Summary: Does the message of John the Baptist have any relevance in the 21st Century?
John the Baptist - Mk 6:14-29
Our Gospel this morning is all about the ministry and death of that enigmatic character -John the Baptist.
Story: As I was thinking about John the Baptist, I wondered what would life be like in our parish - if the Bishop had instituted John the Baptist rather than John Penny - as Rector of Sharrington? (PAUSE)
Can you imagine, for example inviting John the Baptist round for dinner.
What would you expect?
1. His clothes.
He certainly wouldn’t have turned up in an Armani suit and a Pierre Chardin shirt.
What you would have got/ was a rugged man with a slightly dishevelled look.
And if we were honest, he’d probably look more
like the local gypsy than the new Rector.
2. His diet
And if you asked him if he had any dietary
requirements - he would tell you that he’s
And he would then probably add:
“Actually I only eat locusts and honey in the summer season.”
That would be enough to drive any sane hostess up the wall.
I ask you, where can you get locusts at this time of the year?
3. His diplomacy
John the Baptist would not have been a prime candidate for the Foreign Office.
He was not diplomatic enough. He called a spade a spade – or even something euphemistically equivalent.
4. His conversation
I wonder what his topic of conversation would be with you over the dinner table.
John the Baptist had few social graces.
When the Pharisees and Sadducees came out to look at his work, did he welcome them as honourable persons of the religious establishment?
Did he smile and exchange pleasantries over
Did he try to engage them in polite conversation about their work?
Did he ask them for their own perspective on the Messiah?
Did he meet with them at the World Council of Churches to further interfaith dialogue?
No - but he did call them a bunch of poisonous snakes that were soon to be consumed by the flames of hell?
Not the way to make friends and influence people is it?
Not only did he alienate the religious leaders but - we read in the Gospel this morning- he fell out with bigwig - King Herod, himself.
John was a prophetic voice calling the people back to their commitment to God. He told Herod that he was committing adultery by marrying his brother Philip’s wife Herodias and that he should stop.
And that eventually cost him his head.
But John didn’t care for “the Good and the Great” in the land– He cared only for the things of God.
5. His first sermon at Christmas
Could you imagine his first Christmas sermon in Sharrington - with a full church?
What do you think his message would have been?
Would it have been a platitude about simply going on “being loving to one another?”
Or would he have called us to repent and seek the things of God? I tend to think the latter.
6. John the Baptist was not a conformer
John the Baptist was not a conformer. Obviously someone had forgotten to give him Dale Carnegie’s book “How to make friends and influence people” for Christmas.
The world, in which we live - demands conformity. It demands that we live, think and act just like everybody else.
Those - who have the courage to resist - may face great opposition and ostracism in their life.
Henry David Thoreau, the great American poet once said:
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music that he hears, however measured and far away”.
Do you hear a different drummer? John the Baptist did. It is essential that we listen to the voice of God inside of us.
We are called - as St. Paul said –
not to be conformed to this world,
but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds,
so that we may discern what is the will of God.
7. John’s mission
What was John the Baptist’s mission? St Mark tells us that John’s mission was to preach “ a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4)
And that would have been shocking to the religious Jews of the day.
The only time baptism was used was when a Gentile became a Jew. And then the proselyte would “baptise himself and all his family”.
But here we read that John the Baptist baptised them as if they were “Gentile dogs” – to use a first century Jewish expression.
But wasn’t that the message? In God’s sight their actions were beyond the pail – because God has absolute standards.
Remember what Jesus said about the absolute