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  • Writer's pictureRev. Kim Taylor

Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 6:16-29 bible study (January 23, 2024)

January 23, 2024

Tuesday morning Bible Study on the Gospel of Mark 6:16-29

May the Hope and Love of Jesus Christ sustain you in all the days of your life,

Good morning to you. What a wonderful wet night we all got to share last night, with more on the way this afternoon. The desert seems to be drinking up all the rain it can get from this storm. Thank you for allowing me to offer my passion for the work of the Gospel in the world yesterday in my opening for the Bible Study. Today I am asking you to offer prayers for courage, peace, strength, and if it is the LORD'S will, healing for Jeff Hovelson who is now diagnosed with terminal cancer. It is an aggressive form, and he has been given up to a year to live. This cancer cannot be removed surgically, and there is not available treatment for its destructive power in the body. Karen is Jeff's wife, and his children are adults, Shannon who is our Joshua's wife, and her brother Mike. They will all need our prayers in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Illustration of John the Baptist. "Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him." ~Mark 6:20
"Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him." ~Mark 6:20

As strange as it may seem, today we are going to take an in depth look at this passage which tells us of John the Baptist's death, which according to yesterday's passage had already taken place, and it reveals even more about the grave disfunction that the kings from the Herod line had in their lives, marriages and children.

As we start, we find that Herod the Antipas is in his fortress on the Red Sea in a place called Machaerus. It is located between three ravines and is nearly an unassailable fortress. Today in its bleakness, the dungeons are still visible along with the hardware to which prisoners were chained. This is the place where John the Baptist was imprisoned, and where his life was ended.

The story includes a number of not very nice, quite immoral characters, even by today's standards of morality. We first encountered Herod the Great. He was the king who ordered the children of Bethlehem slaughtered, trying to destroy the new King who had been born there. We are going to discover in this passage, and from history, that Herod the Great was a ruthless, murdering, leader of the nation, and of his own family members for fear that his male children might move to ascend to Herod the Great's throne. Toward the end of his life, Herod the Great, grew more and more insecure, and here is what follows:

a commonly spoken phrase, “It is safer to be Herod's pig, than Herod's son!"

1. Marriage one - Doris - a son born to them Antipater was murdered by Herod the Great

2. Marriage two - Mariamne the Hasmonean - two sons - Alexander and Aristobulus - both murdered by HtheGreat

3. Marriage three - Herodias (she wanted John dead for his accusations about her marriage to HG) Herodias as the daughter of HG's son Aristobulus. So, she was HG's niece and genetic close relative. By the way, here is that incest that the law of the OT objects to as being destructive to its people. (from Sunday's SS Class) Now, we are not done yet:

4. Marriage 4 - HG then marries another Mariamne (Boethusian) They have a son Herod Philip. Then HPhilip marries Herodias who was the daughter of his half-brother Aristobulus, and they have a daughter Salome who dances for Herod Philip (HP), and who HP has strong attraction to.

5. Marriage 5 - HtheG then marries Malthake and has two more sons, Archalaus and Herod Antipas who became the ruler of Galilee, and is the Herod of this passage who has John killed at the request of Salome. This is the complex mess of the king's family and marriages. I hope that I have it right. The Herodias of this passage was a niece and grandniece to her husband Herod Philip. Oh, we’re still not quite done.

6. Marriage 6 - Herod the Great marries Cleopatra of Jerusalem. They have a son named Philip and he marries Salome. And yes, they too are certainly blood relatives.

Seeing all of this I hope that we can understand why John rebuked Herod, who it seems kind of gets the blame for the actions of an entirely messed up king's family. It is out of this unholy mess that John finds himself the victim of Herod Philip's lust for his niece. At her request, John is beheaded. We must, of course, consider the "silly" offer that Herod made to Salome. He was willing to give up his land and power just to please her, all a rather foolish offer for a king to make.

Let's now take a look at the characters of this passage in Mark 6:

1. Herod - He both feared and respected John. He certainly did not like John's constant reminders to him about his sins, and especially his adulterous behavior. I suspect that Herod learned such behavior from the best of the worst leaders in Israel. We shouldn't be surprised. After all, we know about ourselves that we are constantly Saints and sinners too. Herod was impulsive, showing off before his men who he had gathered for a banquet, and risking it all a dancing woman who had enticed him and tricked him into giving her any promise for which she asked. Herod also worried about the impression that he would make on his men. He had a great deal of insecurity in his kingship.

2. Herodias and Salome - They were driven to destroy John the Baptist. Yet, Herodias stayed with Herod through some very difficult times. When he was exiled to Gaul by the Roman emperor, Herodias had an option to not go with Herod, but she was committed to her husband.

3. John the Baptist - he was the cousin of Jesus and had spent much of his life as a desert recluse. He was a man of courage, willing to challenge the morality of the King of Galilee, and the king's wife's as well. John had come to the people Israel to tell them the truth of the coming action of God in their world. He always told the truth in the face of anger and hatred for God's message that he carried. Like all who speak God's truth, John placed his care and protection into the hands of God. The message was the most important thing! We also know that John was very humble in knowing his place as the Light of Christ was coming into the world.

The Coming One of God is being prepared for in this text. The world was, and is, a difficult place, filled with the faithful and those who will refuse Christ's Love for their lives. How do you prepare for His presence every day?

You have my love in Christ, Pastor Kim

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