The Life of Christ - On the Job Training (3) - Wednesday, February 14th

The Life of Christ - On the Job Training (3) - Wednesday, February 14th

And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.” But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!” For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him. A strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” Immediately she came in a hurry to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about this, they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:14-29

Today's thoughts from today's verses:

Early in our series we were introduced to John the Baptist and it was said of him that he would “Make ready the way of the Lord.” We were told that in his preaching he said, “After me one is coming one who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.” It was noted that these words also occur in each of the other three Gospels. It was also noted that the Gospel of John includes words of John the Baptist that express a similar thought, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

We then saw that John was taken into custody and that Jesus began preaching the gospel of God in Galilee at this point. With John’s imprisonment comes a set of things that happen to him that very graphically depict his decrease. Today’s passage gives us the detail of what happened to John the Baptist. It is not likely that John knew ahead of time that things would go south for him in the way that they did nor that he would be so thoroughly out of the picture so soon after Jesus began his earthly ministry.

It is interesting that the author of the Gospel of Mark chooses to tell his readers about the death of John the Baptist at this juncture. It actually occurs in the text between where we are told the apostles are sent out and where we are told they return and report to Jesus. Today’s passage about John the Baptist’s death begins with these words, “And King Herod heard of it, for his name (Jesus Christ) had become well known.” Perhaps, it is the combination of the ministry of Jesus and his sent ones that has made the name of Jesus Christ well known. The Gospel of Luke has the sent ones of Jesus returning and saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name.”

The name of Jesus Christ and all his miraculous powers become well known even to King Herod. This leads him and many others to conclude that Jesus is John the Baptist, raised from the dead. We saw yesterday that after the apostle’s sent out experience was concluded, they and Jesus went away by boat to a secluded place to rest. The Gospel of Matthew adds some additional insight about their withdrawal with these words, “Now when Jesus heard about John, he withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place.” So, we see that in the mix of all that is happening here is the grief Jesus and the apostles are experiencing with the martyrdom of John the Baptist. John was Jesus’ cousin. John was the one who prepared the way for Jesus. Jesus and John were very closely connected. This was a painful loss for Jesus.

It is also a reality check for the apostles. They are closely connected to Jesus and being closely connected to Jesus is evidently very risky business. Having just returned from going out in the name of Jesus Christ their risk exposure is quite high. This is certainly great preparation for them in all that they will face after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ when they take the gospel everywhere and suffer for it.

Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

Lord, grant me the boldness to live my life fully in the name of Jesus Christ. I certainly don’t anticipate martyrdom, but as your follower I want you to know I am willing to follow you anywhere, even into death and martyrdom. It is all about you, Lord, and I want my life to count fully for the sake of your name and your glorious kingdom. Amen!

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