Mark 6:14-29 An Excursus on John the Baptist
Well this is awkward! Jesus sends the twelve out on their first mission, He even equips them with authority over unclean spirits (6:7), and right in the middle of it, our narrator, John Mark, takes us on a seemingly out of place journey of distraction to tell us the story of the death of John the Baptist!
It starts innocently enough. King Herod had heard of it. And we return momentarily to the question of who is Jesus (from 4:41)? It is here that we find that King Herod’s take on the question is that Jesus is in fact John the Baptist, “whom I beheaded, has been raised” from the dead (v. 16). Wait a minute – John is dead?!? Well I guess now Mark is going to have to tell us how that came about! Well Herod’s wife, Herodias, was no fan of John since he had confronted them for their sexual immorality (v. 18). So that’s how John ended up in Herod’s prison. But how did he end up dead? Because Herod was afraid to lay a hand on John believing him to be “a righteous and holy man” (v. 20).
Well you probably know the story. Herod threw a big bash, schmoozing all of his friends and fellow big wigs. Herodias’ daughter danced for the boys and well I’m guessing it went beyond PG-13! Because Herod made a foolish vow to give the girl “whatever you wish” (v. 22). Pride comes before a fall folks. It would appear that Herodias had a plan all along because John the Baptist’s head ends up on a platter without his body attached (v. 27).
You may have noticed it been a few weeks since I posted to this series. To be honest, I got kinda stuck on this. Call it writer’s block or whatever. What does this have to do with discipleship? What are the twelve supposed to glean about following Jesus from this? After all they’re out there havin’ a good time casting out demons and healing the sick, just as Jesus had instructed them to. And then along came Tim Keller…
Seriously though, I was reading through his Lent devotional on the YouVersion Bible App, and I had a breakthrough. You see Keller took me back to the very beginning of our story in Mark 1:1-20: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1). “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance” (1:4). You see, Jesus took over right where John left off:
after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the good news saying the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news! (Mark 1:14-15)
“Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17)
The very same charge that the Master calls you and I to today – Follow Me!
But now back to our story (in chapter 6). Why the excursus? Is it becoming clearer now? Discipleship is about following the Rabbi. Discipleship means being sent! Being a disciple means living life on mission. Remember when Jesus was preparing the 12 for their mission how we hinted that His rejection at Nazareth was preparing them for the tough road ahead – resistance to the good news message. What better picture of suffering for the mission of God than the execution of Jesus’ cousin and forerunner – John the Baptizer.
When his (John’s) disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb (Mark 6:29)
Let’s face it folks. If you’re going make a decision to dedicate your life to making disciples of Jesus you’re going to face resistance. If you’re going to live life on mission for God, you’re going to face some suffering just like the Master. If you’re going get into the business of casting out demons, you’re going to have a target on your back! Do it anyway. I am absolutely convinced that if we don’t start to make disciples who make more disciples, then we are never going to accomplish the Great Commission! Disciples not only follow Jesus, but teach others how to follow Him too!
“And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” – Jesus (Matt. 28:20, NIV)