FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH
Lord, give us the stalwart resoluteness of John the Baptist.
Read MARK 6:14–29
John the Baptist Beheaded
14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying,[a] “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
15 Others said, “He is Elijah.”
And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled[b]; yet he liked to listen to him.
21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of[c] Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.
The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”
24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”
“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.
25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
a Mark 6:14 Some early manuscripts He was saying
b Mark 6:20 Some early manuscripts he did many things
c Mark 6:22 Some early manuscripts When his daughter
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Know therefore that the LORD your God … is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep his commandments”(Deut 7:9).
After the initial success of the mission of the twelve disciples, Mark’s narrative suddenly turns to the death of John the Baptist. In so doing, Mark may well be sending an important message to his contemporary readers. Following Jesus is not simply about hearing His teaching, experiencing His miracles, and having our personal needs met. It is about being faithful to God and His truth. It is about following Jesus all the way to the cross, even though it may mean death for the sake of the Gospel. John the Baptist stood on the side of truth, and he paid for it with his life.
We tend to emphasize the miraculous and triumphal nature of our Christian experience. While there is nothing wrong with recounting our victories, overemphasizing these triumphal moments may weaken our understanding of Christian discipleship. We need to be reminded that discipleship is not some kind of loyalty program. Uncompromising allegiance to Jesus involves absolute obedience and self-denial. Mere lip service is insufficient. It is genuine only if we are intensely aware of our desires and emotions yet still decide that our absolute loyalty is to Jesus. We still resolve to live according to the truth and in giving ourselves in love to the service of God. Jesus remains our focus, even if it invites persecution and rejection from our family and community. This is difficult. It would be much easier to serve a Jesus who conforms to our values and desires, sidestepping any tension in our Christian discipleship. Our reward may not be success, but the knowledge that we faithfully follow and serve God is worth all the hardship.
“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown” (Rev 2:10).
Lord, because You did not undergo a half-hearted atoning death for us, we will not offer a half-hearted commitment to You.