We notice as we read the Gospels that there were times when Jesus possessed supernatural knowledge and other times when He didn’t. In fact, Jesus often asked questions to obtain information.
For example, He told the woman at the well of Samaria that she had had five husbands and that she was living with a man now to whom she was not married (see John 4:17-18). How did Jesus know that? Was it because He was God and God knows everything? No, if that were the case, Jesus would have demonstrated that ability consistently. Although He was God and God knows everything, Jesus emptied Himself of His omniscience when He became a man. Jesus knew the marital history of the woman at the well because the Holy Spirit granted Him at that moment the gift of “the word of knowledge” (1 Cor. 12:8), which is the supernatural ability to know something about the present or past. (We will study in more detail the subject of the gifts of the Spirit in the next chapter).
Did Jesus know everything all the time? No, when the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and He felt healing power proceed from Him, He asked, “Who touched My garments?” (Mark 5:30b). When Jesus saw a fig tree in the distance in Mark 11:13, He “went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it.”
Why didn’t Jesus know who had touched Him? Why didn’t He know if the fig tree had figs on it? Because Jesus was operating as a man anointed by the Holy Spirit with gifts of the Spirit. Gifts of the Spirit operate as the Spirit wills (see 1 Cor. 12:11; Heb. 2:4). Jesus didn’t know things supernaturally unless the Holy Spirit willed to give Him the gift of “the word of knowledge.”
The same thing was true of Jesus’ healing ministry. The Scripture makes it plain that Jesus couldn’t heal anyone at any time. For example, we read in the Gospel of Mark that when Jesus visited His hometown of Nazareth, He was unable to accomplish everything He wanted to do.
And [Jesus] went out from there, and He came into His home town; and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? 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 home town and among his own relatives and in his own household.” And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief (Mark 6:1-6, emphasis added).
Notice Mark didn’t say that Jesus wouldn’t do any miracle there, but that He couldn’t . Why? Because the people of Nazareth were unbelieving. They didn’t receive Jesus as being the anointed Son of God but only as a local carpenter’s son. Just as Jesus Himself remarked, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household” (Mark 6:4). As a result, the most He could accomplish was to heal a few people “with minor ailments” (as one translation says). Surely, if there were any place where Jesus would have wanted to work miracles and dramatically heal people, it would have been the town He had lived most of His life. The Bible says, however, that He could not.