Monday Bible Study on the Gospel Mark 6:14-15
January 22, 2024
Good morning in the Name and by the Grace of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
On Sunday, I offered a Sunday School Class for people interested in having an opportunity to learn about, and discuss the topic of how the ELCA, and American Lutheran, have come to embrace the LGBTQ community based on how the moderate part of the Lutheran Church understands the interpretation of traditionally misused Old Testament passages which have been used to segregate this community of people from the Church. As a congregation we have moved in the direction of inclusivity and affirmation for all people regardless of race, color, sexual identity, or any number of other things that traditionally keep communities separated from God's Grace. The class concluded with words of inclusion for all people because we do not see eye to eye at all on so many parts of life, that our unity is found only in the Spirit's gift of faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. I later heard from a person who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community who truly felt affirmed and loved because of this class. I understand that the larger church and our congregation still have before us those who cannot abide the inclusion of this community of people, yet I (and our congregation) welcome those who do object to this inclusivity as brothers and sisters in Christ, with no desire for their separation from our congregational community, yet it does still happen, and when it does I can tell you that it gives me pain in their need to attempt to move the Gospel of Jesus Christ back to its place of serving primarily white heterosexual people, who by the way, have their own struggles with sin and brokenness, even though they claim Christ as Savior and Lord. These people are wandering in a wilderness of uncertainty about the nature of Christ's love for all people. Our reality in life is that the Gospel, as given to us from Christ Himself, is meant to mediate the Grace of God to every single person on this planet. We are to love God above all things, and in like manner, love our neighbor as we love ourselves, with no exclusions. The Church, according to Martin Luther, must be ever reforming. Without the necessary Spirit movement, it is most difficult for us to be always moving forward for the Gospel, and reaching out to new communities of people, many of whom grew up in the faith with their families. We are closed minded, shutting out Christ too, when we fail to accept the growing evidence of theological scholarship. The lesson of Christ in the Gospels is that He was truly a social activist in His time, and that He served God's Truth with His life, and freedom from Sin. Jesus went to His death because of our brokenness and closed hearts, and part of the closed hearts is evident when we think that only those like us deserve Christ's Grace in their lives. He constantly had His greatest success when he reached out to those well out of the traditional Jewish community. We cannot, and must not ignore the power of the Gospel as it reaches into people's lives, no matter who they are. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ too. As you can tell, I needed to address this with you who are members with me at American. I will with my life continue to do as Luther told us to. I will continue with the Gospel in my heart to sin boldly, if that is what I must do to share God's Truth and Love for the lives of everyone, welcoming all who are faithful to be on our common journey in Christ to let the Gospel's Light shine with Holy, glorious brightness. I am confident, that for Christ, if this is indeed a sin, that I, and all who hear the Gospel Truth and come to faith in Him will stand before God's judgement, only and always, with the merit of His Son.
Today our study is a bit shorter, but as is so often the case, these two verses are really loaded with the information we need in order to come to the next much longer passage about Herod, John the Baptist, Herod's wife, and Herod's stepdaughter. The passage which follows actually takes place before today's passage, because it tells us about how it was that John came to be murdered at Herod's hands.
We have to wonder why it was that Herod has not heard of Jesus much earlier than he did. Herod's home was in Tiberius on Galilee. It was an almost completely non-Jewish community, so we have no record of Jesus ever going there. I hope, however, that you remember the sending out of the disciples in pairs to teach God's Truth, and to bring healing to those who they met. There is a good likelihood that at some point, the disciples went into Tiberius to share about Jesus. At the point of today's passage, John is already dead, and Herod, who we discover tomorrow is the one who has ordered John's murder, out of what may be guilt for that murder, responds to the news of Jesus, thinking that Jesus is John resurrected, and come back to plague him with trouble for his killing of John. Herod seems to have been mixed about his relationship with John. He liked hearing him, but at the same time, he feared John's truth about his incestuous marriage. (more about that tomorrow)
We also see in this passage a consideration that Jesus may indeed be Elijah which gives to Jesus an identity as a nationalist, who would bring renewed independence from the Romans. He would be what the Jews hoped for in the Messiah, a great leader, flexing Jerusalem's muscle. Of course, Jesus came to be known as a prophet by the Jews, but anger continued to mount against him throughout His ministry years. Even today, the celebration of the Passover feat, leaves a chair for the coming Messiah. Of course, in his ambition, Herod is always thinking about how he can benefit from the presence of this itinerant teacher, who is also a healer. Submitting to the authority of God's Son was not in the cards for Herod.
The Jews may also have seen Jesus as a prophet, but their history with God's prophets was not a good one. Of course, we see how that all plays out in a familiar way with Jesus as He is rejected by the crowds at His trial. The difference between Jesus and the other prophets is that He literally brought the presence of the living God to the people of Israel in His person. It had been 300 years since people had responded to the prophet who spoke these words, "This is the Word of God". Though the masses loved Jesus’ preaching and teaching, they were apparently very shallow in their faith. What they saw in miracles of healing, the feeding of the masses, and the destruction of evil, did not stick with them very long. I hope that we cannot say that about what we hear in sermons, and what we read in Scripture. In the busyness of life with its everyday trials and difficulties, it becomes, just as it did for the Jews, so hard for us to be moved beyond the few minutes of the experience. This is the reason that we continue to need access to the nurturing Grace of Christ as it gets shared with us every time we gather in the faith community. We truly need one another's compassion, strength, peace, and FAITH!
I will be back with you tomorrow morning. Stay safe. The weather is supposed to be really bad on Tuesday.
I give you Christ Love from my heart. Pastor Kim