Mark Day 6: A Birthday Goes Bad

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Gospel of Mark Reading Plan
Day 6 Reading: Mark 6

Pastor Lisa’s Journal
Scripture
The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.
- Mark 6:26 (NRSV)

Observation
Mark 6 is packed with five significant stories.

  • Jesus is amazed by the lack of faith in the people of his hometown. There’s so much scepticism that he could do very little “deeds of power” there. (vs. 1-6a)
  • Jesus sends out the twelve disciples in six groups of two to preach and to heal. They are faithful to the power and responsibility given to them. (vs. 6b-13)
  • King Herod joins others in speculating who Jesus might be. Mark takes this opportunity to show how the weakness of Herod’s character causes the death of John the Baptist. (vs. 14-29)
  • Jesus demonstrates his compassion and power by teaching and feeding the 5000 (vs. 30-44)
  • Jesus demonstrates his power yet again by walking on water and calming a storm. (vs. 45-56)

Application
How is it possible that Herod Antipater was able to accomplish significant building projects and rule for over forty years? From what we see in Mark 6:14-29, he’s an impulsive mess. Herod divorces his wife to marry his brother’s wife, Herodias. Historically, this provokes a war with her father which Herod loses. Scripturally, Herod’s actions bring condemnation from John the Baptist. Herod has John arrested, but keeps him alive for three reasons- 1) he’s afraid John’s followers will riot, 2) he recognizes John as a holy man, and 3) he likes to listen to him. (What!?! Is John like a pet or court jester to him?)

Herod throws himself a lavish birthday party with many influential guests. Herodias’ daughter, referred to as Herodias in the text and Salome in other texts, dances for him.
In art and literature, the dance of the step daughter is portrayed as highly erotic; “pleasing” the impulsive Herod so much that he makes her grand and arrogant promises as her reward.

When her daughter comes to her for advice, Herodias seizes the opportunity to have John killed.  Herodias is a master manipulator out for revenge. Upon hearing the request, Herod is more concerned about what others will think of him than the life of an innocent man. In order to keep face, he has John executed and presents his severed head to Herodias on a platter. He later wonders if Jesus is actually John back from the dead.

Herod isn’t his own person. He is fear-full, weak, easily manipulated, and impulsive. He lacks insight, a teachable spirit, and the ability to consider the consequences of
his choices. John preaches truth to Herod, yet he remains untouched.

Prayer
Holy One, your word provides us examples to follow and examples to avoid. You do not sugarcoat life, nor the consequences of foolish choices. Grant me a teachable spirit and the strength to live a faithful life, no matter the cost. In Jesus’ Name I trust and pray. Amen.

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