Monday 6 July 2015

Pentecost 7, Mark 6:14-29, Herod and Herodotus

King Herod ruled from 4BC-39AD over Galilee and Peraea. Jesus didn't begin his ministry until after John was arrested. Miraculous powers followed Jesus, but not necessarily the disciples. John didn't perform any miracles but Herod missed this. The people thought that Jesus was Elijah who prepared the way of the Messiah, or that he was a prophet like Elisha.

Herod hears the different opinions and gives his. He thinks he is John, who he beheaded, raised from the dead (like Macbeth).
Herod had sent guards to seize John, had him bound and put in prison. Josephus the Roman historian wrote that John was imprisoned in the Machaerus a fortress in Peraea.

Because of Herodias.

Under Roman law Herodias was legally able to divorce her husband Philip, but under Jewish (Levitic) law, Herod  was not permitted to marry his brother's wife, Lev.18:16, 20:21. Herodias was bitter against John and so she had him arrested.
John had told Herod that he had no right to marry his brother's wife.
Worse than that Herodias wanted to kill him. 

But Herod had a respect for John as well as a fear and had listened to him..
Finally, Herodias got her chance. On Herods birthday party,  the daughter of Herodius, Salome danced a sexual erotic dance. And she was prompted to ask for a gift from Herod and he offered her half of his  kingdom and prompted by mother she asked for Johns head. 
It was a set up!

John's disciples now mostly Jesus' disciples buried him. 

People with responsibilities  have to make difficult decisions. The decision to shut a factory. The decision to invade Iraq. The decision to close coal mines. The decision to arrest a terrorist or release a psychopath. And difficult decisions have consequences. The Old Testament gives us the injunction from God to choose life.

In our story Herod like Pilate after him has to make a series of difficult decisions. The decisions he makes are all compromised. Compromised by political unrest, by power brokers (the Jews) and by his wife. Some people in society act as amoral beacons. John the Baptist was such a man. When Britain invaded Iraq thousands protested against it. 

Herods decision about John the Baptist who has annoyed his wife by pointing the finger at his adultery with his brothers wife(history) is swayed by lust. He appears to want his new wifes daughter as well. Its disgusting but very present in our world too. His decision results in the death of a good man. But all decisions have consequences. Maybe he didn’t sleep so well at night.

Our own moral well being and psychological health depends on making the right decisions, but its not easy. Sometimes we get it wrong or are forced into a corner like Herod. At times like this we have to do the best we can to repair the situation. Even saying sorry to someone you’ve wronged is healing. Christians sould be the first to apologise but we are sadly often the last. Our decisions affect us mentally and physically, affect our society and the world. WE must choose loving constructive decisions. Even in the face of threats and bullies and sometimes death. Our well being depends on it!



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