Seventh Sunday in Pentecost

Mark 16: 14-29

This is not a very exciting gospel from which to extrapolate a sermon. Herod Antipas, Herodias, Salome and John the Baptist take center stage. Dramas, short stories, books and operas have been written about this. There is very little good news here. And John’s head being brought to the king on a platter is the gruesome visual picture derived from it. Many paintings have been inspired by the event.

So why would Mark put this story in his gospel? Herodias and Salome are only mentioned once in the gospels, all about this same incident.

What should we make of this?

Is the point that like Herod, once we make a promise we should always abide by it? Or, we all may decisions. Some are good and some are not. When we discover we have made the wrong decision, turn around and acknowledge the fact that it was a bad decision and don’t follow through with the action portion of the decision. Or, don’t let the power you have take control of you and turn you into an evil, self seeking person! Or, know that when you speak out against authorities and their wrongdoings, count on being punished! Perhaps even beheaded!

John criticized Herod for taking his brother Philips’ wife and marrying her. He denounced him for that activity and for divorcing his beautiful Arabian princess spouse so that he could marry Herodias. As a result, Herodias was especially angry with him and sought every possible way to have him put to death. Herod, on the other hand, liked listening to John the Baptist, and knowing that Herodias sought to kill John, put John in prison so that he would be protected from her.

However, Herod’s birthday party changed all that and Herodias got her wish through her daughter Salome. Salome danced a very seductive dance at Herod’s party and he was so taken that he promised to give her whatever she wished, even if it meant giving half of his kingdom. Salome told her mother Herodias about the request and Herodias told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Herod did not want to grant that request and so surprised by it. However he had sworn an oath so decided he had to stick by his promise and delivered her request.

It is said that from that day on, Herod was in deep anguish and regret about his decision and was tormented deeply.

In the end, Justice was not done because power had corrupted Herod.

John suffered death at the hands of an unjust king. Jesus later also would suffer persecution and death because he spoke the truth to the leaders both religious and political of his day.

We are reminded that being in the fellowship of faith, we are called upon to do justice and speak out against political and religious atrocities
of our day. We too can count on suffering persecution and yes even death for our commitment to the will of God in our lives. People like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Kai Munk are examples as well as Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Nelson Mandela and many more.

When we live in the will of God for our lives and call others to justice as well we will experience difficulty but we will always have peace of mind.

God bless all of you as you seek to do justice!