Wednesday, 7 February 2024 The Rev’d Peter Moth

 

Wednesday, 7 February 2024

St Mark 6: 14 – 29

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.’  But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’  But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’ 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.  For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 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. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.  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.’  And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’  She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’  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.’  The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.  Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison,  brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother.  When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

 

Reflection

As Mark tells the story, this seems a strange interlude in the beginnings of Jesus’s ministry. Mark, usually eager to press on with the story of Jesus, with his constant repetition of “straightway” as he urges the disciples on from one parable to the next while the increasing crowds gathering to him are hard-pressed to get a meal, never mind a rest. Mark tells the story of John’s death almost in the style of the Arabian Nights – a tale of gossip and intrigue, death and disaster, set in the sumptuous surroundings of Herod the Tetrarch’s palace. No, it’s not the Herod who massacred the infants at Bethlehem. It’s Herod the Tetrarch, Ruler of Galilee. Disentangling the relationships of the Herods and their various wives is quite a task, which I shall not undertake here. Sufficient to say that it was complicated and broke at least 2 of the 10 Commandments! 

John Baptist protested – loudly – he was not given much to silence! Herod, fascinated by John, but fearful of his rabble-rousing qualities arrests him, and the tragic outcome has been immortalised  by Mark, followed by Matthew and then briefly mentioned in Luke. The historian Josephus tells us that the young girl’s name was “Salome”, immortalised by Strauss and Wilde in music and drama. What a strange tale for a Gospel writer to offer. It is there as a reminder that power corrupts, that Jesus understood this and made sure that he would not be tainted by it. He remained with the people and not the Princes.

What Mark tells us is that power and politics, deceit and adultery, money and profit do not open the door to the Kingdom of Heaven which belongs to the poor and is where those who mourn shall be comforted.

Prayer

Strengthen us O God, to relieve the oppressed,
to hear the groans of poor prisoners,
to reform the abuses of all professions;
that many be made not poor to make a few rich;
for Jesus Christ’s sake.  Amen.

Oliver Cromwell

 

 

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Peter Moth  retired minister and TV executive St Andrew’s Church Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne

 

 

Copyright

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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