• Introduction: To me, it is an unfortunate situation with modern translations of the Bible. Third person pronouns are changing due possibly to the woke culture we find ourselves in.  There is a concerted effort to remove gender references of “he” and “she” in all documents and publications.  While this may make sense for legal documents where it is unnecessary to make a distinction between males and females, removal of gender references in God’s Word when referring to any of the three persons of the Trinity is just plain wrong.  All three persons of the Trinity are referred to in the male gender throughout the Bible.  I don’t know for sure if the translators of the ESV, NIV, and NASB all have updated their translations of Mark 6:56 from our text in order to be gender neutral.  I do know it is a disturbing change to now read gender-neutral language, when older translations which we grew up with had the correct gender pronouns.
  • In our text for today, recent updates of popular English translations, such as those I mentioned changed a simple, 3rd person pronoun from “He” to “it” in v56.  You might say, “so what?”
    • Please open your bulletin to the Gospel reading on page 4 (the centerfold) and see if there is something unusual.  All three of these translations I’ve named changed how we read the last phrase of Mark 6:56.  It now implies the healing of people perform by Jesus was due to the fringe of Jesus’ garment instead of Jesus healing power! 
      • This isn’t the first time God’s people have been led to trust in something other than Him.  We will go through a couple examples in a moment.
      • We need to be careful though, and not make the same mistake as provided in the forthcoming examples.  We could lose out on the salvation He won for us from the cross, by focusing on fringes and not Jesus.
  • Let us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, the scriptures are not about the fringes.  The scriptures are about Your one and only Son, Jesus. He *is* the Word.  Send the Holy Spirit to have us focus on Him and not all the things around Him.  We pray this, Heavenly Father, through Your Son Christ, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.
  • Background: I teased you with the Bible having a few examples of God’s people taking their focus off from Him and instead onto things around them.
    • Recall the bronze snake that Moses placed on a pole, so that the Israelites who were bitten by serpents would look up to it and be saved (Num 21:8-9). We read from Num 21:5-9 - So the people spoke against God and Moses: “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we are disgusted with this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and against you; intercede with the Lord, that He will remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and put it on a flag pole[1]; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, and looks at it, will live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and put it on the flag pole; and it came about, that if a serpent bit someone, and he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
      • 700yrs later, King Hezekiah had to crush to pieces this same bronze snake, because people were worshiping the bronze snake!  Listen to the account in 2Ki 18:4 of what King Hezekiah did sometime after he became king - He removed the high places and smashed the memorial stones to pieces, and cut down the Asherah. He also crushed to pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel had been burning incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan[2].  People at the time of Hezekiah had become corrupt in their worship to the point where they worshiped the object, which was a *sign* of God’s grace, instead of God Himself.
      • Jesus referred to the real purpose of the bronze snake in the context of His own purpose in coming into our flesh to save us.  Recall when a member of the Sanhedrin, which was the ruling council of the temple at the time of Jesus, came to visit with Jesus after dark? The visitor was named Nicodemus. Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus about heavenly things as recorded in John ch#3, but Nicodemus wasn’t catching on. So, the Lord then spoke to Nicodemus in terms he would understand.  Nicodemus wouldn’t have been on the Sanhedrin without knowing biblical history.  He would have known about Nehushtan.  So, Jesus said this to Nicodemus - 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes will have eternal life in Him[3].  What Jesus was saying here just before the Gospel in a Nutshell, is the serpent affixed to some sort of pole was a sign of God’s grace to His people Israel, in a similar way when Jesus would be nailed to a cross.  Jesus hanging from a cross would also be sign of God’s grace to the adopted sons of God who are the children of Abraham – us!
    • But, the fact that we are all sinners, and have all descended from Adam, the first sinner, we get distracted similarly to the Israelites about 3400yrs ago along with the Pharisees at the time of Jesus.  At the end of His ministry, Jesus had to call the Pharisees of Jerusalem to account for their worship of the gold of the temple and not He who is to be worshiped in the temple.  Listen to the silliness of the legalistic Pharisees on whom Jesus pronounced the first of eight woes in Mat 23:16-19 - 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the offering that is on it is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering or the altar that sanctifies the offering[4]?   The church-leading Pharisees who should have known better, came up with some fringe argument about the temple, instead of actually concentrating on the holiness of God Himself, who was to be worshipped in the temple.
  • Analysis: The impression is given in our Gospel the people looked upon Jesus as a healer of physical ailments (Mark 6:55).  Jesus had fed about 25,000 people in the same vicinity where He landed again in our Gospel for today.  Word traveled fast even in the days prior to Twitter, and so when some people recognized Jesus and His disciples in the boat headed for shore, the word got around that Jesus would be back.  Anyone who knew someone who had a disease, deformity, or paralysis fetched the afflicted person and had them ready for Jesus once He disembarked from the boat. People continued to bring the afflicted to Jesus as He traveled from town to town and points in between.  They had received a free meal after a day of preaching, and now they were receiving free healthcare!
    • You can see how the perception of Jesus would be He is a healer. This perception is obviously true; the miracles of healing were taking place.  However, I wonder if the perception extended to an understanding of Jesus’ power or purpose.  Did God the Father send His one and only Son to be a feeder of the hungry and healer of the sick?  No, that perception is only at the fringe of Jesus’ real power and purpose.  He heals all believers in Him from their sin (Mark 2:15-17).  We learned that early from the Gospel of Mark from the account of the calling of Levi to be one of Jesus’ disciples.  Levi, given the name, Matthew, was a tax collector called by Jesus to follow Him. Matthew was ecstatic, because he would have been barred from temple and synagogue worship by the church leaders because of his profession.  Jesus, Son of God, called Matthew to serve as one of Jesus’ chosen twelve!  So, Matthew throws a party and invites all his friends. These friends were identified as “sinners” by the church leaders.  They then boldly approached the disciples and asked in Mark 2:16b - “Why is [Jesus] eating with tax collectors and sinners?”  In response, Jesus gave them the reason for His leaving heaven to come to earth in our flesh - 17 And hearing this, Jesus *said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.[5]
    • Let’s put the Mark ch#2 passage into the context of today’s message from Mark 6:56.  The last word of v56 in the Greek is ἐσῴζοντο (essō-tsŏn-tǝ).  This word is printed in the outline on the back of your bulletin.  The root of this 3rd person imperfect passive verb means to be saved, though in English this is rendered as “being healed”.  I believe rendering ἐσῴζοντο as “being healed” further confusing Jesus’ purpose for becoming God in man and dealing with all the frailties of humanhood.
      • I suppose ἐσῴζοντο can mean being saved from the suffering of a physical ailment.  Anyone who has healed from a major illness or surgery will believe they have been saved from suffering.
      • However, my preferred meaning is “…to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgement[6]”.  Jesus came to deliver us from the penalty of sin. The penalty is being sentenced to live in hell eternally.  God didn’t want that for any of His creation.  He made everything perfect and in His image of holiness.  When we corrupted that perfect image, there was no place for anyone in Eden, nor in heaven.  God Himself had to save us from this certainty of our sin, and that is why Jesus came.  The healing was part of His ministry because of His compassion.  He didn’t want people to have to wait to get to heaven before they receive relief from their afflictions due to the corruption of God’s perfect creation.  More importantly though, He came because He wanted all generations of people to be saved from their sins, if only they would not reject His gift of salvation.
  • Conclusion: We should take a cue from King Hezekiah, and keep focus on God and not the symbols of God.  Hezekiah’s motivation for smashing to bits the bronze serpent is found in the verse immediately after where we read of his efforts to cleanse Jerusalem of objects of idol worship - He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; and after him there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who came before him. For he clung to the Lord; he did not desist from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses[7].
    • Let’s not let the distractions of Jesus’ miracles take our focus away from who Jesus is and what He has done for us.  Jesus displayed compassion for people during His 3yr ministry, especially toward those who were suffering.  His miracles of healing also certainly drew attention to Him and His ministry. 
      • But, the miracles served the ultimate purpose of pointing to Him being sent by the Father to save the world from itself.  He is more than just free food and healthcare as noted in His miracles recorded in Mark ch#6.  Old Testament profits would speak the message given to them by the Lord, but would also perform miracles in the name of the Lord.  The miracles would demonstrate God’s power in the prophet.  Jesus at one time in His ministry, pointed out to doubters they should at least believe in the miracles He was performing which were done to bring glory to the Father, and that the Father is in Him and He in the Father[8].  Jesus was frustrated with the unbelief of those who had seen the miracles He performed.  They rejected any notion that Jesus was the true Son of God who was foretold to be the savior of the world.
      • Let us put our faith and trust in Him to save us from all evil of both body and soul as was done by Jesus on both sides of the Sea of Galilee. On the east side of the Sea in the region of the Gerasenes, Jesus drove out of a man the demons collectively named “Legion” (Mark 5:1-13).  Later in Mark ch#5 but on the west side of the Sea, a synagogue ruler pleaded with Jesus to heal his little daughter who was at the point of death.  While on the way to the leader’s house, a woman who had been hemorrhaging for a dozen years without relief believed if she could just touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment, she would be saved (Mark 5:25-34).  She believed not only in the healing power of Jesus to cure her from her physical affliction, but also to cure her from the afflictions of her soul.  We know this because of Jesus’ reaction after perceiving His almighty power had gone out to her.  He asked, “Who touched my garments?”  The disciples mocked Him for asking such a question when there was such a huge crowd pressing in on them.  After it was clear who touched Him, listen to this account of the situation in Mark 5:33-34 - 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved (σέσωκέν) you; go in peace and be healed (ὑγιὴς) of your affliction (μάστιγός).”  The point of Jesus’ performing this miracle of healing was to show compassion on this daughter in the faith.  Note: it wasn’t the fringe of His garments that saved her.  It was His divine healing power in love that went out to her.  The woman knew and believed that, because she knelt at His feet and confessed her faith  in Him – not the fringe of His garment.
    • May all of us grow in the same faith this woman displayed, for you & I have been healed of a similar sickness of sin she had.  I end this message for today with the same blessing the Apostle Paul delivered to the Ephesians as was read for the Epistle reading earlier in the service: may you be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God[9]. Amen.


 


[1] Septuagint: σημείου; Strong’s definition - neuter of a presumed derivative of the base of G4591; an indication, especially ceremonially or supernaturally:—miracle, sign, token, wonder, from https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4592/nasb20/tr/0-1/

[2] 2Ki 18:4 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2ki+18&version=NASB

[3] John 3:14-15 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+3&version=NASB

[4] Mat 23:16-19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+23&version=NASB

[5] Mark 2:16-17 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+2&version=NASB

[6] Blue Letter Bible’s Outline of Biblical Usage as quoted from https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4982/nasb20/tr/0-1/

[7] 2Ki 18:5-6 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2ki+18&version=NASB

[8] Allusion to John 10:38

[9]Eph 3:16b-21 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+3&version=NASB