of the unbelief of others. So do not tell me that your rejection of Christ does not have an impact on your son, on your daughter, on your husband or wife. Do not tell me that a faithless Christian does not have an adverse effect on others.

The Holy Spirit chose to inspire Matthew to give us the reason, in Matthew’s gospel account, why the Savior did not do many mighty works in Nazareth. “. . . not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”

 

Finally, WE CONSIDER HIS RIGHT

 

The question to ask at this point is why did Jesus not perform those miracles in Sidon, and in Tyre, and in Sodom? The same question applies to Nazareth. Why did He refuse to work miracles in Nazareth in the same fashion He had done only a few miles away, in Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin a short time before? The answer is sovereignty.

Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ is sovereign. That is, He has the freedom to do and not to do what He chooses to do. He can work miracles or not work miracles. He can act or not act, heal or not heal, speak or not speak, walk on water or ride in a boat.

Remember, there were many impotent men sitting beside the Pool of Bethesda, yet He healed only one. There were many who were blind, yet He gave sight to only one. How many leprous people were there in His day, yet He cleansed only ten? And whose servant did He choose to heal? Only the Roman centurion’s servant.

Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ, being God of very God, has the very same attributes and prerogatives of deity that His heavenly Father has, not the least of which is sovereignty. Therefore, what we see in Matthew 13.58 is what we see in so many other passages in the gospel accounts, to those who have the eyes to see. We see His sovereignty. He does what He chooses, when He chooses, where He chooses, how He chooses, to whom He chooses. And what He chose not to do much of at Nazareth was “many mighty works.” 

But what are His mightiest works? Are not His mightiest works the work He did on Calvary’s cross and the application of those works to a sinner’s soul? Thus, Jesus Christ is absolutely free to save or not to save who He wills. He is sovereign. And He sovereignly refused to work many miracles there . . . because of their unbelief.

 

Our text does not inform us that Jesus did not perform any mighty works in Nazareth, only that He did not do many mighty works in Nazareth. Thus, we are safe in concluding that some of the blind were given sight, some of the lame were made to walk, and some of them were forgiven all their sins. But not many. As sovereign, the Lord Jesus Christ has the right, and had the right, to decide what He would do, when He would do it, where He would do it, and to whom He would do it. That is sovereignty. What He sovereignly chose to do was to do great works where men believed, and to do few great works where few believed.

Is this not a simple and straightforward concept? It fits perfectly with what we read about faith in the epistle to the Hebrews: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” Hebrews 11.6.

Why is this so? Why did Jesus refuse to work where they refused to believe? And why does He characteristically work where people believe? Here is part of the answer: Faith is not blind. Faith does reach out past sight, but it needs support, and encouragement, and realization. Therefore, to strengthen faith and encourage faith, God does things for the benefit of the believing. However, He has no obligation to try to prove anything to doubters, to skeptics, or to cynics. They will always doubt anyway, since doubt and unbelief always has more to do with feelings than facts. People do not believe because they do not want to believe; it is as simple as that.

Let me close by applying this refusal by the Lord Jesus Christ to our own situation. Do you believe in the miracle of the new birth? Do you want to see your loved one converted to Christ? Would you like to see our children, our young men and women, and our young couples converted to Christ? Would not the miracle of salvation qualify as a mighty work? Then there is some evidence to suggest that what the Lord Jesus Christ sovereignly chooses to do in other people’s lives will be related to your faith, is there not?

Would you have enough faith to carry a friend who was sick of the palsy and lower him down through the roof? If you had a sick servant, would you run to the Savior and plead with Him to save your beloved servant? Those are some of the things people who had faith did. Those who do not have faith stand around and watch. However, as one of our newer members commented to me the other day, faith results in the realization that Christianity is not a spectator sport, but a cause believers participate in.

You may be here this morning, and you would probably categorize yourself as someone who is weak in faith. You are not without faith, but your faith is not very strong. Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, like those who said to the Savior, “Lord, Increase our faith.”[2] A. T. Robertson comments on that statement: “A little reflection will show that they should answer the prayer themselves.”[3] In other words, those with little faith do not need more faith. They just need to get moving.

Let me provide some direction for you as our camp approaches: First, make sure you read your Bible each and every day. Next, make sure you pray to the Father every day, asking Him to do a great work at camp and to draw your loved one to Christ. Finally, involve yourself in this church’s ministry. Do what Paul described in First Thessalonians chapter 1 as “the work of faith.”

Methinks the people of Nazareth displayed their unbelief by standing back and watching the show, waiting to see what Jesus would do that might provide some pleasure or entertainment for them. Had they believed, they would have run and fetched family members, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. Anything to get their loves ones to Jesus.

Do you want to see conversions? Will you pray for conversions? Will you work to bring people to God’s house? Will you engage and involve yourself to make this a place from which sinners want to go to heaven?

If you will, and if you will pray and work to that end, I am very much convinced that Jesus will do many mighty works in our midst. I certainly do not want our church, or our week at camp, to end up being a latter day Nazareth, where He does not many mighty works because of our unbelief.



[1] Matthew 11.20-24

[2] Luke 17.5

[3] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol II, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1930), page 226.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org