As we journey through the Witness of Mark, we want to encourage you to first begin with the Daily Reading that will take you through the entire book of Mark. Then, read the First 15 Scripture and Reflection to dive a little deeper into verses from the Daily Reading.
Today's daily reading is: Mark 6:14-29
King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
The Jesus movement was growing exponentially. Jesus was becoming “well known.” The kingdom of God, which Jesus compared to a mustard seed, had taken root and was spreading (Mark 4:30-32). “King Herod heard about this.” Jesus had just sent the Twelve out to preach. They announced the good news and demonstrated God’s reign. People responded. Jesus’ messengers invited others to enter the kingdom, to become disciples, to trust Jesus.
It is helpful to recall that kingdoms have kings. And when rival kingdoms emerge and begin to grow, those in positions of power take notice. “King Herod heard about this.” Jesus was a threat. Herod ruled as a kind of governor over the regions of Galilee and Perea. His title was tetrarch (literally, “ruler of a quarter”). His job was to oversee a portion of the empire on behalf of the Romans, to keep the peace, levy taxes, and serve as a liaison between the people of the land and their foreign overlords. If Jesus incited rebellion or revolution, then Herod would be accountable to the Romans.
Herod had asked around about Jesus. He heard various reports. “He is Elijah.” “He is John the Baptist, raised from the dead.” “He is like a prophet of old.” Herod favored the theory that Jesus was John the Baptist.
Herod had arrested John the Baptist and thrown him in prison. John preached the Messiah’s coming, telling the people to “prepare the way of the Lord.” His message called for repentance, turning from sin, and walking in righteousness. Herod was confronted by John, who told him his marriage was in violation of God’s commands. Herod had been divorced, as was his wife Herodias, who had previously been married to his brother Philip. Herodias wanted to kill John because of what he said about her marriage, but Herod feared him, and though Herod found him puzzling, he enjoyed listening to John. So Herod kept John in prison.
But at “an opportune time,” Herodias took vengeance. Herod had gathered his officials and military commanders for a banquet, and invited the daughter of Herodias to dance for the men; a bold, bawdy, and scandalous decision. Mark tells us Herod was pleased by her dance, as were his guests, and Herod promised her anything she would like as a reward to honor her--up to half of his kingdom. The girl went to her mother and was advised to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. She made the request, and because Herod could not go back on his word, gave the order. The girl gave John’s head to her mother. John’s disciples came, took away the body, and buried him in a tomb.
The name of Jesus was becoming well known, but the name of Herod was established. Mark contrasts the movement of Jesus with the kingdoms of this world, and thus darkens the horizon. If Herod did this to John the Baptist, what would be done to Jesus?
If we stand with Jesus, what does that mean for us?
In Matthew 5:11, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Those last three words are key: “because of me.” When we stand with Jesus, sometimes trouble will come. Sometimes doing, saying, and calling others to do what is right will be met with resistance. The kingdom of God is not unrivaled, but it is secure and unshakable (Hebrews 12:28-29). Therefore, as the writer of Hebrews says, we can be thankful, and worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.
We have no reason to fear the Herods of this world. We stand with Jesus and his kingdom, a kingdom that endures forever.
Father, grant me the courage and strength that I need today to reject the kingdoms of this world and to serve the kingdom of God. Trouble may come, but you are my peace. I am safe and secure in you, for your love is stronger than death. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.