07142021 – Mark 6.14-29
This is not about the Baptizer. Although you could never tell by the bulletin cover. Well, it is, and it is not…
The Gospel is about Jesus Christ, whom God sent – to free us from our sins.
The last line of our pericope really got to me. “When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.” Hmmm…
I know that there are all kinds of connections here.
John being first.
John was not “the light.”
John too, had his own set of disciples.
John sets the stage.
John is the forerunner, the advance man…who points beyond himself.
Jesus being second.
He “was” the light. The Messiah. The Son of God. Both guys were holy. Both guys were considered righteous. Both originally preached the self-same message, that being, that the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near. Repent and believe in the good news. Both of them represented a “BACK TO GOD” kind of movement. Both were handed over to the political powers. Both suffered the same fate – that being death…one being decapitated and the other, crucified. Both suffered horrendous deaths.
Jesus does not make his first initial appearance on the scene until John is imprisoned.
Yes, they were related.
Yes, they were cousins.
Yes, they were both pawns in the hands of the powers-that-be.
Yes, they were both accused of trying to upset, change, or alter the status quo.
Yes, they were both perceived to be a threat.
The “religious elite” – “the Jerusalem elite” found both of them to be antagonistic…and wanted them silenced.
So, the death of the baptizer foreshadows the death of the messiah.
The basic story initially comes from the gospel of Mark, the first to be written.
If you will remember, the Gospel of Mark is Simon Peter’s eye-witness account of Jesus’ life. When it was written – it was one of a kind. Gospels or good news accounts did not exist prior to this.
So, the Gospel of Mark is filled with luscious, spicy details that enhance the story. We get the SLANT of ol saint Pete.
Peter would not have been at the Fortress of Macherus – the prison, so it is secondhand material rather than firsthand.
Macherus had a panoramic view of the Dead Sea and of Palestine. It looked out over the area where John preached, baptized, and stayed in the caves along the Dead Sea. Incidentally, this was the area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1946.
It must have been an eye-opening moment for Peter as he retold the story to John Mark. It was the kind of story that leaves a lump in your throat. Or should have…
Incredibly hard to tell. Without saying so, Peter knew that the disciples of John were “deeply grieved” when they came and “requested John’s body.”
Imagine them being forced to carry his torso and his separated skull. Imagine the horror of the look in his and their eyes.
Peter must have been recalling the grief and the anguish that the eleven disciples felt and suffered when Jesus died. Imagine a lump in the throat of old saint Peter. Maybe even finding it difficult to continue…
You see, John’s disciples did not run, they did not flee, they did not hide behind locked doors in fear and trembling. They stuck by their master.
John’s disciples asked for their master’s body. They buried him. They laid him in a tomb. They no doubt had been waiting watch outside of the Fortress Macherus awaiting John’s outcome. God only knows how long they stayed there and camped out keeping watch and waiting.
Peter and the eleven could not say the same thing. They could not wait with Jesus even for one hour, while he prayed in the Garden.
They ran, they hid, they were afraid. John was never abandoned. Jesus’ disciples fled into the night.
As told by Mark he connected the story about the beheading of John with the previous story about Jesus being rejected in his own hometown synagogue. Jesus knew rejection. A Lot of rejection. Jesus was actually run out of town.
And as we know even his disciples rejected and abandoned him, with Peter saying, he did not even know the man!
A prophet is not accepted in his own town…and sometimes by his own people…and sometimes, even by his own students or disciples…
And there is that lump in the throat again…Abandoned, rejected, and left to die on the cross alone.
And Jesus continues to be rejected to this very day, over and over and over again… Amen.