Few and Far Between

17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.

21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.””

26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:17-26

This is the tragic story of John’s demise. He told the truth, was tossed into prison, and was beheaded because of an oath gone wrong. It’s easy to think that King Herod Antipas was just a victim of his own promise, but killing John the Baptist might have been the plan all along. Princess Salome was old enough to realize what had occurred between her mother and King Herod Antipas and that John was in prison because he spoke out against the relationship.

Salome danced sensually before the king and his court, and knew it would please the king immensely. She also must have known that her mother was ruthless and this would be a golden opportunity to “save face”.

Historians disagree about motives in all of this though it does provide us with truth played out by millions of people in authority: all is not what it seems in Government and politicians will do what they can to “save their own skin.”

Pick a local, regional, state, or federal government. Eventually a politician will do, as the Bible says in the Old Testament, what is right in his own eyes. The longer a politician stays in power, the more ways he or she can be corrupted by power, money, or sex. The truly honest politicians are few and far between.

But God certainly knows how to tame and controls the politicians. He’s been doing it for thousands of years.

We need to pray that politicians do what is best for people and not themselves. They are human too and need God too. Pray that God will grab them and stir them like He’s never done before.

Fortunately, the God of all Creation has not been caught off guard at any of the shenanigans or corruption He sees. Pray that He will intervene in the hearts and ways of these leaders.

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A Calming Factor

14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

15 Others said, “He is Elijah.”

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” Mark 6:14-16

First we have what is happening in “real time” and then we follow that with a flashback. In Herod’s real time scenario, he is genuinely afraid.
What if, in fact, it is John the Baptist?
What could he do to me?
What kind of supernatural powers does he have since he was raised from the dead?
Why’d I promise that girl half my kingdom?

And he should be afraid, not because of John necessarily but because of his sins in general and that he killed an innocent man. If he killed John who was a well-known public figure, who else did he kill that no one knows about?

King Herod was worried, but for the wrong reasons.

He should have been more concerned about his eternal resting place.

Twenty-twenty has revealed a lot of fear in our society. Yes, politicians and the media have been a major source of that fear, and they just won’t let up. Even as I write this, people are still terrified about Covid-19. Self-preservation is at an all time high, though it’s normally thread through everything we do. It’s pronounced now.

People are consumed with not catching Covid even though the death rate is astronomically low. Again, they are constantly being told the number of cases and deaths.

Like King Herod, they’re fearing the wrong things. Fortunately, we have opportunities to show others peace and to talk about an eternal resting place that is full of peace. We, as Believers, should be the calming factor in a room full of chaos and disarray, putting people at ease, displaying the love of Christ.

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What Could Go Wrong?

8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. Mark 6:8-13

They were given the task, went out and preached, and no doubt came back and reported everything along the way. As mentioned yesterday, the task was very doable. it wasn’t as if they would have to go out for years at a time, just days perhaps.

Nervous? Very much so.

Cautious? A bit but it probably eased up the more they did preached.

With full authority from the Messiah Himself? Absolutely.

What could go wrong?

With that kind of backing, what could ever go wrong when we step out in faith and are a bit timid when we do it? Plenty could go wrong, but we have the backing of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the blessed Holy Spirit.

Now, what could go wrong?

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The First Disciple Practicum

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. Mark 6:6-7

So it began. Jesus had been teaching his disciples for some time. He was now entrusting them to go out and have authority over impure spirits. Six groups of men would be able to accomplish many more than just one man. However, it would also be a “practicum” of sorts for them.

Ministry is almost always better with two people. Ecclesiastes 4:12 states, “And though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” There’s safety in numbers, both physically and spiritually. In other words, you need to have someone else who “has your back”, so to speak, someone to be praying while you’re ministering or watching your blind spots for people who don’t have your best interests at heart.

As we’ll see in the coming days, the disciples will have gained more confidence and compassion while in the villages.

Every summer from about the age of 11 or 12 I went away one week for Boy Scout summer camp. It was one week. When I was sixteen or seventeen, I went away for six weeks to the same camp to work there. The first 2-3 years I recall being terrified, not knowing what to expect, being homesick, calling home often. During the six weeks away, I may have called home once or twice and went home two or three times. I had to go through the homesickness before I could enjoy the time where I was no longer longing for home.

Similarly, the disciples had to take baby steps into ministry before being thrust head first into the battle. A few days or so of ministry, comparing notes, and doing it all over again several times before Jesus left the earth. Jesus was acclimating them to when He would no longer be with them for good.

Even on His closest friends, Jesus had mercy. He didn’t throw them into the wolves without first giving them small tasks to accomplish first.

Thank God for His mercy.

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Not Many Miracles There

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith. Mark 6:4-6

Prophets spoke the truth no matter the personal cost to them. They knew they could be imprisoned or worse for the words that came out of their mouths. Just think of the consequences if they spoke badly about the town they grew up in, thus the verse from the Old Testament.

When most read this passage, they are stunned by verse 5: “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” It’s a funny commentary by Mark. They had faith but not a lot of it. A few people’s lives were dramatically changed, but it was just a few!

Verse six, though, is equally stunning. These people knew this man. They watched Him grow. They interacted with Him. They played with Him. These people should have known Jesus well. They didn’t find it unusual that He was a perfect little boy in the most literal sense?

Many people here in the West and a lot more around the world have had to suffer for their faith in their own home town because they have been publicly ostracized. Often, family members disown the new Believer and it goes downhill from there.

The Son of God suffered a similar fate in his home town.

Pray for those Brothers and Sisters in distant lands who experience this kind of persecution. Their entire identity is turned upside down when that happens. It’s a lonely feeling.

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