Mark 6:26-27 “(King Herod) was greatly distressed, but because of his oath and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her (Herodias’ dancing daughter). So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head on a platter…”
What kind of a rating would today’s Gospel reading (Mark 6:14-29) receive if it were made into a movie? “The Passion of the Christ” was Rated R – wouldn’t this story also be rated R? We read today from the Gospel of Mark of the tragic death of John, the Baptizer – a gory and terrible story, but A MOST IMPORTANT LESSON for us, as John knew the real danger; he “kept his head” spiritually and faithfully to God’s Word – even though he “lost his head” physically because of the foolishness and misuse of political power of unrepentant sinners. John was bold in speaking the truth of God’s Word, even when it was not “politically correct” and when it was dangerous to his well-being! John spoke out condemning the adultery of Herod and his brother’s wife, Herodias – (Mark 6:19-20) “Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 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.” (God’s Word was having an effect on Herod! But sadly, not enough to change him.) John knew the real danger – Herod and Herodias certainly did not!
Herodias seized the chance – Herod’s foolish promise when her daughter danced for Herod and his guests / and Herod’s concern of what his guests would think – led Herod to compound his sinfulness by ordering John beheaded – all because John spoke the truth of God’s Word. (What about today: with the rejection of God’s clear Word on morality in our nation; with the recent ungodly and immoral decision of same-sex marriages; legality of abortion and life issues; threat of loss of job if Jesus’ name is proclaimed; the demand for tolerance in all things – what might we expect if we are not “politically correct” at work, at public forums, in every area of our lives? What is the real danger?)
John did not fear Herod, the religious leaders, nor the consequences of speaking the truth. He most certainly did not want to die, but that did not prevent him from speaking the Truth of God’s Word. Jesus tells us, too, (Matthew 10:28) “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
John knew the real danger; he “kept his head” spiritually and faithfully to God’s Word – even though he “lost his head” physically. How interesting, as the Apostle Paul wrote to young Pastor Timothy, (and God’s Word to us especially in our day!) 2 Timothy 4:1 “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge:  Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; (when it’s popular and accepted, but especially when it isn’t popular nor accepted) correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  But you, keep your head in all situations…”
Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick, a preacher many years ago, told of a woman who heartily shouted “Amen!” in agreement to every sin he was preaching against. But when he came to the sin of gossip, she stomped out of the church, saying, “Now he’s stopped preaching and gone to meddling!”
We must never soften any controversial Words of God (although that is certainly the easier, most popular way.) Many today think it is “meddling” to speak out against living together before marriage; against the homosexual lifestyle; against abortion; gambling; drunkeness and in the church against “open Communion” and the differences between church denominations.
God, in His grace, gives us both Law and Gospel. The purpose of the Law is to point out the Real Danger of sin and the need for change because God knows what is best for us and for our society. And until the Law does it’s work of pointing out sin and God’s wrath if we continue in sin; there is no message of forgiveness in the Gospel – only condemnation. But it is God’s desire that we repent and turn from our sin.
A woman was threatened with being evicted because she was six months behind on her payments. Other bills had accumulated. Her utilities had been turned off. The sheriff was due to move her out. There was a knock at her door, but the woman refused to answer it. The knocking persisted for a while, but finally it stopped. The next day, the sheriff came and forced open the door. “Ma’am,” he said, “you should have opened your door yesterday. Your neighbors collected enough money to pay your bills and came to give it to you. When you didn’t answer, the landlord said he couldn’t wait any longer.” (Hanson, Mk.6:7-13, 7/21/85)
Whenever the truth of God’s Word is told, especially the Law, pointing out the real danger of living contrary to God’s will, God is knocking at the door. Although He could easily “force the door open,” He never does. He tells us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and He with Me.” (Revelation 3:20) Jesus invites us to “eat with Him”, to BE FED daily with His Word and to be fed “often” with His true body and true blood, in the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith. He invites us in order that we might “know the truth and be set free by the truth” (John 8:32); and in our everyday lives, to boldly speak the truth of God’s Word with our words and our actions in our world that needs to know about Jesus!
It is no surprise, for God’s Word tells us: “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
God set aside John to speak the TRUTH of God’s Word to those who didn’t want to hear it; and God equips and sends out you and me – not to be popular (there will always be those who do NOT want to hear God’s Word) but to be faithful proclaimers – for the sake of the salvation of others – proclaiming the truth of God’s Word, both Law and Gospel as God does His mighty work of rescuing and saving people through His Word from the Real Danger: as James ends his letter: “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)
God’s blessings and safety from “the real danger” of living apart from Jesus, His Word and Sacraments.
See you in worship this weekend!