I love reading the Kingdom New Testament. It’s a great translation by NT Wright, and he loves to word things in a way that really hits you as new and fresh. He purposely went out of his way to have texts almost seem like you’re reading them for the first time… because we need to.
This morning, I was reading through Mark. The story in chapter 6 about Herod and John the baptist really caught me in a totally different way.
We all know the story: Herod snatched up his brother, Philip’s wife. John apparently spoke out against this, directly to Herod and out in the open, on a very regular basis. The King of Israel is, after all, supposed to be aspiring to greater things. But I’ll quote the passage here at vs 20. (emphasis mine)
Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a just and holy man. So he protected him, and used to listen to him regularly. What he heard disturbed him greatly, and yet he enjoyed listening to him.
This caught my attention. Herod enjoyed listening to John. I enjoy listening to good teaching too. Herod listened to the teaching regularly. Herod protected John.
Wow… I had never really noticed that.
The rest of the story is scandalous. Herod has some fancy party on his birthday. Everyone has their eyes on him. Herodias, this wife of his has her daughter come out and do a sexy dance. Herod was so taken by this, that he blurts out, “Tell me what you’d like, and I’ll give it to you! Whatever you ask me, I’ll give it to you-right up to half my kingdom!”
(oh… the words of so many a man only thinking with the flesh)
She asks for John’s head on a platter, and because he had all eyes on him, his status, ego, lust driving him… he gives in and has his guards serve up the head of the greatest prophet of all time.
It’s harsh, and I believe that this happens to me all the time. Well, doesn’t happen, in specific, but the scenario is certainly set up.
I have never found myself relating to Herod in this story until today. Maybe that’s good, maybe it’s bad. But either way, I learned something.
Herod knew the Word of God, and knew well enough to protect it. He was disturbed by it. It bugged him. He revered it, however, enough to keep John alive despite him publicly and loudly slandering and correcting him. It was no small thing to be a ratty prophet wandering around the wilderness shouting that the king of the Jews was living a sinful life… no small thing at all. And when you put it in that perspective, the fact that John had survived this long says something about what had to have been going on in Herod’s conscience.
This fateful party was a turning point for Herod.
Personally, I believe that all of us have been given this ability. I also believe that one way or another, at one time or another, we wind up in this metaphoric party as well. There’s a decision we know we’re supposed to make. The call of the living Word of God is crying out to us from the dry and lonely places, trying to call us out from our comfort zone that keeps us from hearing the voice of the Father.
And then it happens. The stage is set for us to choose. Comfort, desire, pleasure, ease is dancing before us… that moment is so imperative.
I don’t know, maybe this is a bit extreme, but I know that in my life there have been times when I’ve been lured in by the siren’s dance, and, enamored with her beauty, realized that I couldn’t have both the living word and her comforts. I’ve cut off the head of the messenger of God to silence him and stay in my ease.
I’m sitting here staring at the screen. I hate ending on this note. I always want to wrap things up all happy and inspirational, but maybe God is just putting a warning on my heart. It’s tugging at me, and it’s real. I better pay attention… so I suppose that I will end with that… I’m being warned, and I’m sharing it with you so that you can be warned too.
Beware the metaphoric Herodias in your life. Beware the choice to cut off the Body of the Living Christ in order to stay in your ease. If his voice beckons us, and disturbs our slumber, may we drop to our knees and rejoice that his everlasting love and mercy has been given to us once again, and that power from heaven has fallen to give us ears to hear and eyes to see.