This week the Lectionary keeps us on track with Mark 6:1-29. The Psalm is 122 and another Gospel text is Matthew 14:13. The story of Jesus has been filled with amazement and wonders up to this point. There have been healings, teachings, and a resurrection from the dead. The way of Jesus is not all about fame and success. His journey to the cross is going to have to be characterized by faithfulness and persistence.
Mark 6 begins with Jesus in his hometown. Hometown heroes are often loved the most. Occasionally one my travel through a small town with a billboard at it’s border advertising that it is the hometown of some celebrity or person of notoriety. But not all hometown celebrities are exalted. Mark has told us that people were ‘amazed’ and ‘astounded’ at Jesus. And that was even true in his hometown, as Mark notes that “many who heard him were amazed” (Mark 6:2). But not all. Some were curious. What’s up with this Jesus kid we watched grow up? Perhaps they suspect he is a charlatan because “they took offence at him” (Mark 6:3). Jesus is, understandably, affected by their rejection and he says so. Interestingly, Mark 6:5 informs us that, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few people who were ill and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” It must take a lot to amaze the Son of God! He just did a few miracles there because of their lack of faith. That is so interesting to me.
As disheartening as his hometown visit was, the mission must not be delayed. Jesus sends out the Twelve to carry out His mission in pairs. He prepared them that even though they would be able to have authority over demons and exhibit the gift of healing, there would also be some rejection.
Word about Jesus and His miraculous ministry reaches the ears of King Herod. Even though everyone in his hometown knew who he was, that wasn’t true in the surrounding cities and countryside. Some were saying that he was a resurrected John the Baptist or Elijah! Herod thinks to himself, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” This is when Mark tells the dramatic and bloody tale of John the Bapists’ message that offended Herodias. Herod was afraid of John and protected him from the death penalty that Herodias requested. Herod even liked to listen to John (Mark 6:20). Herod’s birthday party featured a seductive dance by his wife’s daughter that resulted in the king making a foolish promise to give her whatever she asks. Herodias finds opportunity to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod could not find it within himself to deny this wish, and so he had John beheaded as she desired.
It is a poignant statement that ends our text. Mark notes that “John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb” (Mark 6:29). The preacher has three sections to work with here. It seems to me that an undercurrent in this section is that following Jesus is not going to be all about healings and great teachings. There is an element of danger that comes along with following Jesus. There is also an encouragement in the stories of danger. Keep following Him no matter what. The end of the story empowers the journey.
Here are some resources for further study.