Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Feast of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptizer: A Devotional Commentary

Romans 6:1-5 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism to death, that just like Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be part of his resurrection;

Mark 6:14-29 King Herod heard this, for his name had become known, and he said, “John the Baptizer has risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” Others said, “He is a prophet, or like one of the prophets.” But Herod, when he heard this, said, “This is John, whom I beheaded. He has risen from the dead.” For Herod himself had sent out and arrested John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for he had married her. For John said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias set herself against him, and desired to kill him, but she couldn’t, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he did many things, and he heard him gladly. Then a convenient day came, that Herod on his birthday made a supper for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and those sitting with him. The king said to the young lady, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” He swore to her, “Whatever you shall ask of me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” She went out, and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” She said, “The head of John the Baptizer.” She came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptizer on a platter.” The king was exceedingly sorry, but for the sake of his oaths, and of his dinner guests, he didn’t wish to refuse her. Immediately the king sent out a soldier of his guard, and commanded to bring John’s head, and he went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the young lady; and the young lady gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard this, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.

Jesus said that among those born of women there was none greater than John the Baptist. There was no greater prophet. John did not live like a "great" man. He lived in the wilderness eating locusts and wild honey and he was eventually thrown into prison and beheaded. Such is the life of a "great" man in the kingdom of God because such is the life of the King of the kingdom. John spent his adult life pointing us to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. John preached the harsh realities of the law and for his preaching of the law he was thrown into prison and eventually beheaded. We don't like the truth. When our sins are exposed for what they are, even our most obvious ones, we react defensively and try to shut-up the whistleblower. Most of us don't have the legal power to execute the whistleblower and so instead we avoid or maybe even slander the whistleblower. But our avoidance and our slander d0 not make our sins any less real. Beheading John the Baptizer did not make the sin of Herod any less real.

Herod knew this. Herod's fear increased after executing John the Baptizer. When Herod heard of Jesus he thought Jesus was John the Baptizer raised from the dead. Herod was afraid because he committed sin against a mere man. He should have been more of the judgment of God. Hiding and denial are absolutely useless before God. Jesus did raise the dead and did rise from the dead Himself. Jesus died for Herod's sins of adultery and murder just like He died for your adultery and your murder. The death of John the Baptizer atoned for noone's sins but the death of Jesus atoned for John the Baptizer's sins and your sins.

You have been baptized into Christ Jesus. You have become a partaker in His death. You will also be part of His resurrection.

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