Ash Wednesday, February 22nd. Mark 6:14-29

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. 18 For 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, 20 for 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.” 23 And 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, 28 brought 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. Mark 6:14-29


Today is Ash Wednesday.  Our walk through Mark has taken us, on this day of all days, to the story of the death of John the Baptizer.  We haven’t heard from John since Mark 1:14 where his arrest is reported as the first clause in the sentence where Jesus preaches his first sermon.  Now we know what happened.


Herod Antipas, a cruel Roman puppet who had been given the central region of Israel by his father, Herod the Great, beheaded John the Baptist to save face because of a drunken promise to his daughter who had danced to please the party goer’s at a birthday party Herod threw for himself.  He had easy access to John because Herod had been holding him in prison, at his wife’s insistence, since John criticized Herod for stealing his brother’s wife.


Read that paragraph again a few times and let the utter dysfunctional depravity of it sink in.  John, the long promised forerunner of the Messiah, was brutally murdered because a drunken king couldn’t stand the nagging of his wife, whom he had stolen from his brother.


Given that we are reading this on Ash Wednesday, knowing that before today is over we will receive the mark of our mortality on our foreheads, we need to hear three things from this story.


First, if we believe that government, our government, any government, will be our savior then we are most to be pitied.  Our government might be of the people, by the people, for the people – but it is still about people.  It is and will always be about power and position and privilege and ever capable of the most heinous acts of evil.


Second, the strange thing about this text is that Herod was actually interested in John.  The text says “for 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.”  Understand this – the most powerful force that blunts the Christian message in the world today isn’t paganism or non-Christian religions, it is instead far too many nominal Christians who are “interested” in the faith but hold themselves back from going all in.


I see this in myself all the time.  I know what is right but I don’t do it.  I know what I feel compelled to say but I hold back.  I know the priorities I want to live my life by but I allow other priorities to elbow their way in.  I know the person I want to be but I keep seeing the person in the mirror that I am.  I’m no better than Herod but I long for the faith of John.


So lastly, let’s just close with this.  When we gather in worship later today, we will be given opportunity to confess.  To acknowledge before God and those around us that we have sold out, by what we have done and by what we have failed to do.  We’ll be reminded again that our faith is about what we give, not about what we get.  It is about Jesus and Jesus’ way of being in the world, not about us and our preferred ways of being in the world.  So we will be invited to surrender.  To remember.  To repent.  To return.  To be, yet again, born again to a new way of being.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, how amazing that we look at the darkness and brokeness of our lives in this fallen world and remember that you haven’t rejected us but in fact have embraced us in your death and resurrection.  Come to us again this day, recreate us, that the light of your love might shine through us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


3 Responses to “Ash Wednesday, February 22nd. Mark 6:14-29”

  1. briangigee Says:

    Kerry, your work is noted. Your heart is seen and heard Remember the first cross on your forehead can never be rubbed off. Me, too. And so in our brokenness and scarred up lives we have inside of us the perfect power of God to continue to serve into God’s preferred future.

    I’m giving up not having coffee with you lately for Lent. Let’s go do it.


  2. Shari J. Says:

    Thank you for such a good reminder today of our mortality! It is sobering to think about the fragility of our mortal flesh and our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

    I needed this message today: “I’m no better than Herod but I long for the faith of John.” And, I am so thankful for God’s grace!

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    […]Ash Wednesday, February 22nd. Mark 6:14-29 « Daily Devotions[…]…

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