Matthew 13.58 Does our lack of faith frustrate God’s plans?

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

We often understand this verse to be saying that Jesus was limited by the unbelief of the people contrary to his desire to do mighty works. But this is not the correct interpretation of this verse. The limitation comes not from the absence of faith, thus making Jesus powerless, as if the power to do mighty works comes from the faith of the people (the way many see this passage). Rather the limitation lies in God’s sovereign withholding of mighty works due to the unbelief of the people. Thus, the phrase, “he could do no mighty work” points to a restriction placed on him by the Father not willing that Jesus should do mighty works in Nazareth.

This interpretation is especially confirmed by the almost parallel passage in Luke 4:23-27. There it is clear that God sovereignly determined to do mighty works not in Israel, but in the land of Sidon, and with Naaman, a Syrian.

When God does mighty works, it is an act of his grace done for any number of different sovereign purposes he may have for those works (and there are several mentioned in Scripture). When he does not do those works it is because of our unbelief. No one can “claim” a miracle by meritorious faith, and no one can begrudge the lack of a miracle because apart from grace God finds us all in the same state of unbelief as these here in Nazareth.

By Bryan Jay

My name is Bryan Jay and I have been teaching the Bible full-time for almost 30 years now. In 1992, I began pastoring a new church in Asheville, North Carolina, and in 1997, I moved with my family to Brazil where we lived and served for many years. Since that time, we have moved on to other places, continuing to teach the Word of God.

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