The 7th Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 10B (July 15, 2012)

Lessons:Amos 7:7-15 Psalm 85:8-13 Ephesians 1:3-14 St. Mark 6:14-29 Semicontinuous Series: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 Psalm 24

Prayer of the Day: O God, from you come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works. Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments; and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

St. Mark 6:14-29 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Admirer or Follower

Last week, in my internet devotional and in my sermon, I was wrestling with the difference between the watered-down image of Christianity that seems so pervasive these days (a Jesus too familiar to make much of a difference in our lives), and the radical call to discipleship that becomes evident when we take seriously the Jesus who is depicted in the Scriptures. This week’s Gospel lesson provides an illustration of how that distinction was troubling for some in the first century.

Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, was the “Tetrarch of Galilee” — having inherited a third of his father’s kingdom (his two brothers each received such an inheritance). In a story that is fit for a daytime soap opera, Herod Antipas had an affair with, and eventually married, his brother’s wife, Herodias. John spoke out publicly against this marriage. His claim that it was wrong for the “King of the Jews” to behave like this didn’t win many points with Herodias!

Herod was a different matter. It seems that Herod held some interest in John. Verse 20 informs us that Herod feared John, knew that he was a righteous and holy man, protected him, and (even though it made him very perplexed) liked to listen to him.

It can be inferred from these words that King Herod was one of John’s admirers. Even though John had some critical words to say regarding Herod, the king could see that there was something to this man. So he locked him up in prison. (How could he have done otherwise? John had the audacity to embarrass the king publicly.) But he protected him, and respected him, and liked to listen to him.

It is Herodias, of course, who held a deeper anger towards John, and who set the wheels in motion that lead to John’s death, and at the request of their daughter, Herod caved in. He presented her with John’s head. He shows us that he was more bound by his oath and his reputation than he was by his instincts and his sense of honor. He shows us that although he might have admired John a great deal, he was no disciple. He was willing to execute John, even if that was something he himself would not have chosen to do on his own.

Herod would play the same role again with Jesus: interested to see whether or not he would work some wonder in Herod’s presence, but ultimately willing to return Jesus to Pilate and the crowd that was calling out for his death. (St. Luke 23:6-12)

It isn’t easy to be a disciple of the One whose life ended because of his message and his ministry. Oh sure, it is easy to admire him — even to accept some of his teachings. But to be his disciple means to willingly follow him with all of our lives. To be his disciple means to risk ourselves in service to the world as he did. To be his disciple means, like John (and unlike Herod), to be willing to proclaim the truth no matter what the cost.

King Herod, although an admirer of John, was no disciple. The same could be said of his relationship to Jesus. What can be said of us?


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What intrigued Herod about John (and perhaps also about Jesus)?
  2. What pressures do you suppose Herod felt that prevented him from becoming a disciple?
  3. What might Herod have done, had he been a disciple instead of an admirer?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What do I most admire about John? About Jesus?
  2. When, in my life, have I faced the dilemma of deciding whether to admire or to follow Jesus?
  3. How can my admiration of John and Jesus become an inspiration to become a follower with my whole life?