Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

4th Sunday After Denaho (Baptism of Jesus Christ)

Sermon / Homily on St. Mark 6:1-16

Devotional Thoughts for the 4th Sunday After Danaha

by Rev. Fr. K K John

Gospel: Mk 6:1-6

Gospel Summary:

After a brief missionary tour Jesus came back to his own village. By then Jesus was already a talk of the town; that his words were outpouring wisdom, unlike Rabbis he speaks with authority, working wonders, healing the sick and etc. On the Sabbath Day he went to Synagogue and preached.

People were amazed about his wisdom and miracles. But instead of appreciating and believing, they ridiculed him saying, he was no better than them, was the son of a carpenter, they knew his mother Mary and siblings. Jesus marveled at their unbelief but healed a few sick.

Let us meditate on a few points.

1. The underlining factor is that Jesus a perfect Jew. He was very keen to go to synagogue and preach on regularly.

In our times, too many leaders spring up like mushrooms each day, their only capital being rhetoric, a songbook and a distorted version of bible. In one accord they claim, "God called me," "Holy Spirit anointed me" and so on. The first thing they do is slandering the Church hierarchy, equating them to Satan, ridiculing the church doctrines and advising their prey to disobey and discontinue church going, self-elevating to divine status exploiting the weakness of the Audience and start their own denominations.

Our faithful should not sink into their sway; Jesus never stopped going to synagogues and preach. What he disapproved was the evil-deeds of the leadership. Jesus questioned the hypocrisy of Pharisees and Jewish leadership but not the doctrines, Mat 23:1. Paul admonished "not forsake assembling," Heb 10:25.

2. People were amazed with Jesus. Amazement is not a sign of belief.

Jesus marveled at their disbelief. At the end of a convention people come saying, "Your speech was great, we enjoyed it, you were frank to tell the truth" and so on. Appreciation is sweet for the ears but has no value if it stays at the level of flattery and does not lead to repentance. Speaking the word of God in truth and Spirit must lead the hearer to repentance, a change from sinful attitude to righteous conduct, restitution for sins and confession; if not speech shall remain a futile exercise.

St John the Baptist's opening words were very rude in today's standard; he called them "brood of vipers, repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, bear fruits worthy of repentance," Mat 3:2-8. People who heard him instead of feeling insulted, were convinsed of sin and asked John, "What shall we do then," Lk 3:10.

St Peter spoke saying, "whom you crucified," Acts 2:36. In the literal sense we know all the listeners were not crucifiers. Yet they were convinsed of sin and asked "what shall we do?" v36.

Jonathan Edwards, Preacher and first President of Princeton Theological Seminary (1752) in his famous sermon, "Sinners in the hands of an angry God," said, "You are being held by a slender thread of God's mercy; below there is bottomless pit." People were so convinsed of sin that they felt so real and held the rails so that not to fall into the bottomless pit.

But today the pastors are soothsayers, conscious not to offend the audience. They do not convey God's message unadulterated and this indirectly encourages people to commit more heinous sins without guilt feeling. The "not offending attitude made them cut short the sermons saying "people have no attention span for more than five minutes."

Obviously people like such pastors only. Some people revile if the speech is not palatable to their taste; which can be selfishness, bad attitude, bad habit, addictions and so on.

3. There is a saying, "Familiarity Breeds Contempt."

This was the case with the people of Nazareth; many of us are like the Nazarenes, giving more attention to the credentials of the speaker rather than the word of God; say, the speaker has a doctorate or high rank, the assembly will swell!

For Nazarenes, Jesus was the son of carpenter Joseph and his wife Mary. Luke 3:23 says, "Being as was supposed, the son of Joseph." God in his providence planned Joseph to be known as husband to Mary and father to Jesus so as to protect both from the unsavory treatments from the legalist-Jews. Carpenter profession was not a high earner. They were quite ordinary people. They did not impart high education to Jesus, until recently he was unknown to many as he led a private life.

John 7:15 imports parallel statement of the Jews concerning Jesus. They were blinded by prejudice and jealousy of Jesus' accomplishments, thus they were unable to accept him. Believing in Jesus Christ is a gift of God.

Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by my Father," John 6:65.

St. Paul said, "No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit," 1Cor 12:3.

Thus evidently, they were devoid of Holy Spirit to discern who Jesus was. They said, "James, Josses, Judas, and Simon" are brothers of Jesus and his sisters are with us," v3.

Protestants teach heresy that Mary, after giving birth to Jesus, had connubial relations with Jesus and delivered many children, conjoining verses from here and there (Mat 1:25). They quote John 7:5, saying, "His brothers did not believe in him." This erroneous interpretation and high-handed heresy is partly due to the language and partly due to satanic influence.

It is no secret that Aramaic was the vernacular of Jesus. Now we have Bibles in more than a thousand languages and thousands of spurious versions in the same language, especially in English, opposed to one another.

In Aramaic and Hebrew, for instance, there is only one word "Aaho" to mean siblings of the same father and mother, such as, Benjamin and Joseph, half-brother such as, Joseph and Judah, blood relation of any nature, such as Abraham and Lot, and even two people of the same faith, profession, rank, and so on.

In English we have different words to denote specific nature of relationship, such as half-brother, step-brother, cousin, first, second, third cousin, uncle and nephew (Abraham and Lot), brethren (congregation) and so on.

The evil influence caused people to misuse the economy of language to mislead the "untaught and unstable," 2Pe 3:16.Therefore it is necessary to explicate the actual biblical concept of the word, "brother."

(1) Kinsmen of the same parents, Gen 27:6.

(2) Of the same father; Jacob (Israel) had 12 sons in 4 women. They each other called ‘brother' but they were half-brothers or stepbrothers as per present notation, Gen 28:2.

(3) Of the same mother, Judge 8:19.

(4) A man of the same country, Ex 2:11, Acts 3:22.

(5) Member of the same tribe 2Sam 19:12.

(6) An ally, Amos 1:9.

(7) A kindred, Num 20:14.

(8) A co-religionist, Acts 9:17, Rom 1:13.

(9) Fellow office bearer, Ezra 3:2.

(10) Someone of equal rank, 1K 9:13.

(11) Any member of human race, Mat 7:3-5, Heb 2:17.

(12) Someone greatly beloved, 2Sam 1:26.

(13) Relative, Gen 14:16, Mat 12:46. Handy Dictionary of the Bible" by Merrill C Tenney, Page 27 (A Protestant presentation, Zondervan publication).

(14) Scofield reference Bible, (a Protestant version, series #3, pocket edition, page 999) reads: "A son of Alphaeus (or Cleopas) and of Mary the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus, and Brother Josses (Mk.15: 40.) He was therefore, a cousin of Jesus Christ."

Again, Scofield reference bible says, "son' or ‘brother' has been variously translated. According to Jewish usage, James, the brother of our Lord, was cousin," page 999.

(15) Abraham called Lot, his nephew, a brother, Gen 14: 14.

(16) Elimelek was only a relative to Boaz but is spoken as brother, Ruth 4:3.

(17) Joab called his first cousin as brother, 2 Sam 17: 25 and 20: 9.

Therefore it would be ridiculous and sinful to ignore all these contexts and presume that "brothers" mentioned in Mat 13: 55-56, John 7:1-10 or elsewhere namely, James, Josses, Simon and Judas were born to St. Mary.

(18) Dummelow's bible commentary says "brethren," not brothers.

Thus evidently, while Jesus had relations, He had no blood brothers.

"Our Lord had four brethren, James, Joseph, Simon, Judas; and at least three sisters (Mat 13:55). What their exact relationship with Him was not certain. There are three main views-

(1) that of St Jerome, hence called the Hieronymian view, that they were our Lord's cousins, being sons of Mary, the Virgin's sister and of Clopas (John 19:25).

Most supporters of this view think three of the brethren were apostles. Jerome's theory, until recently predominant one in England, is now held by very few.

(2) The Epiphanian view, so called from its advocacy by St. Epiphanius, that they were sons of Joseph by a former wife. This is the theory of the Eastern Church and has been learnedly supported in England by Lightfoot.

(3) The Helvedian view, that they were children of Joseph and Mary born after Jesus. Prof Mayor is the chief recent exponent of this view.

The arguments for the last two views are nearly balanced and it is difficult to decide which is right.

The following points seems certain from the NT.

(1) that brethren did not live with Mary of Clopas but with Virgin Mary and were regarded as members of her family (Mat. 12:46, 13:55, Jn 2:12, 7:3.

(2) That they were jealous of Jesus and up-to the Resurrection disbelieved His claims (Mk 3:21, 6:4, Jn 7:5).

(3) And that consequently none of the brethren were included among the twelve apostles.

(4) They were converted after the Resurrection by the appearance to James, 1Cor 15:7) and henceforth associated themselves with the disciples (Acts 1:14).

The chief arguments in favor of Epiphanian views are:

(1) that it represents the most ancient tradition, being already current in Palestine in the 2nd century.

(2) That if the Virgin had a large family, some of the members of which, like James the bishop of Jerusalem, attained to prominent positions in the Church, the practically unanimous tradition that she remained always a virgin, could never have arisen.

(3) That it is more reverent to suppose that our Lord's mother never had any other children.

(4) That Lk 1:26-38, implies that already before the birth of Jesus, she had devoted herself wither betrothed's consent to a life of virginity.

(5) That our Lord upon the cross would not have committed the care of his mother to St John, if she had had four living sons to support her.

The chief arguments in favor of Helvedian views are:

(1) that the high esteem of virginity generally prevalent in the early Church made Christians unwilling to think of Mary as the mother of other children and consequently the Epiphanian theory was invented.

(2) That Luke 2:7 implies that Mary had other children.

(3) That Mat 1:18-25 imply that the connubial relations of Joseph and Mary after the birth of Jesus were of the usual kind.

(4) That the brother when used without further explanation, naturally means a full brother.

In the opinion of the present writer the arguments for Epiphanian view slightly preponderate," Comments by J.R. Dummellow 1920, edn page 670-671.

Unbelief is a sin:

Jesus could not do mighty works says v5. Not that Jesus was powerless, but that humanity is endowed with freedom of choice as a birthright, to encroach upon what is already given is against God's righteousness. So then, if one willfully opts to live in sin, satisfying the interests of flesh and world, God would not involve.

On the one hand we say "Goodbye God, get away from us, leave us alone," and on the other hand, when rendered completely powerless to withstand the pestilences and calamities, they get puzzled asking why God has forsaken us. These contradictions cannot go together.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show. Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this happen?" (concerning the Sept. 11 attack). Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.

She said "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.

I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.

Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school for the Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves...

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.

See Also:

Strength Through Weakness - A Lesson on Humility
by Rev. John Duncan

Our Faith in Christ Must Grow
by Deacon Matthew Thomas

Jesus with Unbelievers
by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Offended by the Nice Little Kid from Nazareth
by Edward F. Markquart, Seattle, Washington

God Wants You to Walk by Faith
by Pete Benson

I Know That Boy
by The Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.

Going Home
by Larry Broding

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the 4th Sunday after Denaha (Baptism of our Lord)

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