Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Mark 6:14-29
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Analysis by Steven E. Albertin

14King 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.” 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.

Author’s Note: This analysis uses the absurd analogy of driving a car by looking through the rear-view mirror instead of driving a car by looking through the windshield. The disastrous consequences of trying to drive a car like this are as obvious as trying to live life without the Promise of Christ.

DIAGNOSIS: Deadly Driving

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) :  Looking through the Rear-View Mirror
We all regret things we have done in the past and often cannot seem to shake them. It is like driving down the road when you suddenly run over something. Thump! That sounded bad. What was that? We look in the rear-view mirror and see someone’s pet limping off the road. We did not want to do that! Feeling guilty we cannot stop looking through the rear-view mirror. However, that is no way to drive a car . . . . or live your life. We continually hit bumps in the road that remind us of our misdeeds of the past and how we cannot escape their deadly consequences.

Herod suffered a similar affliction. He could not escape the haunting presence of John. He could not stop looking through the rear-view mirror. He was fascinated with John even though John was openly critical of his marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias. Manipulated by his wife into murdering John and delivering his head on a platter, he thought he had forever silenced John and put the past behind him. Now he hears about Jesus and his preaching of repentance and he wonders if John has come back from the dead to haunt him again. Both regretting and fearing his past, he cannot get his eyes out of the rear-view mirror.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) : Running the Red Light
Drunk with power and pride, Herod had arrogantly assumed that he could do anything he wanted. He thought he could “run the red light” with impunity. He trusted no one but himself, but that was an illusion. He thought he could silence John by throwing him in prison. His conscience was still haunted. He thought he was an absolute ruler who could do as he pleased. However, his devious wife manipulated him into doing something he did not really want to do. In order to meet her demands, save his own face and put the whole John affair behind him, he gives his wife and daughter John’s head on a platter.

Even then he discovers that he cannot continue running the red light. He is not an absolute ruler in charge of his life. When he hears Jesus’ preaching of repentance, again he is reminded of his crime against John. Again, he is compelled to look in the rear-view mirror. He is scared that he will have to pay for his misdeeds and misplaced trust.

We share Herod’s plight. Regardless of how much we think that we are in charge and can do as we please, that we can “run the red light” with impunity, sooner or later some voice from the past or bump in the road sneaks up on us. We cannot stop looking in the rear-view mirror. We seem unable to move beyond the haunting sins of the past.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) : Crashing
We cannot drive safely down the road with our eyes fixed in the rear-view mirror without crashing. We cannot run the lights with impunity thinking that there is no piper to pay. No one gets out alive. God will not be mocked by such deity pretenders. Herod discovered that. Eventually he and his wife were both exiled by Rome for their affair and the political and military conflict that resulted. They died in obscurity. The same fate awaits us who live our lives looking in the rear-view mirror.

PROGNOSIS: Safely Driving

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) : 911!
In the mangled wreckage of the crash, a siren sounds. Herod thought it was John coming to make him pay. However, this is not the siren of the police rushing to ticket him for running a red light. This is not John returning to make him pay for the past he sought to flee. This is the siren of a first responder coming to rescue him . . . . and us from the mess we created. This is Jesus preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God. Even though Herod rejected Jesus, God still offers Jesus and the good news of his kingdom to all.

God in Jesus won’t let dead dogs lie. God will not simply write off the past as if it never happened. God in Jesus digs up the past we want to forget, not to throw it in our face but to bear it and its bloody consequences for us all the way to the cross and empty tomb. In exchange, God offers us Jesus and gives us his head (that is, his body and blood) on a platter at his table and the new future and life it brings to us.

Therefore, when we hit a bump in the road, when we are reminded of the past that we want to forget, and we look in the rear-view mirror, we don’t see John the Baptist who has come to make us pay for our past but Jesus who has come to rescue us and set us free. Jesus redeems our haunted past and makes it new. That changes everything.

Step 5: Advance Prognosis (Internal Solution) : Getting the Green Light
No longer afraid to be exposed, able to face the truth about the rubble of our past, we no longer have to silence the voices we fear. We no longer have to “cut off the heads” of those who have the dirt on us. In repentance and faith we get the green light. We can confidently move forward with our lives trusting the green light God has given us in Jesus. We get to look to the future fearlessly and unafraid trusting that our sins are forgiven and that the cursed consequences of the past are undone.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) : Looking through the Windshield
Now we can drive safely, no longer trying to drive forward by looking backward through the rear-view mirror but instead driving—that is, living our lives—the way God meant them to be lived: looking through the windshield, toward the future, unencumbered by the past, trusting the promise of the risen Christ.

Instead of silencing our critics, “cutting off the heads” of those who accuse us and finding ourselves like Herod, utterly alone and exiled, . . . . .we can create a new world, giving ourselves away for others no longer expending our energy in covering up, paying back and getting even. Unlike Herod and his ilk, we can listen to criticism, make appropriate changes and even forgive those who are our enemies.


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