Good morning and welcome to Friday’s podcast. I have enjoyed taking you through Mark’s gospel this week. Next week I hand over to Dave Saxton, so do be sure to listen in.
Today we arrive at Mark 6:14-29. It is the story of the execution of John the Baptist. V17…
Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.
What follows is a banquet where Herod entertains some powerful men. The child of his wife and brother’s marriage, Salome, dances for those assembled. Showing off to those he is entertaining, Herod promises to grant any request of his step daughter. Herodias seizes her chance for revenge and instructs her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist. To save face, Herod has John killed.
This whole sordid tale takes place because John spoke out about the moral failings of Herod in taking and marrying his brother’s wife – Herodias.
John challenged the marriage of Herod and Herodias on Biblical grounds, they were Jewish and had failed to put into practice… failed to follow the word of God. They had chosen to follow their own path and the result was a trail of death and destruction.
This story raises a number of questions for us:
Firstly, is there a code of conduct that we as Christians should adhere to? Or can we do as we please – After all the Christian faith is all about grace, surely!!
In the UK in the 21st Century, in this post-post modern world we live in, is there such a thing as a moral code? Is it our job to challenge others on their conduct and behaviour? Or does Jesus’s command to ‘love each other’ trump everything? Our job is to love others but love is not the same as adopting an anything goes attitude, as accepting and approving of others’ choices and conduct.
I am sure that Herod and Herodias ‘loved’ each other. Was John wrong to challenge them, was this act of John’s unloving, it was surely offensive, Herodias was definitely offended!
Are we able to challenge others or do we shrink back in fear of offending others? John challenged the king, the one in power, the one who could arrest or even kill him and yet he didn’t shirk his responsibility. He took a stand and called for a higher level of conduct, to propagate a better way to live.
What about us? Are we able to challenge appropriately, or does our desire to be liked or the fear of others response prevent us from creating a boundary?
That brings me on to the second question that this passage raises: How do we respond when someone challenges us? Herodias nursed a grudge… she looked for a way to get back at John, revenge became her goal and murder her preferred outcome.
All of us fall short. All of us have defects and weaknesses in our characters and limits to our abilities. It’s what makes being part of church and part of a team a real joy – to discover the contribution that we can make and the areas where others will make up for our deficits.
But rather than be open we can fall into the trap of feeling we have to have it all together. And if someone dares suggest that we are doing something wrong or that perhaps we might need help in a particular area, we can go on the offensive and defend ourselves. We can refuse to receive correction and continue to forge our own path.
In Proverbs 9:7 we learn: Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.
Love doesn’t shy away from warning others, loves doesn’t neglect its duty to call the best out of others. Love can be challenging and hard to receive but those who position themselves to receive a rebuke or a challenge from a friend will learn wisdom and they will grow closer because of it.
I have three children and Helen and I have the privilege of raising them as best we can. Sometimes that is amazing and fun, there can be a lot of laughter around our meal table. At other times we have to create a boundary and be prepared to enforce it. At times this leads to conflict. At times our kids don’t like us very much. But it is impossible to discipline, to nurture, to train our kids without being prepared to challenge them.
In the same way, it is impossible to disciple others if we are unable to bring challenge to those we lead. Yes, challenge needs to come from a heart of love. Yes, we will sometimes get it wrong and it is right that those doing the challenging are equally open to being challenged, but the rewards of growth are more than worth it.
Father help us to be open to challenge, enable us to hear those who love us and want the very best for us and learn from others wisdom. And Father, help us to bring appropriate challenge to those we love, to those we hope to see grow in life and faith, in Jesus name. Amen.
READING: Mark 6:14-29
King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, ‘John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’
Others said, ‘He is Elijah.’
And still others claimed, ‘He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.’
But when Herod heard this, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!’
For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.
The king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.’ And he promised her with an oath, ‘Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.’
She went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’
‘The head of John the Baptist,’ she answered.
At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: ‘I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a dish.’
The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a dish. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.