And He could there do no mighty work… (Mark 6:5)
We have three words (in English) to express different aspects of actions:
- Could (can): This word indicates whether or not one has the ability to perform a work
- Would (will): This word, most properly, implies an act of the will — what one decides to do.
- Should (ought): This word indicates what is right and proper to do.
For us, these three are often in conflict. We learn what we should do (#3), but we often do not want to do it (#2). Sometimes, we want to do a thing (#2), but we lack the ability to do so (#1). Or, the other way around, we have the ability to do something (#1), but not the will (#2). Sometimes, all three of these are in harmony, and that is great for us.
However, when look at Jesus Christ, who is the express image of God – and perfect in every way, such conflicts never exist. For God, what should be done is His will to do and He can do it. These three aspects are always in perfect harmony.
Thus, it is an error to think that Jesus here was unable to do a mighty work because He was limited somehow – He is not limited. However, given the lack of faith on the part of the people in His hometown, it was not right or proper that He should honor their lack of faith by mighty works. Because it was not proper to do, His will was not to so, and thus, He could not do a mighty work there.
Update: Upon even further meditation, we are probably sloppy in defining omnipotence; it correctly means “all-powerful”. There is a children’s chorus “God can do anything”; while this is an acceptable generalization for children, we must realize that the actual truth is that God cannot “do anything“. In the book of Titus, the Scriptures tell us that God cannot lie. The passage above tells us that God “could not” do a great work. Thus, more properly defined, God’s omnipotence means that He has the ability to do anything that He chooses to do.