There are some words that are overused in advertising, such as “new” and “improved.” When they really want to get our attention, they use them together. Another one of these words is “amazing.” There is even a series of GEICO commercials where someone in the opening scene sees something unusual and says, “That’s amazing!” The announcer then says that what is really amazing is how much money you can save with their insurance products.
Sometimes we are wowed by science and we label discoveries as amazing. In Richmond, Virginia there is a children’s museum called “Amazement Square.” We tend to reserve using the word “amazing” for things that are wonderfully spectacular. For instance, some will say that the birth of their child is the most amazing thing they have ever seen. (I happen to concur.)
We tend to think of the word “amazement” in positive terms, but there is a dark side to the word. Amazement can also mean that something is baffling, bewildering or strains credulity. We might say that we are amazed that the clerk at the store was so rude. I am amazed that the North Korean people believe the propaganda that they hear and read each day. It’s amazing that the word amaze can be used so many ways when expressing our surprise.
We are told numerous times that people were amazed at Jesus’ teachings. Sometimes it was meant as a positive statement. We are told earlier in Mark that the people were amazed, because he taught as one with authority, and not as the scribes. (Mark 1:22, Luke 4:32) The authority that he possessed from his Father is certainly reflected in his teachings.
Then we read today that the crowd in Nazareth was amazed at his teaching. They had known Jesus since he was a boy. They had watched him grow up, and they knew his family. They knew that Jesus had not had any formal education to speak of. Where did he get his special knowledge and his special power to work wonders? They were amazed, but “they took offence at him.” He is one of us; how dare he pretend to be better, more knowledgeable and more powerful? He is just the carpenter from Nazareth. They were amazed all right. They were amazed at what they perceived to be his arrogance and presumptuousness.
Jesus was, in turn, amazed at them. He was amazed that he was not received and that their faith was so lacking that he could only perform a few miracles among them. Mark writes, “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” They had everything that was necessary for faith, including Jesus in their midst. It would seem that faith would have come easier for them, because they knew him. But we all know that “familiarity breeds contempt.” Even Jesus’ own brothers, who are here listed, did not believe in him.
Christianity is currently experiencing explosive growth throughout the world. It is the fastest growing religion in the world. It is growing primarily in places where people have not historically known Jesus: Africa, Asia and South America. However, in places like Christian Europe and North America where the name of Jesus is widely known, the Church is in decline. Those of us in the Western world live in Jesus’ hometown, his turf. We grew up with him, and we know him (some more intimately than others). Many are so familiar with Jesus, that we pay almost no attention to him. We cannot be amazed by someone if we do not pay attention to him. I’m sure that Jesus is amazed at our lack of faith.
We too have everything we need, even Jesus in our midst. We need only open our eyes, our ears, our hearts and our minds to his presence. When we do, there will be a rebirth of faith in our lives. When we do, we will find that Jesus is not passé, he is amazing!