The other day while teaching Bible study from my back deck [since it is livestreamed, I try to have a pretty setting—this one provides a backdrop of tall trees, just now getting lush with spring leaves], a tick made herself at home on me. Several hours later while with my daughter, she said, ‘Mom, you have a tick!’ and gestured to my under arm. ‘Nah, it’s just a mole, Amy,’ I dismissed. ‘No it isn’t—it has legs!’ her voice growing louder and more insistent.
Sure enough. A lone star tick.1 Makes my skin crawl just remembering the whole scene.
What Mark describes next gives me a similar visceral response.
But first, how did Jesus’ men do when sent out to multiply the work He was doing-- telling others of Him, healing the sick and casting out demons? Because they went in His authority, and did what Jesus told them to do, they were successful! How I would have liked to have been there when they came back in pairs, telling of their experiences—probably excitedly interrupting one another, nodding their heads, smiling, and even laughing. . . yes, it was exciting as they saw lives changed before their eyes.2
Not surprisingly, word got back to Herod. This is Herod Antipas, born to the fourth wife of Herod the Great, who continued his father’s lecherous, murderous ways. [think two-hour Dateline story] So disturbed by all the buzz about Jesus, Herod jumps to the notion that John the Baptist, who he had killed, must have risen from the dead!
And then Mark recounts the first of two dinners in the sixth chapter of his gospel, illustrating the gravity of vengeance and drunken consequences. It was at Herod’s perverse ‘for men only’ dinner, wine flowing and seductive dancers, that the plan was enacted to shut John the Baptist’s mouth once and for all. The reason? Herod Antipas had stolen away his brother’s wife, Herodias, and married her, and John had not minced words when he called out their sin. While Antipas had gotten over it, Herodias never let go of her grudge against the Baptizer. So on the night of the dinner party, along with the other cheap dancing women, she sent her own daughter out to dance before the men. Antipas was so rousingly pleased, he told the girl he would give her a gift, up to half of his kingdom.3 The young daughter, Salome, consults her mother about what she should request. . . and Herodias enacts her vengeance-- ‘you ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter.’ Done.
Despite Herod Antipas’ misgivings about the request, (for some reason, he had liked John), he had made the promise in front of a hall filled with witnesses, and had to make good on it. John-the-Baptist, the one who announced the coming of the Messiah, Jesus’ own cousin – dead.
What was happening around the Galilee through Jesus of Nazareth—hope, healing and freedom—was a new thing, Jesus the Messiah. There were so many people coming to Jesus, he and his men could barely get time to eat. Mark writes, “Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.”
But Jesus said, “You feed them.”
“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”
“How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.”
They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.”
Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed.”4
Impossible… but, Jesus.
Two very different dinners. One leading to death, the other to life. Symbolic really for the choice that is ours to make daily: choose the way of Jesus or the ways of the world—a world that sits on sinking sand.
In this world that is constantly changing, God does not. He is faithful.
Listen to this song--you'll be so glad you did! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT0HcAr9aeI
to the Only King forever!
1 – since we had no tweezers, Amy used her fingernails to pull off the attached tick. yuck.
2 – Mark 6.30
3 – Mark 6.23
4 - Mark 6.30-44