While the apostles travel through the villages, Mark takes a detour in his gospel to talk about the fate of John the Baptist. Just like most prophets throughout Israel’s history, he had some critical things to say about the king, Herod. So through the plots and pressures of Herod’s wife, the king has John beheaded. Soon the rumblings of a Messiah at the edges of the world begin to make their way to the ears of the powerful. In the paranoia that can only come from power and guilt, Herod fears that Jesus is actually John, back form the dead.
- Read Mark 6:14–29.
- Ask God’s peace to finally overcome all worldly power and persecution.
- Imagine the confrontation between wilderness-man John and King Herod. Maybe you wince at John’s boldness. It seems excessive. Why does John call him out? Now get into Herod’s head—from his hesitation and hand-wringing, through the social and political pressure, to his concession to simply have John killed. What feelings, fears, and priorities could possibly lead him to this point?
- Read and reflect on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–12. What are the “real-world” consequences you see for being poor, grieving, restless of justice, merciful, meek, pure, peaceful, and persecuted? What actually happens to people who are like this? On the other hand, what does God promise for these people? How do you reconcile and make sense of this?
- Talk with God about the relationship between God’s people and today’s “powers-that-be.” Ask about the ways in which we are supposed live against the grain. Pray through each of the beatitudes, and pray that they more and more characterize your life and community.
About the Author
Nick Chambers is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Calvary UMC