Herod Heard of It

Mark 6.14-29

 

I see you.I can see you out there kind of settling into your pew, waiting to see if Iím up to the challenge this morning, leaning back and saying to yourself, Letís see what kind of a rabbit he can pull out of this hat.

Out of this hat.Out of this passage, this passage from the Gospel of Mark, this outrageous passage, the beheading of John the Baptist.

Indeed, what have we got here?

Gross immorality is what weíve got.Herod ended his first marriage, a politically arranged affair.He ended his first marriage to the daughter of Aretas, King of the Nabataeans.Herod divorced her in order to marry Herodias, whom Mark says is Herodís brotherís wife.John the Baptist denounced this gross immorality, which is why he was thrown in prison, his denouncement having created quite a stir among the populace.

Gross immorality and boiling resentment is what weíve got.Herodias saying, How dare he?Who is this John the Baptist to question, to stir up the pot?Barely able to contain her rage, Who made him my judge?

Boiling resentment and unbounded egotism.It was his birthday and Herod, the birthday boy, threw himself a big birthday bash.He was already so full of himself but, when his daughter danced for him, such pleasure overcame him, he, with a grand sweep of his arm, Herod said to her, Ask for whatever you wish, and I will give it.As though it were all his to give.

Unbounded egotism and sheer stupidity.Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.A promise, a stupid promise, which is he is bound to keep.His daughter whispering in her motherís ear, For what should I ask?

Sheer stupidity and outright treachery is what we have.Mother whispering in daughterís ear, Ask for the head of John the Baptizer.

Outright treachery and naked violence.I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist.And I want it on a platter.Herod was grieved, but his pride and appearances were more important than someoneís head.In came the platter.On it, Johnís severed head.She gave it to her mother.Johnís followers came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

And you.I can see you out there saying to yourselves, Letís see what kind of rabbit he can pull out of this hat.

Actually, this oneís a gimme.Itís an easy putt. Sure it is.All I have to do is ask you if this is what you want.

Is it?Is this what you want?Gross immorality and boiling resentment.Unbounded egotism and sheer stupidity.Outright treachery and naked violence.Is this what you want?Do you want to be party to this?Is this the kind of world in which you wish to live?Is it?Is it what you want?

I dare say that it is not, not the kind of birthday party.

Herod heard of it, it says.The Gospel of Mark says Herod heard of it.Of what?

A word, one simple word, being sounded from village to village, town to town, around the countryside.One simple word.

Repent is the sweet sounding message.Repent, turn, are the hope-filled words being sounded in the towns, villages, out in the countryside.Like a fresh breeze, a springtime breeze, bearing the simple word, Repent.

The disciples of Jesus, two-by-two, and from town to village throughout the countryside, were casting out demons and curing the sick.And that precious word was on their lips, that gentle message, Repent.

And Herod heard it, Herod in his castle.

Herod haunted, like a Macbeth haunted by Banquoís ghost.Herod, haunted by his birthday party, the egotism and stupidity, the immorality, the treachery, the violence, cries out madly, John, whom I beheaded has been raised.

And all I need to do is ask you if this is what you want, if this is your idea of a birthday party.

Is it what you want?Do you wish to be party to something like that?Do you want to live out your days in a world like that?Egotism and stupidity, immorality and resentment, treachery and violence?

No?You would just as soon not?Then listen.The followers of Jesus, two-by-two, from village to village, casting out demons and curing the sick, listen to these.A sweet word is on their lips.Repent.

Repent.Turn.Turn your back.Turn your back and walk away.Repent.

I know.I know.Coming from the lips of some, this simple word sounds harshly.Judgment, a do or die kind of sound and tone.

But it is a sweet word, a gentle message, precious.It is a springtime word, a breeze breathing hope.

The disciples, the followers of Jesus, from village to village, all around the countryside.Sent by him two-by-two, and bearing his message.Repent.Turn.Turn your back and walk away from Herodís little kingdom. For the time is full and the kingdom of God is near.Repent.Repent and believe this good news.Believe.Believe again.You can believe again.

And they did.A crowd of them.Itís the very next thing we read in the Gospel of Mark, how a great multitude came to him, some five thousand men and thatís not counting women and children, turning and leaving Herod and his kingdom.

And he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

No.No, there was no banquet hall.He had them sit down on the green grass, green pastures.

And no.No, they didnít have much.Five loaves of bread and a couple of fish is all.Still, a table is spread.

He took the bread.He blessed it.He broke it.And he gave it to the disciples to set before all the people.

It is said that there were twelve baskets of crumbs left over.

Or not.Maybe not.After all, there are Herods aplenty and afoot in this world.

If not Herod, then maybe Pilate is the name.And the immorality of it.And the resentment, the egotism, the stupidity. The treachery.Pilate asking, What do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?

Then came the violence.Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Joseph of Arimathea came and took his body and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb.

And there are.There are Herods and Pilates aplenty and afoot in this world.

And treachery, stupidity, egotism . . . Oh, you get the idea.And violence.

But again I ask you.I ask you, is this what you want?Do you wish to live out your days in this kind of world?

No?You would rather not?Then listen.Listen for that sweet word, that word of hope, that word full of springtime.

Listen for that word whispering on a breeze, breathing hope.The one whom God raised from the dead whispering in your ear, Repent.Repent and believe this good news.

 

Neal Kentch, Cottage Way Christian Church, July 12, 2009