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Posts Tagged "Mark 6:14-29"

Long Ago and Far Away

July 11, 2021
By Rev. David French

Last week I mentioned how popular Jesus was becoming. This week we see the extent of that popularity as even Herod the king has heard about Him. This Herod was the son of the Herod who ordered the death of the young sons of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’s birth. Mark tells us that he began to believe the whispers about Jesus being John the Baptist raised from the dead.

Remember, John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets, and he did what all the prophets did. He exposed sin and called for repentance. Thousands came out to hear John. Many of these people came to understand that God does offer forgiveness to those who repent. These are the people were comforted as they listened to John. It’s also true that wherever there is a prophet, there are those who cringe at the prophet’s message of repenting or admitting you’re a sinner to receive the forgiveness of sins. Herod and his wife Herodias were two of those people.

Herod had married Herodias while she was still married to his brother. John, having no fear of Herod or Herodias, called on them to repent of their adulterous sin. Herodias especially didn’t take kindly to John's message and convinced her new husband to have John arrested, waiting for an opportunity to shut John up for good.

Finally, on his birthday Herod decided to through himself a party. As part of that celebration, Herodias's daughter gave a dance recital. Apparently, this young lady was a very skilled dancer, and her entertainment pleased Herod a great deal. Herod wanted to reward this girl’s effort and skill. He made what he must have thought was a grand gesture of generosity: “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” It was, it turned out, a very foolish gesture, and Herodias used it to her advantage. She instructed her daughter to ask for John’s head.

We are right to condemn all those who are involved in this crime. We are right to condemn the adultery of Herod and Herodias. We are right to condemn Herod, Herodias, and even the daughter for the murder of John. Most of all, we are right to condemn them all for their blatant idolatry - for living according to the law of their own pleasures instead of living according to the law of God. We are also right to praise God for the ministry of John the Baptist - for his bravery, his integrity, and his loyalty to God.

You know, it is very easy to hold John up as a hero of the faith. It is easy to hold up the faithful ministry of all the prophets. We can talk about how noble they all were. We can talk about how they died for their faith. We can talk about how the world persecuted them. It’s all easy because it happened so long ago. But what if John lived today? What would we think of John’s message if he began pointing out the sin in our lives and publicly calling us to repent? How would our society respond to John’s message?

Since the sin John dealt with was adultery, let’s look at the situation today. After talking with many pastors and based on my own experience, I can tell you that most of the couples who come to us to get married are already living together. In most cases, couples that come to a church realize that they’re living in sin, but figure that’ll stop once they’re married and God will forgive them. And while there is truth to that, it is also a very immature and shallow understanding of their relationship with their Savior.

When we view John from a distance, we call him a hero; but if John were to show up in our faces today and call us to repent, we’d at the very least think he was a jerk. We’d say he was cruel, uncaring, narrow-minded, bigoted, and well, you know the list. Many would no doubt want him gone. It’s all well and good for John to be faithful to his office in first century Israel, that is, long ago and far away. But many think it’s different now, people are different now, we don’t like the “in your business” kind of preacher. Calling people out for their sin publicly? Well, times have changed. And they may have, but people haven’t.

Jesus had a vision for pastors. They were to warn people of spiritual danger and then tell them about the only place of spiritual safety. As Luke records Jesus saying, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [the name of Christ] to all nations …” [Luke 24:47]. In order to proclaim repentance, a pastor must teach the people about God’s law and then tell them how they break it. A pastor must teach people that they are sinners and that the penalty for sin is eternity in hell. Pastors do this in love because they want those Christ died for to be aware of spiritual dangers, and with God’s word to guide them to a place of spiritual safety, that is the cross of Christ and the forgiveness of their sins.

Just as Herodias schemed to kill John, so also, other rulers schemed to kill Jesus. They tortured Him and then nailed Him to a cross. His death on the cross did something John’s death could never do. Jesus had lived a perfect life. He had no sin of His own. His death on the cross was totally and completely undeserved. Because Jesus died in total innocence, His blood has the power to take away the sin of the world. And not just the sins we commit, but the sin we inherited as well. All of it has been covered with the blood of the Lamb.

God gave us a sign that Christ’s death truly did paid for our sins by raising Him from the dead. Truly, Jesus is true God and true man, and death can no longer hold Him. He rose and now lives and reigns forevermore. And so, God has Himself opened up the door to eternal life with Him in heaven for all who believe in the work of His only begotten Son. What a joy it is for pastors to proclaim the victory of Christ that brings us the forgiveness of sins, and with that, the gift of eternal life and salvation.

You see, servants of God have lives that are full of great contrasts. They want all people to be in that safe place at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many people refuse to listen to the warning and chose to remain in their trespasses and sins. In others, however, the Holy Spirit is able to work faith in their heats and bring them to the safety that comes through the forgiveness of our sins.

This world is full of sin. When one of God’s servants gives you a warning, he is only doing what God has called him to do. He’s warning of the danger of sin and proclaiming the safety of faith in Jesus who died on the cross for you and then rose from the dead. The warning of God’s faithful servants is an act of love and not an act of judgment. We only want you to know and have the peace that is yours in Christ.

In His name, Amen.

Tags: Mark 6:14-29
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