Mark: According to
The Cost of the Gospel
I would like to skip over the next section of Mark because it has always made me sad. Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest prophet and world had ever seen, yet John suffers a cruel death at the hands of a jealous woman and her daughter.
Within the narrative of Mark’s story of Jesus, by the time we get to verse 14 of chapter six, John had already been put to death by Herod Antipas, who is son of Herod the Great, who not only rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem, but also commanded all male children under two years of age to be killed. Why would Herod the Great do this? Because he was jealous that another was born who was being called by the wise men from the East, for they came looking for the New Born King of the Jews.
Now, the territory east of the Jordan river was under the dominion of Herod Antipas. And talk about dysfunctional families, Herod Antipas was married to his brother Phillip’s wife.
Herod (Antipas) had listened to the preaching of John the Baptist and had been greatly moved toward repentance by the force of his words. But Herodias hated John because John had boldly told Herod that he had sinned by taking as his wife the wife of his brother Philip. Therefore, she determined to have John killed but as Mark points out, Herod respected John because he knew that John was a just and holy man and although he had john thrown in Jail, he protected John. Records show that often Herod would visit John while he was in prison. Herod even attempted to break the relationship between himself and his brother’s wife. This just fueled the hatred that Herodias felt toward John, consequently she was all the more determined to kill John.
The beheading of John the Baptizer is less about his story and more about the story of Herod. It is an example of what can happen when we hear and do not accept the gospel message. Eventually others take control or continue to keep control over us using these unhealthy relationships to their advantage. The reality is all relationships that are fueled by selfish desires are unhealthy and will lead to destruction. Not only in their lives but in the lives of those they control.
It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that this cycle of selfishness can be broken. Yes, in others, but more importantly in our own lives. The only person or thing that we should ever submit to is the love of Christ that should wash over us, when we realize the unselfishness he displayed when he died upon the cross.
This story regarding the end of John the Baptizer has always bothered me, but there is another reason this story is shred with you and me. Often, we are taught that because we follow Christ, our way will be easy. We say and have heard, “Give your heart to Christ and all your troubles will over.” But the story of John is a story of faith being tested, accepting the position we are placed in and no matter the position we are placed in to continue to call other to repentance. Because sin entered the world so many years ago, there is no guarantee that we will live in paradise, the only guarantee is that when we live by faith, complete faith in our heavenly Father and Jesus sacrifice on the cross, then we have a guarantee that our names will be written in the book of life. But with faith as John called out upon the wilderness and was re-echoed by Jesus, that faith must accompanied by repentance.
God offered to us all repentance before we ever had a chance to confess. That is the type of God he is, forgiveness comes before we confess and our test of faith comes in accepting that forgiveness by faith and upon acceptance of that forgiveness by faith, then confessing and believing that out sins are truly forgiven.
But because of a sinful world, the path of faith is never easy, but by keeping our eyes on Christ, He will light our path showing us how the victory can be won. Will you by faith accept that Jesus is the messiah and that your sins are forgiven. It is by faith that we accept that forgiveness. It is by faith we accept that our sins upon confession are forgiven.
It is by faith that we live.
Picture of John the Baptist in prison used by permission of John the Baptist In Prison – From Jesus Film Project