"Forgiveness Served on a Silver Platter" Mark 6: 14-29 Sermon Pr. Ted Giese Sunday July 15th 2018 Season of Pentecost
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Sunday July 15th, 2018, Mark 6:14–29 “Forgiveness Served on a Silver Platter”
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias's daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace, Peace and Mercy be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. King Herod has a peculiar problem; he’d thought the problem was fixed but now he wasn’t sure. He didn’t even like how it was fixed or how he was involved in it getting fixed but now he’s not so sure. John the Baptizer who he liked as a person and though well of generally had become a major problem as soon as he’d started pointing out the obvious sin that Herod was living in. It’s not so bad when someone points out the sins of others, their selfishness, their callousness, their disregard for God’s law … but when they start pointing out your own sin well now there’s a problem. We all have that problem, few people enjoy being called to account on account of their sin. Herod’s a peculiar problem was that he’d allowed for John the Baptizer to be executed, he’s okayed John’s head to be delivered on a platter and as John’s beheaded head was carried to his stepdaughter (really to his wife) he thought his problem was as dead as John the baptizer, the really peculiar part was that now Herod was not so sure, now he was worried that maybe he hadn’t truly dealt with his sin, he hadn’t really dealt with the public accusations, that this John might even be back from the dead to haunt him. That this Jesus might, as far as Herod was concerned, in fact be even be John the Baptizer back from the dead to point the finger at him all over again?
In our Gospel reading we heard how John had, previous to this execution, confronted King Herod for Herod marrying his brother’s wife Herodias. His brother Philip was alive and well this was no mercy marriage following a tragic or unexpected death. This was coveting, and lust and selfish cruelty to one of their closest neighbors and it was against God’s law. Now for his part Herod did feel guilt for John the Baptizer’s death if there was another way he might have taken it but he felt boxed in, Herod had killed John because Herod was weak and spineless, dominated by the desires of others and unable to repent of his sin he didn’t have the courage or the fortitude to do the right thing, instead he continued to wallow in his sin. And yet there clearly was no relief in this, His sin had made him full of fear, he was troubled, his life had become one of misery, worry haunted his days and nights because he knew the charges laid against him by John were indeed true – Herod was a sinner – and his sin was out in the open. This part of the story which is not peculiar – this is the common part, the living with sin and struggling to figure out what to do about it part. Many people struggle in this way. You may not have much in common with Herod in his role and vocation as king but you are aware of the struggle with sin that plagued Herod, and you are aware of others who likewise struggle sometimes their struggle leads to more and more trouble, sometimes they take the help that is offered. Sometimes they are too proud, too stubborn to take the help, opting rather to die in their sin, to let it grow and take hold and consume them bit by bit until they are eaten alive by it.
When King Herod started to hear about Jesus and Jesus’ disciples, when word about them started to come to him, Herod was confused and frightened, rumors were spreading and he couldn’t pin down who Jesus was or what this Jesus was up to. Like I said one of King Herod’s greatest fears was that John the Baptizer had risen from the dead and was somehow involved in the miraculous works of Jesus. Why the confusion? Surely this wouldn’t be too hard to figure out? You see at that time the disciples of Jesus were going two by two telling everyone to repent and turn their hearts to God echoing the same call to repentance that came from John the Baptizers lips. Jesus, like John preached that, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,” Jesus’ disciples were doing the same and Herod didn’t want to repent. Repenting would have meant that he would have to deal with his sin and because of his public office that would also need to be dealt with publicly. So the fact that this message was still being preached though the entire region caused Herod great concern. In this way it was very much like John was still accusing Herod from the grave. At this point in Mark’s Gospel Herod had not met Jesus in person but Herod had met John the Baptizer, so he wondered and he worried, they had no photography back then, no cameras, no TV no internet, he would have to lay his eyes on Jesus to know for sure and Herod would one day meet Jesus … when that happened what would be the outcome; would this Jesus meet the same end as John; Would Herod help to serve Jesus’ head up on a maybe even a platter as he had done with John, who knows maybe even a silver platter?
Let’s move now to a time many hundreds of years earlier than Herod, to a time when there was another King in Judea in Israel, one who sinned in a similar sort of way like Herod had, but for whom the final outcome was different; to a time where there was one who likewise had taken the wife of another man for himself. This was King David, if you remember David had broken the tenth commandment by coveting Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife; He broke the sixth commandment by taking her to his bed; he broke the seventh and fifth commandments by stealing Bathsheba away from Uriah and having him killed in battle. He broke the first Commandment by thinking himself above the laws of God and making himself God in his own heart when it came to his desires. But David was different than Herod in this one significant way: when John the Baptizer called Herod to repentance for his sins, Herod did not repent but rather locked John away and eventually allowed John to be executed: David when confronted by Nathan (A prophet of God) repented and asked for forgiveness. He did not have Nathan locked up, he did not allow him to be beheaded. David did not visit death on the one who pointed out his sin where Herod’s action lead to John the baptizers death.
When you sin, when we break the 10 commandments, when we have done something wrong and know it, when it is brought to our attention: there are two ways of dealing with it. One is to repent and to turn to God for forgiveness like King David did; the other way is to try and weasel out of it, to lock the problem away as if it were in a deep dungeon and ignore it, to shoot the messenger, and continue in your sin, like King Herod did, as though nothing was wrong, even though deep down inside you know it’s all wrong. When people take the second way, guilt nags them, gnaws at them and they live in fear. Forgiveness provides freedom, repentance gives this: before being confronted with his sins it seems as though King Herod like King David believed he could get away with his activities because He was king. Most people go through periods of their lives where they think that they have special privileges: the young think they can live forever, the powerful think that they can press their influence to protect themselves, the old sometimes think that they can say or do what they like because they have endured the hardships of life – but no matter who you are the ten commandments apply to you and while it may not be as dramatic in your life as it was in Harod’s life it doesn’t change the fact that sin brings with it misery and trouble of all sorts.
Our Gospel reading today ends rather abruptly with the disciples, the followers of John the Baptizer, coming to take away John’s headless body to be buried. This is the body that Herod feared was now risen from the dead; The body that in Herod’s mind pointed an accusatory finger at his sinful, bogus, sham marriage to his living brother’s wife. But of course John the Baptizer had not come back to life after his beheading he was still very much dead. Jesus however proved to be different from John in a number of ways, while he like John was eventually arrested and handed over to the authorities, and he was murdered to make life “easier” for those in power, something else happened. Years later when Jesus was arrested and taken to the high priest, He was also taken to the roman governor Pilate, and He was even taken to this very same king Herod, and each had a part in Jesus’ death – each tried to sweep Jesus under the rug in a way that advanced their goals in life and simultaneously kept their hands “clean,” the High Priest claimed no authority to execute, Herod claimed that it was outside of his jurisdiction, and Pilate literally washed his hands of Jesus’ death. But they all believed that Jesus’ death would improve their situation and it would just not in the way they originally thought. There must have been some relief when they were told that Jesus was dead, there was some worry though that things could go sideways so when two of Jesus’ followers Joseph of Aremathia and Nicodmus took Jesus’ body from Golgotha and buried it, they did post guards to make sure Jesus stayed put, that He would stay buried, yet something remarkably different happened. Jesus, unlike John the Baptizer did come back from the dead. That which Herod had feared of John the Baptizer came to pass in Jesus and on the third day this Jesus was risen from the grave. Did Jesus come back from the dead to point a figure of judgment? Those closest to Him His disciples who had abandoned Him in His time of greatest need didn’t receive a blast of condemnation for their disloyalty, their sin of self-centeredness … no Jesus came to them in His resurrection that first Easter with forgiveness, the first thing He says to them is “Peace to you!” [Now] they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.” But Jesus was no spirit, no ghost it was really him, risen from the dead full of forgiveness and love for them.
Do you know anyone who runs from love? Who runs from forgiveness because to be forgiven they have to admit that they were wrong, that they had sinned? Maybe that has been you. Let’s be clear you can run all you like but no one can entirely avoid sin or run from it. In this life it is always right there. In fact even inside the repentant life sin is ever present, always crouching at the door, desiring to control you even as a Christian; Outside of repentance apart from Christ Jesus sin is an even more cruel taskmaster, a bear of internal turmoil, actively eating you alive. No amount of running away from looking at your sin will help you, wherever you run there you are and there you sin is too. The law of God which you have not kept looks you right in the eye at every turn, the law which we have not kept applies to everyone, to men like Herod and yes even to you: to the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the weak and the powerful, no one is above it however you can have freedom from it in Christ a freedom that opens the door of love and peace. In the third verse of the Hymn Rock of Ages Cleft for Me, we sing “Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress, Helpless, look to Thee for grace: Foul, I to the fountain fly, Wash me, Savior, or I die.” The “fountain” is the baptismal font. All relief from sin, all forgiveness for sin for the breaking of God’s law comes from Jesus, the Rock of Ages, for Jesus not only looks at your sin, seeing it for what it truly is, He takes all your sins unto Himself, upon the cross, He became sin who knew no sin of His own, and at the cross He is cleft for you and from His riven side the double cure of the water and the blood flows for you into the Baptismal font and into Holy Communion. Jesus hides you in Himself and pours His grace and mercy onto you, the grace and mercy that saves you from the guilt, power and ultimate repercussions of sin, eternal death. Repercussions that will come to those who think they are above God’s law, those who have no faith in Christ, those who live their lives doing as they will with no regard for God or neighbor, those who would rather deal with their own sins on their own with no help “thank you very much!”
With this in mind dear Christian remember that all of your sin died there with Jesus at the cross on Good Friday and remains dead and buried in His tomb. Do not pretend that your sin is not great because you are young or because you are old, or because you are not a king or because you hold no high office, don’t try and weasel out of the consequences of sin like king Herod had; remeber you sin is not small and it's not weak it was bad enough to murder God, rather when examining yourself, when someone - out of love - points out your failure to follow God’s law don’t fall to the temptation of pride, thinking your are not so bad that outhers are somehow worse, instead trust in Jesus and put your hope in Him: turn to Him in repentance as King David did when David was confronted with his sin and you will be forgiven, have David as your example of how to deal with sin don’t have Herod as your example. Live your whole life as a life of repentance and all of your days will be lived in freedom in such a life you need not fear of the coming of the Lord, you will have no fear in meeting your judgment; because in the forgiveness of Christ, in the gift of repentance you have been acquitted and forgiven your sin. Make no excuses for your sins, do the harder part, repent and be forgiven, make amends for the good of your neighbor and for the love of God.
Remember forgiven sin will not be revealed again on The Last Day, As Psalm 103 says God in Christ Jesus removes sin “as far as the east is from the west,” in Isaiah, in the Old Testament God likewise promises in Christ Jesus, “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Likewise God promises that He in Christ Jesus, “will forgive [the] iniquity [of His people], and [He] will remember their sin no more.” Had Herod repented of his sin, had he broken off his sinful and inappropriate marriage with his living brother’s wife and publicly repented as one who held a public office as king then he would have nothing to fear even if John the baptizer was risen from the dead, Herod would have nothing to fear at the news that the crucified, dead and buried Jesus was indeed truly risen from the dead, and he would have nothing to fear as he awaited the resurrection of all the dead and final judgment on The Last Day. And neither will you providing you are not trying to deal with your own sin on your own. Jesus says “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” He desires to deal with your sin, to lift the burden of it up off of your shoulders, to forgive it and remove it from you, to give you rest from it, you need not live your life haunted by it, waiting for the other shoe to drop, fearful of it. The practical and joyful effects of repentance is the death of fear, the crushing of sin, the victory of Christ given to you on a silver platter … not the head of John the Baptizer, not vengeance or revenge given to you on a silver platter but love and life and forgiveness, Christ Jesus for you. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.”
 Luke 24:36–37
 2 Corinthians 5:21
 Psalm 103:12
 Isaiah 43:25
 Jeremiah 31:34
 Matthew 11:28–30