Sermon Text: Mark 6:14-29
Date: August 29, 2013, Martyrdom of John the Baptist
In the Name X of Jesus. AMEN!
Beloved in the Lord,
The voice of the Baptist echoes throughout time and eternity. His sermons pierce the hearts of all who listen. His finger continually points to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World.
To the people he preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. The multitudes came, they listened, they repented, and they were washed in the mercy of the God Israel. But John did not come only for the multitudes, but to prepare the way that all may receive the Christ. John saw a man that was a tyrant over-throwing the divine commands on marriage. To the king he proclaimed boldly “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” The king did not repent but seized him and bound him, and locked him away in the dungeons.
Prison was not sufficient to satisfy the hatred of an adulteress. Herodias would have John dead. She would have him silenced forever – so greatly did she despise the Word’s light upon her morality. So when an opportune time arose, when Herod was feasting a birthday feast, Herodias recognized that a banquet of death was now set with royal luxury. Out of the chambers danced the harlot’s daughter in sight of all gathered. The loss of modesty easily became the heritage of the next generation. Flesh begets flesh. Sin begets sin. Herodias hooked Herod. Salome enticed the crowd. Thus as Augustine recounts, “A girl dances, a mother rages, there is rash swearing in the midst of the luxurious feast, and an impious fulfillment of what was sworn.” The blade is sharpened. The executioner is sent. The tongue is silenced. The finger goes limp. The head is brought on a platter. This is the death of God’s prophet, the sacrifice of His Elijah, the martyrdom of John the Baptist.
That the WORD may have free course among men, the LORD allows His Christians, His preachers, to suffer the pains of the cross. There is no salvation without the shedding of blood and the hearts of men refuse to listen except under the burden of the cross. To speak to the world one must enter the world. To preach to sinners, one must go to sinners. To bring God’s Word to the hearts of men, one must draw within earshot of fallen humanity. John went to the waters and preached to the multitudes. John went to the palace and preached to the adulterers. Though John was bound, God’s Word was not. Though John was imprisoned, God’s Word still pierced both Herod and Herodias. Their reaction is the reaction of all sinners to God’s Word, it is our initial reaction to the Law’s light upon our sin.
Our text says that Herod “gladly listened to John.” All people like to listen as others are preached against. As long as John preached against the sins of the multitudes, Herod tolerated him. But when the sermon and the finger moved to Herod’s heart and Herod’s life, well, the tolerant quickly became intolerant.
Thus we should not be surprised as the unbelieving world is repulsed when our tongue and our finger turn to those tyrants, be they presidents or judges, governors or legislators, teachers of professors, those tyrants who over-throw the divine command of marriage between one man and one woman for life! And we should not be surprised when those same words are turned on us revealing our own sexual immorality, impurity, immodesty. Truly we are no better, no purer, no more holy or just on account of our moral high ground. But as long as we point the finger at them we feel safe, secure, and comfortable with our sin. We feel no need to repent and believe the Gospel, nothing compels us to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
God’s Word is both Law and Gospel. God’s Word of Law and Gospel is for both the unbeliever and the believer. As long as I have this mortal flesh I have need to repent and believe the Gospel. I do not repent once, make my decision for Jesus, and never again need to hear the Law’s accusations against me. I need the Law to show my sin, diagnose my heart, reveal the depths of the depravity of my soul. I am no better than the homosexual. I am no different than the homosexual, the adulterer, the murderer, the thief, the conniver, the liar or the tyrant. With all humanity you and I both partake of the same nature, inhabit the same earth, are nourished with the same food, and have the same LORD. We have received the same laws, are invited to the same blessings as are all men, women and children of ever race, every tribe, every tongue and every people be they young or old, infant or elderly. What is true for Herod and Herodias is true for me and you and all. John’s sermon is for us. Repent and believe the Gospel.
Thus our Lord allows His servants to suffer under the cross that His Word may enter our hearts and work His good and proper work. The cross is to crucify the flesh. Suffering and affliction are to move us to repent, to pray, and to believe that we cannot be our own saviors. The spirit may be willing, but the flesh, the moral integrity of humanity, the strength and merits of our nature, is worse than weak – it actually leads to death. Thus our ears must ever be attentive to and our eyes ever fixed upon the great sermon and the bold finger of the Baptist who cries from the realms of eternity, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World!”
Though Herod silenced John’s tongue he could not put away His voice. Though the heart of Herodias no longer was compelled to hear, she remained tormented by the echoes of His sermon deep within. Neither would repent and believe. Neither would behold the Lamb. Do not be like these stubborn, stiff necked people! Do not be like the unbelieving, intolerant world. Heed the Prophet’s voice. Cast your heart toward the baptizer’s redemption. For this one bears your sin, even the sins of the whole world. He is Jesus and He is risen from the dead! He has borne the cross in your place, suffered the wrath of God on account of your sins. Though the dragon tasted the Baptist’s blood, he thirsted all the more for the Lamb’s. Thus on the cross both heaven and hell wailed against the Christ in tumultuous war for your soul. Satan sought Jesus’ death. And the prophet proclaims, “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him”, His suffering servant. And through death went the Word of the living God. It is through suffering that God’s Word is set free. On the cross life seemingly is defeated, but life’s defeat is death’s demise. Where the Son gives His life sin, death, and devil growl, and rage, and seek to swallow Him up whole. In so doing, they feast on their own destruction. In the death of Jesus, life conquers. In the suffering of Jesus, the Word prevails. In the blood of Jesus sin is drowned. For Christ is Risen! Death is undone. Sin’s power is vanquished. The dragon has drunk deeply of a righteous and holy poison. He is powerless. The Lamb has brought low the dragon. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Yes, beloved, behold the Lamb. Follow the finger! Heed the voice! Repent and Believe the Gospel! For what the Law reveals, the Gospel covers over. Where there is sin, the blood of Jesus is your righteousness. Where there is suffering and affliction, the cross of Jesus is your comfort. With Christ as our redemption we find ourselves “anchored in the fellowship of Hope.” Though we are attacked on all sides, chased and hunted down, though we are afflicted in every way, we are not crushed. Though we are perplexed we are not driven to despair. Though we are persecuted, we are not forsaken. Though we are struck down, we are not destroyed. We always carry in our bodies the death of Jesus. We bear His cross before the world. We suffer and endure all things that the life of Jesus, the promise of the resurrection, the hope of eternal life through faith in Christ alone may be manifested in our bodies. Like John we are always given over unto death for Jesus’ sake so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. We are a living epistle before the world, that the world may behold us in Christ and thus, maybe the world may behold the Lamb who is our redemption. For the Lord allows us to bear these things that His Word may have free course amongst the hearts of men, women, and children.
Beloved in the Lord, it was not by happen stance that John found himself in chains for the sake of the gospel. He was and is God’s witness, God’s testimony, God’s martyr to Herod and Herodias and to the entire world. Your station in life is not by happen stance. Your burdens, your crosses, your afflictions are not accidental but you, like John, are God’s witnesses, God’s living testimony, God’s martyr to an unbelieving world. Hold firm the Lamb in your heart lest the dragon drag you to hell. Cling to God’s Word and Hallow Him in the depths of your soul with faith. Let your light shine in this world of darkness. Feast on the Life of Jesus. Share the love of God. Persevere! The Herod’s of our day shall not overcome us, neither by their chains, their prisons, nor their swords. We have the testimony of the prophets of old, of John the Baptizer, and of Jesus the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!