Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (Lectionary 15), Year B

by Crossings

IT’S A TABLOID SUNDAY

with juicy, eye-catching headlines aplenty – sure to grab your
attention while in line at the grocery store!

 

Mark 6:14-29
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (Lectionary 15), Year B
Analysis by Chris Neumann

14King Herod heard of it [the miracles of Jesus and his disciples], 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.” 15But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

17For 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.” 19And 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. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When 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.” 24She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25Immediately 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.” 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately 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. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

From Canva

“Jesus isn’t back to execute a retaliation plan against his executioners, but rather to inexplicably breathe forgiveness and life into any and all offenders.”

DIAGNOSIS: Checking All of The Boxes: Guilt, Corruption, Cover-up, Death!

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem): Mysterious Miracle Man on the Move!
There is a lot of buzz around town. Rumors flying this way and that. Miraculous healings of children on death’s door and absurd exorcisms involving large swine herds of all things. Word is spreading that it’s even an average carpenter from little Nazareth who happens to be pulling all of this off.

Fictional royal character Tywin Lannister once suggested the lion does not concern himself with the opinions of the sheep. Apparently not true in the case of Herod. He’s shook, uptight about this Jesus character everyone is talking about. Convinced even that John the Baptist has come back to life, possessing far greater powers than ever before, and with vengeance no doubt on his mind.

All too common for me to struggle with a similar concern – this confusing Jesus character will ultimately be coming for me and with recompense on his mind. He told me to love my enemies. He told me to be perfect. No way I’m squeezing through the eye of any needle, what with the horrible things I’ve said, done, and failed to do.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem): Scandal Unfolds – Exposing Herod’s House of Horrors
Obviously traumatized by his past, Herod is certain his deeds are finally catching back up with him. After all, to this point he has done whatever is necessary to retain power in his kingdom. Whether that means taking his brother’s wife for himself, using his step-daughter as a prop to entertain guests, or even overcoming scruples in lopping off the head of John the Baptist. Herod ultimately wants whatever suits Herod at any given point in time. He is operating in an extreme state of self-preservation and gratification, willing to compound one mistake after another to keep himself in control. John preached repentance. Herod opted for a broom. Just sweep all of this under the rug and I can move on!

I choose the same when confronted with the law and my own short comings. My primary concern is my own comprehensive well-being, which I then seek to justify in self-righteousness. To be fair, I have goals and long-term aspirations. Not to mention a family to take care of, thank you. When exactly is my neighbor going to pull his socks up and start showing some ambition of his own anyways? If I’m constantly thinking about him, then how can I ever make progress and realize the personal growth I’m seeking?

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem): Feeling Burned Out? Here’s Why:
Focusing on me and me alone while sweeping everything else under the rug is entirely unsustainable. Not only will I soon trip over the growing lump, but moreover, I’m quite literally killing myself in the process. My secrets and selfish actions, along with Herod’s, have been exposed to a much higher power than the public opinions developed while paging through tabloids at the grocery checkout counter. To say that God is unimpressed by any feeble attempts to remain king over whatever domain I fancy is an understatement to say the least. In fact, God is so repulsed that he insists on my being usurped. Uncovered as a sinner and embarrassingly usurped from life itself.

From Canva

PROGNOSIS: Verdict Reversed – Crown Restored

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution): Oops! An Incredible Case of Mistaken Identity
Whether for punishment or concealment, Herod and Herodias killing off John was a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. Solely focused on their concern that he had risen to extract revenge or angry he pulled back the curtain. Meanwhile the real solution to their problems was the person they were actually hearing about, right in front of their faces, ironically even originally introduced by John himself. So important was what John was trying to convey to Herod that we hear the same proclamation every Advent. Repent!

One mightier than me comes next. Unworthy to even untie his sandal. The guy is an absolute game changer.

This of course is Jesus Christ. The same Jesus Christ drawing overwhelming attention from onlooking crowds. The same Jesus Christ who, like John, was also killed in attempt to preserve the status quo. Only dissimilar to John, Jesus really did rise from the dead, more powerful than ever. A victory over the ultimate enemy in his back pocket. Jesus isn’t back to execute a retaliation plan against his executioners, but rather to inexplicably breathe forgiveness and life into any and all offenders. God’s nonsensical, backwards plan to restore the losers he so desperately loves. A group, by the way, that very much includes me and you. Suddenly and curiously off the hook, on account of this same Jesus Christ, who makes the scandalous hook his own, even unto death.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution): Say Goodbye to Stress with this Simple Tip
Found myself wondering what would have happened had Herod relaxed and listened to John. How this story would have played out differently had Herod acknowledged the wrongs that were clearly poking his conscience and allowed forgiveness to take control.

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, I have that exact same opportunity at my disposal. To not hide from my inadequacies and selfishness. To not look to destroy anything that might implicate me as the failure I truthfully am. Instead, I get to own it, and without any grocery store tabloid level of embarrassment to boot. In fact, at the beginning of the service on Sunday, I get to publicly recognize my status as a poor, miserable sinner and once again accept the forgiveness Christ earned on my behalf.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution): Live your Best Life – Master the Basics!
Those sensational tabloid headlines often leave us shaking our heads and muttering, “yeah, right.” As in, no way on earth the slightest modicum of truth exists in that story. This remarkable gospel of ours can be as equally hard to accept. No good deed/bad deed ledger? Yeah, right. Too good to be true. I’m surrounded every day by folks thinking the same thing. A bunch of Herods that need to hear otherwise.

They need to hear that “yeah, right” is actually the appropriate response. As in “YEAH! RIGHT!” It represents the true definition of repentance, and it isn’t a bad thing. It’s a180-degree reversal in approach. In fact, repentance unequivocally lets us know we’re just fine. More than fine – when turning towards the loving arms of our savior, we end up holy and blameless in the eyes of God Almighty. So says St. Paul. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, let’s get out there and make sure others know about the mind-bending, heart-and-soul-liberating freedom we currently possess and the glorious inheritance that awaits. What a difference that would make in this broken world.

 

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