Know the Generosity of God…and never thirst! (John 4)

The Great Struggle

Mark 6:14-29

14King Herod heard of [the disciples’ preaching,] 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.” 15But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
  17For 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. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for 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. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When 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.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25Immediately 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.” 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.


One thing that I feel sure of these days is that the things that are happening in our communities, our country and in the world today, is a matter of life and death – The way that we – “we” meaning – our humanity, – the way that we treat each other is a salvation issue.  

In other words, our country, and our world – face a great struggle – a tension between what is right and what is wrong – good and evil – light and dark – power and the powerless – love and hate – the just and the unjust – and many times, the confrontation of political power and prophetic faith – and yet every single time when there is conflict, struggle, and suffering – there is always a revelation.  Something is always revealed.

For example, did you know…that human trafficking happens globally.  Human trafficking has become and is modern-day slavery.  

  • 600,000 to 800,00 women, children and men are bought and sold across international borders every year and exploited for forced labor or commercial sex.
  • Approximately 80% are women and children bought, sold, and imprisoned in the underground sex service industry.
  • The average age of a victim that enters into trafficking is 11-14 years old.
  • The average lifespan of a victim is 7 years.  They are usually found dead from attack, abuse, HIV and other STD’s, malnutrition, overdose or suicide.

The impact of human trafficking 

  • has surpassed the illegal sale of arms
  • Victims of child trafficking can be used and abused over and over
  • 4.5 million trafficked victims are sexually exploited

In fact, sex buyers are far more complicit in the victimization of sex trafficking victims.  Sex tourism and child pornography have become worldwide industries, facilitated by technologies such as the internet, which vastly expand the choices available to pedophiles and permit instant and nearly undetectable transactions.

Human traffickers have the ability to recognize those who are most vulnerable – those who have been sexually abused, those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, and/or have come from poverty and have lived in abusive family systems.  

In other words, it is those who are weak and innocent – who are more often than not, children, who suffer in this tension – this is the great struggle between good and evil, in our communities, our country and the world that we find ourselves living in day-after-day.  

And yet, in this great struggle – the tension between evil and good, there is always a revelation.  

It then begs the question, “In this great struggle, what is it that is being revealed?”  

We see it in our story today the stark contrast between good and evil and right and wrong.  There are two main characters – King Herod and John the Baptist.

In this story we – you and me, are forced to gaze into the world of corruption, power, and lust – 

We are forced to face a world that is in opposition to the innocent – a world where injustice and brutal power prevail.

Jesus is becoming poplar – perhaps even a household name in the community.  John the Baptist has been executed and King Herod is wondering if Jesus is John that has been raised from the dead.  Right of the bat, without even reading the rest of the story, King Herod sounds as if he feels a little guilty about what happened to John.  

The king liked John and listened to the words spoken by John.  And even though John was imprisoned, the king did all that he could to protect John.  However, it reached a point where he could no longer protect him.

The king had an affair and married his very own brother’s wife – in which apparently, his brother and brother’s wife had a beautiful daughter.  This would now make this daughter, whose name is Herodias, King Herod’s stepdaughter.  

Oh, and she is beautiful because on the night of the king’s birthday party, she steps in and begins to dance for the guests.  King Herod is lusting for her!  And he makes her an offer that she cannot refuse – “Ask me for whatever you want, and I will give it to you – even if it is half of my kingdom.”

So I’m thinking…if I were a teenage girl and my stepfather said that I could have anything that I want – just ask him for it – I think it might would have been a really nice car, or my very own apartment, or all the beautiful clothes, purses, and shoes that I could possible every dream of – 

But no…this girl has no idea what she wants …so she tells her mom what the king said to her and asked her mom, “What should she ask for?” 

And being that the mom was fed up with hearing John’s spoken truths about how awful and unlawful she was in the sight of God’s eyes because of her affair with her husband’s brother – evil stepped right in – and she told her daughter to tell the king, “I want John’s head on a platter.” 

And now…here we go… These two extreme characters- King Herod and John the Baptist – each mirroring realities that are set in opposition to the other.    

King Herod is now forced to choose between the innocent – John the Baptist, a prophet, righteous, and follower of Jesus Christ – or does he choose the political expedient – to follow through on his promise to his stepdaughter for his own political gain. 

As we know from the story, King Herod lives up to his promise to his stepdaughter that he will give her whatever she asks for.  He has John the Baptist’s head served on a platter to her and her mother.  

This tragic story begins with the power of a king who has the ability to dictate what happens and what is the outcome –  but when John is executed, this tragic story ends in powerlessness because when John’s disciples and all those who loved him learned about what had happened – they came for him – they took his body and laid it in a tomb.  

One thing that I feel sure of these days is that the things that are happening in our communities, our country and in the world today, is a matter of life and death – The way that we – “we” meaning – our humanity, – the way that we treat each other is a salvation issue.  

In other words, our country, and our world – face a great struggle – a tension between what is right and what is wrong – good and evil – light and dark – power and the powerless – love and hate – the just and the unjust – and many times, the confrontation of political power and prophetic faith – and yet every single time when there is conflict, struggle, and suffering – there is always a revelation.  Something is always revealed.

What is the revelation?  What is revealed that was hidden?  

What is hidden is a world that is demon infested and evil co-exists that inflicts pain and chaos, even within our normal day-to-day existence.

In this sad and tragic story, we find ourselves forced to witness that evil that exists and is found in the center of power – both political and religious – driven by sex, money, and power where those in power – lord over those who are weak and innocent – and these horrific stories are real and are found, lived, and hidden deep within our communities, country, and the world, just as we see and witness stories that are real and raw when we learn about terrible and horrific issues such as human trafficking.  

But here is the great revelation…

This tragic-horrific story demonstrates our world even today.  Just as John the Baptist had prepared the way for his cousin Jesus in his proclamation to repent – John has now paved the way in which Jesus will also be executed.  

John the Baptist’s execution is a foreshadow of what is to come as Jesus walks to Jerusalem when we witness the violence of his death as he climbs up on the cross – beaten, flogged, spit upon, and humiliated.

Jesus, himself was caught in this world in the contrast between the kingdom marked by pride, jealousy, cruelty, and death – and the emerging kingdom of God marked by courageous faithfulness – even death on a cross – 

Isn’t it true, that our own stories are filled with people, hidden in plain sight – who are dealing with their own terror, death of loved ones, broken relationships, and abuse – 

In these moments as we reflect on our own lives and as followers of Jesus Christ, it is our belief and our hope of the coming kingdom where we will no longer be forced to witness and experience the horrible violence, hate, injustice, evil, the darkness, and political power in this world – 

but in our waiting something marvelous is revealed to us – the revelation of God’s amazing grace.

You see…in this great struggle and tension in which we live – between what is good and what is evil – 

The goodness of our great God will always win…and, unfortunately, without the contrast – we may not recognize the moment in which we can accept the grace of God – given to us by God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ- 

In the end, this Great Struggle that we find ourselves living in each day – reveals God’s revelation of pure grace – 

Drawing us into a life without death.  – Our eternal life.

Amen.

0 Comments

Leave a Reply