Summary: Sermon for Proper 10 (Sunday between July 10 and July 16 inclusive) Year B
Off With His Head / Mark 6: 14 - 29
Intro: Have you ever heard the expression “Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.” It was first published by Sir Walter Scott in a poem titled, “Marmion” in 1808. It is often mistakenly attributed to Wm. Shakespeare. Regardless, the phrase is indeed tragic when applied to someone who is completely trapped in a web of sin of their own making.
I. In the gospel of Mark we encounter Herod who embodies that quote rather well.
A. Herod Antipas was the son of the notorious Herod the Great who was the ruthless King when Jesus was born, the very one who had the children of Bethlehem, married many women and murdered many of his own children. Herod Antipas began weaving his web of deceit at an early age seeking to be named king. Instead, he was banished to Palestine where he built his capital city, Tiberias on an ancient burial ground showing his contempt for Jewish religious practices.
B. On a visit to Rome, Herod met Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. He murdered his brother Philip, divorced his wife and married Herodias returning to Palestine with her daughter, Salome. It was here the John encountered them and issued a judgment against them because of what they had done.
C. Because of his public denouncement of their marriage, Herodias hated John and wanted him killed; but, Herod took him into protective custody. But the web had been woven.
II. With the stage set and the web woven, Mark begins unraveling the story of the demise not only of John but also of Herod. A French Quaker named Stephen Grellet once said: “Keep your word sweet. You may have to eat them.”
A. Herod discovered for himself that words spoken cannot be retrieved. VS. 23 – “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” Full of alcohol and lust, Herod promised something that wasn’t his to give. Yet, he boasted by offering extravagantly in front of his guests.
B. We have all had times when words have been spoken that we wish we could just take back because we regret the promise we made. We rush to empty commitments, shallow promises or strike bargains we have no intention of keeping. Often it is little things. A child asked you to do something for them and your answer was, “In a minute.” When what you really wanted to say was, “I’m busy. Go away. Don’t bother me.”
C. Have we not acted like Herod? Has there been an occasion when you’ve told a friend, “I’ll do whatever you want if you just do this for me?” Or have you have said, “God if you give me this or do this for me, I’ll never ask for anything again.” You know the minute the words leave your lips that you have no intention of following through.
III. Put yourself in Herod’s place for a moment. Salome has left the banquet without making a request. You’re off the hook. She hasn’t asked for anything. But then,
A. VS. 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.” What a dilemma! Herod had made a promise and this was easily within the realm of possibility.
B. VS. 26 – The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her.” Entangled in the web of human relationships and people-pressure Herod was pushed into doing something he really didn’t want to do. He thought more of his drunken oath and his honor before his guests than he did the life of John. Do we, like Herod, think more of what others may think of us and our actions than we do our commitment to the kingdom of God and doing that is right?
C. Even more interesting is the silence of the guests. Not one person spoke up to stop Herod from doing something that would make him look foolish. Not one person spoke up. They remained silent in the face of something they knew was morally wrong and could have caused the relationship between the faithful Jewish population and Herod to be even more strained. But, they kept silent when Herod gave the order, “OFF WITH HIS HEAD!”
Conclu: There are situations when it is easier to be silent than to speak up for what is right. We can respond to injustice with silence giving in to the pressures of other people or the world. As believers in Christ Jesus we should be more willing to follow the will of God than the will of the world. Christ Jesus never worried about what other people thought. He had a clear understanding that his mission was to do God’s will. Living in our stressful, pressure-filled world, we must be careful and diligent in discerning and doing God’s will even when it may not be the most popular thing to do. The only way we can do that successfully is to know and live in God’s Word.