Life Imitating Life
For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:17-29
The scriptures on either side of the John saga are about Jesus’ identity as a teacher and his disciples’ preparation for ministry. The first part is Jesus sending the twelve out to do ministry (6:7-13), and the second is the disciples returning with their report of the ministry efforts (6:30-32).
Is it possible that we have stumbled into another Mark Sandwich? Let’s look for the ties between the outer story and the inner one, the death of John.
Is the story of John’s death a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death? John’s popularity and words antagonize Herod’s wife (see the religious leaders’ frustrations and confrontations with Jesus), causing Herodias to seek an opportunity to kill John. That opportunity arises with a single person, Herodias’ daughter, which provides the antagonist the way to hem Herod in (Judas’ betrayal and false witnesses lead to Jesus standing before a reluctant Pilate). John is beheaded (Jesus is crucified), and his disciples come and take the body away and lay it in a tomb (Jesus’ body is taken and placed in a tomb by disciples too). Life imitating Life!
Once again, the beauty and complexity of Mark’s divinely inspired literary style helps us understand our Lord’s story in a profound way. And now you know why Jesus is prepping his disciples!
Prepare us to be be the next generation of Message bearers.
I pray this in the name of the Message. Amen!