“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:3–6, ESV).
This passage brings to mind what Paul Miller says about cynicism in his book The Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World.
Cynicism begins with it the wry assurance that everyone has an angle. Behind every silver lining is a cloud. The cynic is always observing, critiquing, but never engaged, loving, and hoping… Yoani Sánchez, a thirty-two-year-old Cuban blogger and leading spokesperson for her generation, wrote, “Unlike our parents, we never believed in anything. Our defining characteristic is cynicism. But that’s a double-edged sword. It protects you from crushing disappointment, but it paralyzes you from doing anything…”
Because cynicism misses the presence of the Shepherd, it reverses the picture in John 1 of light invading darkness. Like Saruman in The Lord of the Rings, cynicism looks too long into the Dark Lord’s crystal ball. Its attempt to unmask evil unwittingly enlarges evil…
While purporting to “see through” others’ facades, cynics lack purity of heart. A significant source of cynicism is the fracture between my heart and my behavior. It goes something like this: My heart gets out of tune with God, but life goes on. So I continue to perform and say Christian things, but they are just words. I talk about Jesus without the presence of Jesus. There is a disconnect between what I present and who I am. My words sound phony, so other’s words sound phony too. In short, my empty religious performance leads me to think that everyone is phony. The very thing I am doing, I accuse others of doing. Adding judgment to hypocrisy breeds cynicism… (p. 79, 89, 91-92).
The people in Jesus’ home town thought they knew him: “Who does he think he is? We know this man. The son of Joseph, a mere carpenter.”
They didn’t appreciate the anointing of God over his life. They didn’t appreciate that He was God’s Son–that He had power to calm the storm, give sight to the blind, heal the lame, and raise the dead. Jesus could do no great thing in their midst because of their cynicism.
This is the same reason why Jesus could give the religious establishment no sign but the sign of Jonah. If He had called fire down from heaven, thrown the mountains into the heart of the see, or overthrown the Romans, it would not have changed their cynical hearts.
Ultimately the only thing that brought some of them to their senses was an encounter with the cross:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it…
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:22-24, 36–41, ESV).
It was the preaching of the cross that broke the cynical choke hold of Satan among the Jews in Jerusalem. It was the lifting up of the Son of Man as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness that eventually drew Nicodemus into the circle of believers.
When we think God is holding out… when we accuse Him of being unloving… when we think we know Him and we know His motives… when we attribute to Him and to His children the attributes of Satan… THAT’S WHEN HE GOES AND DIES FOR US!
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, ESV).
And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
In response to our cynicism, Jesus chose to suffer and die. He broke the power of Satan’s lie at Calvary’s cross. The question is: will we choose to believe on Him who came to cure us of the insight that blinds? Will we let the Light of the World teach us to see beyond our cynicism and hope beyond our fears?