The word “to marvel” or “to stand amazed” (thaumazo) is pretty common in the gospels. But it’s almost always used in connection with the crowd’s response to Jesus. They are usually the ones amazed or marveling, not Jesus. In fact, there are only two times in the New Testament where Jesus is said to marvel. One is in Mark 6:7 where Jesus marvels at the unbelief in Nazareth. The other occasion is in Luke 7:9 where Jesus marvels at the Centurion and his great faith. These are the only two times we have record of Jesus marveling.

It seems, then, there are two things that make Jesus step back and say “Wow!” 1) Those who believe when it’s not expected they would. 2) Those who disbelieve when there’s every reason they should.

Does Jesus ever marvel at you or me? I think when he sees his people trusting in the midst of extreme suffering, he marvels. When he sees people from the roughest backgrounds come to him with brokenhearted humility, he marvels. When he sees you give up comfort and security for the sake of his kingdom, he marvels.

But on the other hand, I fear he may marvel at us for the wrong reasons sometimes. If I were a teenager or twentysomething I’d hate for Jesus to look at me and think, “Here’s a kid with loving parents, Bible reading at the dinner table, prayers from his whole family, faithful teaching at church, a comfortable home with lots of opportunities and encouragements, and yet this young person wants nothing to do with me. Amazing!” That’s not the amazement you want from Jesus.

I think Jesus marvels at some of us who sit under the preaching of the word and enjoy the fellowship of the saints and know all the Bible stories and still there’s no zeal for Christ, no desire to grow in him, no effort to put him first.

Nazareth is a warning to us. Familiarity can breed spectacular unbelief. The Centurion is a ray of hope: even the unlikeliest among us sometimes believe. In both cases, Jesus marvels.

I’m sure Jesus stands amazed as he looks at the church in North America. I wonder what makes him marvel the most.