“Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. 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! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?’ So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.’ 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. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.”
Thankfully the gospel is being preached far and wide around the world, but it is not easy to serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit in our lives. I hope and pray that all of us will be more strengthened in both body and spirit. I also hope and pray that everyone in the world would receive the remission of sins and receive the Holy Spirit into his heart by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, so that that all may be able to receive the Lord in joy anytime He returns. For this to come about, everyone must first be able to discern the real faith from the false ones.
I once heard someone comparing aging to speed, saying that life goes by at 10 km/hr when you are in your teens, 20 km/hr when you are in your 20s, 30 km/hr in 30s, 40 km/h in 40’s, 50 km/h in 50’s, and so on. It is a very apt analogy. Like this, our lives go by very fast, and therefore whenever we hear the Word of God, we should listen to it attentively and believe in it wholeheartedly, so that we may be ready to receive the Lord at any time.
Today’s Scripture passage describes what happened when the Lord went to His hometown after healing Jairus’ daughter in another region. He returned back to Nazareth, where He had grown up as a child. Of course, His disciples also followed Him there. As it was the Sabbath Day, Jesus taught at a synagogue, but many hearing Him were offended by His teaching, 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! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” (Mark 6:2-3). Jesus then said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house” (Mark 6:4). It’s also written in the Bible, “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).
Take another closer look at the Word of God. What does it say was the reason the people were astonished? They were astonished because they knew Jesus very well as someone who had grown up in their town, and that’s why they said, “Isn’t this Man the carpenter’s son? We know Him so well. Who are His brothers? Isn’t James one of them?”
The people around Jesus were saying that James (the one who wrote the Book of James) was Jesus’ brother. They were saying, in other words, that Jesus was just a common Man from the house of Judah whom they knew very well. Moreover, three additional brothers are also mentioned here apart from James, including Joses, Judas, and Simon, for a total of four brothers. It’s also evident that Jesus had a number of sisters as well, since “His sisters” are also mentioned. So we can see here that the Virgin Mary bore many children other than Jesus, and we can also see that when our Lord taught the Word in the synagogue of His hometown, the people there did not believe Him.
The Lord was therefore saddened by their unbelief, saying that a prophet is honored everywhere except in His hometown. And the Bible tells us that because of their unbelief, Jesus did not do that many wonders there, left His hometown and traveled around other villages to teach.
I am concerned that you may also judge me on my outside appearance alone, and thus take too lightly the Word that I am preaching. Of course, sometimes I speak to you in an informal tone and even tell a few jokes, but you should realize that whenever I speak to you with the Bible open, I am not just giving you man’s account, but I am preaching the true Word of God. When you and I turn to the Bible together, we are sharing the Word of God, and therefore what you hear at such an hour should be listened to closely as the Word of God. This means that you should not judge the Word of God by the outside appearance of that person preaching it, nor should you consider it according to your own fleshly thoughts alone.
Why did the people in Jesus’ hometown fail to believe His Word even when He preached His work of salvation to them? It’s because they only knew Jesus in carnal terms. However, my fellow believers, we must be able to see not just fleshly aspects but also spiritual aspects—indeed, the latter is much more important the former. When you assess someone, you must see both his fleshly and spiritual aspects.
When you look at someone’s fleshly aspects, you can see all his blemishes and faults, for the flesh is exposed outwardly. However, when you look at his spiritual aspects, his faith is what’s important, and therefore you must be able to discern whether or not this person fears God and follows Him by faith. And only those who do so are worthy of your fellowship, for they have the faith to accept the Word truthfully.
As is written in today’s Scripture passage, Jesus had returned to His hometown and preached the Word, but the people there rejected Him, saying, “What He is saying is so profound, but we just can’t understand Him. After all, isn’t this the first son of the carpenter? Doesn’t He have four brothers, all of them here in this town? We know them all. Are His sisters not here also? If a man of renown had taught us, we might have accepted it, but Jesus is not such a renowned Man, and so why should we accept His teaching?” However, my fellow believers, whenever we read or listen to the Word of God, we must accept it into our hearts and believe in it exactly as it is.
Let me give you an important and real example here.
As I’ve mentioned from time to time, the Catholic Church venerates the Virgin Mary, but she is actually no more than Jesus’ mother in the flesh, and she bore many children on this earth apart from Jesus. So no one should deify Mary and exalt her too highly, nor should anyone mislead people to believe in such a worthless notion. The Catholic Church exalts Mary, Jesus’ mother in the flesh and as the wife of God the Father. Catholics consider her as the Queen of Heaven and the wife of the Father of Jesus, and so you can see just how much she is venerated.
Moreover, Catholics also claim that Mary was born without sin and bore Jesus alone, but this, too is nonsense. When we look at all the Four Gospels, we see that the reason why the Jews did not accept and believe in Jesus is because they knew Him only in carnal terms, based on the fact that Mary had at least seven children and Jesus was the eldest amongst them. This is why they rejected Jesus.
However, in reality Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born on this earth only through the body of the Virgin Mary, just as it had already been prophesied. Yet despite this, most people in those days knew Jesus only in fleshly terms, and so they ignored Him because He was just the Son of a lowly carpenter rather than born in a renowned or aristocratic family. Just as these people rejected Jesus, today’s Catholics with a flawed understanding of Jesus have also rejected Him unwittingly as the Savior who came by the water and the Spirit. Believing in Jesus while venerating Mary is the same as rejecting Jesus. When you look at Catholic icons and paintings, Jesus is almost always depicted as a Baby cradled in Mary’s arms, His mother in the flesh.
“Hail Mary” is a ubiquitous Catholic prayer, and this prayer goes: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and in the hour of our death.” More recently, the Catholic Church has outright deified Mary officially. If Catholics had bowed before Mary along with Jesus in the past, nowadays they emphasize Mary even more than Jesus Himself. Mary is no longer a human being, but she has become a goddess.
The reason I am giving you such specific cases is because too many people are steeped in such beliefs. Because of these beliefs, countless people are venerating Mary only to end up with the wrong faith. Veneration of Mary is particularly prevalent in Catholic countries such as Spain. In every country where Catholicism has been introduced, veneration of Mary is so widespread that it has completely ruined Christianity. In Korea, the Catholic Church used to be rather weak, but recently it has been gaining more influence. Soon, Catholics may catch up to Protestants in terms of their number and influence. However, when their faith is reflected on the Word of the Scriptures, it is completely flawed. They venerate Mary as the Queen of Heaven and advocate the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, claiming that Mary was born without sin. This, however, is completely false. Given the fact that Mary herself called her a maidservant of the Lord (Luke 1:38), Mary was a human being just like all of us, not a divine being, and she was saved in the same way that we were saved.
Despite this, there are many Catholic believers all over the world. I’m not sure exactly how many, but there must be at least a billion of them. There are so many Catholics that they may even exceed the number of Protestants. When surveys are taken, Catholics and Protestants are generally categorized as Christians as though they all believe in God in the same way. But Catholicism is completely different from true Christianity, and it is the worldliest religion of all.
Here in today’s Scripture passage, the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus because; ironically they knew Him in fleshly terms. The same is true for us as well. When we look at ourselves, who is most recalcitrant to heed our words? Who rejects you the most? Isn’t it your own family that rejects you the most? Indeed, it’s your own family that resists the most. That’s because your family members know you too well, but only in fleshly terms. In their eyes, you are not particularly worthy of respect, nor do they think that you are any more special or better than they are, and that’s why they don’t believe in the Word of God even when you preach it to them.
However, we know that none other than believing in the Word of God is the right thing to do. While we may discuss and argue over secular affairs, when it comes to the Word of God, we know that believing in this Word is indisputably right. Our Lord also preached the Word in His hometown, and He marveled that the people there did not believe in Him. It’s written here in today’s Scripture passage that even though the Lord spoke the Truth, the people of His hometown did not believe Him, and so He marveled at their disbelief and went about other villages to teach.
As a matter of fact, we do not have that much recognition either here in this city or even in our own country. But when we expand our sight to the world, we can see that as our books make their way to every corner of the world and our gospel is taught and preached, we are generating worldwide attention. People abroad give us more recognition than our fellow countrymen. Many foreign people, including pastors and theologians, have read our books and received the remission of sins as a result, and they are all very grateful to us for this. In Korea, there is a long historical legacy of deferring to the powerful, and so there is a tendency for people to blindly follow foreign beliefs, but I hope and pray that you would not succumb to this, but instead become a true believer and live by faith until the day you see the Lord face to face.
Let us therefore all live out our faith until the day we see the Lord. There will be more changes and more calamities this year. There will be more erratic weather. We will see even more turmoil in this world, for the day of our Lord’s return is nearing. But despite all the difficulties lying ahead, I hope and pray that you will all believe unwaveringly in the Word of God and endure all the trials in your life by trusting in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.