Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s (evening’s) sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account (Mark 6:14-29) the sixth chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,The king has set his table. It is a rich and lavish table. Choice meats and herbs, fruits, vegetables and breads are nestled one next to the other – displayed just so in order to arouse the appetite of his guests. Goblets bearing the fruit of the vine await those who would partake, each receiving their own individual cup. There would be much drink to gladden the heart, so much drink even to sadden the heart. The king has set his table and the night is still young. Music fills the air, as tambourines, lyres, cymbals and flutes adorn the ears and sway the heart. There is much food. There is much drink. There is much music. And soon there will be much blood. For the heart swayed by passion and lust is all too easily deceived.
The king has set his table. The feast is ready. The guests are arriving. You are invited. For the world has much to offer you, each one of you. There is plenty to fill the stomach but never enough to satisfy. And there is much drink to gladden the heart, but never to quench your thirst. Music is everywhere inviting you to dance the night away, to allow yourself to be carried by a different tune, a foreign verse, a ancient melody. Each of this king’s gifts has a cost. For no one takes their place at his table with bringing an offering. No one arrives without paying the piper. Surely the eyes wonder and wander. The heart beats its irregular beat. The butterflies flutter. The ears are tickled. Reason is cast aside and raw emotion, passion, lust takes over. The king has set his table. Sin is the main course and your soul is the cost. Will join him? Will you eat and drink and make merry while surrendering your soul? Will you gaze upon the harlot dancing before you and willingly offer up to half your “kingdom” – your very life to be pleased by her?
Herod is no fool, neither is the prince of this world. Herod is drunk and so are his guests. He is drunk with lust for his step-daughter , Salome. Inebriated to the point of foolishness Herod offers her anything. He is trapped, trapped by his own wife, his own personal Jezebel. Herodias wants blood. And she wants John’s blood. She wants the Baptist’s head on a platter.
Why such lust for blood? Why such hatred for the prophet? The prophet’s word laid siege to her gods, her sins which she loved so much. The heart that is drunk with sin is appalled by God’s Word. John brought Herod God’s Word. “Repent! Give back your brother’s wife!” He would not. She would not. Their love for sin blinded them to the love of God. And though Herod would often listen to John, Herodias burned with hatred.
Those who feast at the table of this world worship the god of their stomachs, the idols of their libidos, and all too easily surrender themselves to the passions of their fallen hearts. You are invited to this table. The devil would love to have you. And all too often you have tasted the world’s iniquity. You have shared rotten food with the unrighteous and you have sipped tainted drink in the hopes of “feeling better” about yourself. Your eyes have lusted. You have sinned. And in your sin there is even greater temptation to despise the Word of God that calls you to repentance, the Word calling you away from your sin. You may not lust for blood like Herodias, and you may not surrender up to half of your kingdom like Herod, but –like Herod’s guests your ears may be closed to God’s Word and your heart left severely wounded by the feast at hand.
Herod kept his word and delivered John into death. Herodias received her platter, dripping with holy blood, eyes open, and his word still ringing in her ears. For what was once preached from a prison cell, now echoes throughout the halls of her psyche. God’s Word will not be silenced even in the death of His prophets. The conscience will not forget its creator.
Thus he who heralded the coming Messiah has run his course. He has fought the good fight and given his life for the sake of God’s Word. Having received the crown or martyrdom now is this prisoner set free. His head severed from the body has not silenced his tongue. A proclaimer of the Christ in life, he also proclaims him in death. For his sermon rings through the hallowed halls of history and pierces the psyche of every man, woman, and child who hears it. “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near!” and “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John’s finger, though awaiting the resurrection, still points sinners to Christ!
Therefore beloved Look! Look to Christ and behold the one who takes away the sins of the world. Where you have feasted on rotten food, repent and receive the Master’s absolution. Where your lips have pressed the goblets of this world and sought to satiate the thirst of the heart, repent and hear the Savior’s mercy. If your eyes have lured you into passions uncontrolled, repent and let there be no hint of sexual immorality among you. For you are not your own, but you have been bought, purchased with the very blood of Christ. It is His blood, not yours, nor even John’s, which takes away your sin. It is His passion, tempered with righteousness, and anchored to the will of the Father which endures the Father’s wrath in your place, suffering your death, bearing your hell, even as He surrenders Himself to the pangs of the cross. This Jesus is John’s redemption and your salvation. Through His death and resurrection all sins have been dealt with. The Devil’s deeds have been undone. Hell’s torments have been squelched.
All who believe this receive this. For the Lord’s salvation is not something to be grasped, seized, taken by the will, or earned by one’s righteousness, but only suffered, appropriated, apprehended as a gift, given by grace through the Word of His Gospel.
Thus if you wish to be Christian, to be saved from this wicked and perverse generation, repent and believe the gospel! Learn how our God deals with His children, how He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Learn of His will for your life. For the life of God’s Christians is not like the life offered to us by the Herod’s of this world. Living in a broken and corrupt creation we sin and we suffer the sins of others. We are afflicted and persecutions abound. But our God is the justifier of sinners. His Word will not let us wallow in the passions of our lust. Rather, He sends His prophets, His preachers, His evangelists who speak the Word both Law and Gospel. The Law echoes John. “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near.” And the Gospel too, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Do not shun such a word, but open your ears and let your heart be pummeled with God’s hammer that He may bring healing through His medicine of immortality.
With God’s Word in your ears and His grace in your hearts there is life to be had, good life, abundant life, eternal life. For Jesus has come that you may have life and have it more abundantly. This life is fed and nourished by the Word of forgiveness, the story of the cross, and the blessed hope of the resurrection. This Word is for you to receive by faith and then to put into action through love and good works towards your neighbor. The temptations of Herod, Herodias, and Salome will offer your heart many things, many attractive things that appeal to your appetite, your lust, your fallen nature. They will make many promises, none of which they can, nor intend to keep. Reject such things. Turn away! Repent! Depart from the table and follow the finger of God’s prophet! Heed the echo of His voice! Look to Christ! Follow Christ! Lend your ears to His voice! Let your heart be captivated by His Words. Walk in His footsteps. Believe and then obey. The Lord will not hold out on you but has many good gifts to give as you live out your days in His forgiveness.
Beloved in the Lord, John’s disciples came and took his body. John’s messiah offers you His. There is a greater King amongst us this morning (evening). He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He too has a table. It has been prepared for you, for the forgiveness of sins. Many promises are attached to these gifts. And our Lord always keeps His promises. There is bread and there is wine. There is His Body and there is His Blood given once into death for your sins and raised on the third day for your justification. Those who eat and drink with faith receive what the word promises: forgiveness, life and salvation. For where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is always life and salvation. And where this King presides, heaven’s gates are open, angels sing their Holy, Holy, Holy, martyrs gather round about us, the saints sing their new song, and we join them. Truly this table is the better table. This food is the good food. And this cup, the Lord’s cup, is full of blessing.
Come to this feast. The King invites you. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI