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the paralysis of omnipotence

G Campbell Morgan

This is a passage in G Campbell Morgan’s commentary on “the Gospel according to Mark”. He covers the attitude of the people at Nazareth to Christ’s return visit. The locals knew Jesus of Nazareth so well, they knew his family, his personal history as the local carpenter and they were astonished at the power they had heard of and at the wisdom of the ‘local boy’. In fact the passage records two different kinds of astonishment.

Mark 6:2 And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!
Now 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 6:5–6 NKJV.

The people at Nazareth were astonished and so was Christ.
Campbell Morgan uses a surprising phrase to describe the second instance. He calls it the ‘paralysis of omnipotence’. It is a shocking phrase and something of an oxymoron. How can anything hinder omnipotence?

And yet clearly it did.

the frustrations of Christ

It is a sobering passage of Scripture. Christ comes, apparently with the desire in his heart to accomplish the will of the Father and his intentions are frustrated. I am choosing my words carefully here. I am not saying he ‘felt’ frustrated but that his intentions were frustrated. He knew the will of His Father. He was anointed with ‘power and the Holy Spirit’. He came to ‘do’ that will and yet He was ‘not able’ do what he wanted to do. As the passage declares, he was ‘not able to do a work of power there’, other than to lay his hands on a few sick folk and heal them.

And the thing which caused the paralysis of omnipotence was ‘unbelief’. Is ‘unbelief’ more powerful than omnipotence? We are touching this amazing mystery again that God, although omnipotent, will not use his omnipotence to force human beings to do things which they do not desire. It seems that in that crowd there were some who did respond to him and to those ‘who received him he gave the right to become…’. Perhaps it is the same in almost every gathering of people. There will be those who shut out the word of Christ and shrink away from his outstretched hand. He can do no work of power for such. But there are those who receive his word and long for his touch.

the power of unbelief

Christ marvelled at the ‘unbelief’ of those who rejected him. Has God given any greater power that the power to say ‘No’ to God? Will he ‘marvel’ at our reluctance to hear what he says to us, or will there be rejoicing in his presence as we voice our ‘Yes, Lord’?


  1. Hi Ron,
    Interesting thoughts and comments- but I think that the phrase ‘paralysis of omnipotence’ is a hyperbole to far. It endows the obduracy of unbelief too highly and too eloquently. Unbelief is just crude and dark and mischievous. Divisive. Resentful.
    Hebrews tell us that it’s the work of God is to divide- soul from spirit, bone from marrow, and as a discerner of the ‘thoughts and intentions of the (human) heart’. (Heb 4:12) . So our Lord’s life as a man was like our own, except without sin, so He also had ‘thoughts’ and ‘intentions’ His thoughts of course were singular and pure, but his intentions were often fraught by opposition and unbelief. His intention was to gather Jerusalem- but they would not(be gathered)- as we would not at times. So it;s not a paralysis , from my point of view- it’s too derterministic- but His intentions are thwarted- and so He again goes or takes another direction, and so meets it with loving judgement. Prevention is sometimes determined by God as for Joseph-his brothers meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. I have had many ‘good things’ come out of my corrected ‘no’s’ or refusals.You are right, Jesus is sometimes astonished at unbelief, but equally astonished with statements about his divinity, love and generosity-‘even the dogs can eat the crumbs under the table’ etc. Yes, and in our meetings also- even more so by our protestations which we hide behind our praise,beliefs, theologies, and traditions. But as we both know His Love prevails and wins. In the end, Jesus wins.
    Barry- keep writing Ron- I pray a blessing for you, over your life, for that.

  2. Only one comment realy other than recommending anything by G c Morgan . Years ago at Cliff College conference I was recommending what I termed a commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Then a voice boomed out from behind me,” it’s an exposition brother, there is a world of difference , but it is very good” a lesson learnt by me that day and we did sell out of the book by the end of the day. Something to do with the recommendation I would imagine!

So tell me, what do you think?

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