Sunday, July 4, 2021

Proper 10 - Series B

Proper 10 Series B

For July 11, 2021

Related Scripture Readings

Amos 7:7-15
Psalm 85:8-13
Ephesians 1:3-14

Collect for Proper 10 - Lord, You granted Your prophets strength to resist the temptations of the devil and courage to proclaim repentance. Give us pure hearts and minds to follow Your Son faithfully even into suffering and death; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.

Out of the Depths

Rev. Dr. Daniel J Brege

“And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison.”  Mark 6:27

Arguably Martin Luther’s favorite Psalm was 130.  The last verse of this Psalm predicts the Savior with these words: And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities [v 8].  This verse not only encapsulates the message of the entire Old Testament, it also explains and supports the preceding verses of this Psalm. 

Verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 130 form a powerful cry of lamentation:  Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
  Every Christian either has expressed or will express such a cry to one degree or another.  Some individuals experience the depths of pain, misery, frustration, loss of bodily functions, economic loss and even a degree of despair, more than others; but all feel it.  Because of the fallenness of this world, every non-Christian and yes, every Christian groans in this realm ruled by the Prince of Darkness. 

John the Baptist went down into the depths quite deep.  He had been imprisoned, and the torture of such damp, dark, coarse imprisonment often resulted in death, and just the imprisonment would have generated the cry, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!” Certainly it was the Psalms of lamentation—such as Psalm 130—that were in the mind and on the lips of The Baptist when he put his malnourished neck on the line and prepared to have that thinking brain and those praying lips silenced by the executioner’s sword.  John would have found peace as he recalled the predicted Redeemer set forth in the last verse of Psalm 130, and he, who introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, would have had some idea of the price for his redemption. It would take the life of the sacrificial Lamb of God to procure mankind’s forgiveness.

The one who entered the deepest depths was indeed the Son of God as He hung upon the torturous tree.  He was not only being tortured to death on the premiere Roman instrument of torture, but He was bearing the sin, misery and death of the entire world!  No wonder the Son of God cried from such depths with the lamenting prayer of Psalm 22:1: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?  It is truly this man, this Redeemer, who is at the side of John the Baptist and at the side of all who cry to God out of the depths of this fallen world. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will see us through our pain, misery and death, for He has been there, done that.  We do not have one who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but one who was tempted in every way that we are, and yet He was without sin. 

And why should God even consider the cry of a sinner?  Every Christian is aware of this undeserving status…that no one deserves to stand before God.  This is summarized in Psalm 130:3-4: If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. No one—not even the likes of John the Baptist or the Virgin Mary—could stand before God either in prayer or on Judgment Day.  But because the Redeemer, as predicted in the last verse of Psalm 130, has come, there is full and complete forgiveness before God.  So John, Mary and each of us can stand with imputed righteousness before God in prayer and on Judgment Day. We thus hold God in the greatest reverence (“fear”), for with Him there is forgiveness.

We then should not be surprised when we find ourselves in the depths, ultimately in the valley of the shadow of death and—like John the Baptist—we find ourselves waiting and waiting for God’s timing in our lives. In such waiting we, like John, know where to find hope.  Psalm 130:5-6 reminds us where to look:  I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.  In God’s word we find our hope as we wait for God’s deliverance. Whether that Word be the powerful prophecies of the Redeemer, the prayers of the Psalms, the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament and the like, such Word of God is constantly pointing us to Jesus. In the moil and toil of this life we are then looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God…everywhere for us.

Mark 6:14-29 -Mad king Herod had John the Baptist killed to honor an oath, to save face in front of his dinner guests, to quiet a man who firmly told him that his illicit affair with his sister-in-law was sinful and shameful and to honor Herodias' request.  

Verse 20 is the key verse. Although Herod knew he was doing wrong, his conscious bothered him, and John's words condemned him Herod was still drawn to listen to John. When we are overcome by the fear of confronting someone, we can be comforted in the fact that the Law does convict. God through the preaching of the Law prepares us to hear, understand and savor the Gospel. John the forerunner of Christ will preach, baptize and die all like Christ. First he must die. With the death of John now, the cross becomes the focus of Christ's destiny.

O God, from you come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works. Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments; and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Greek Text (NA27) ESV Translation
Mark 6:14-29

This section of the Gospel sees Jesus seeking to withdraw from the crowds and direct his attention rather to his disciples.

Mark 6: 14-16 - See also Matthew 14:1-2 & Luke 9:7-9

Mark 6:14–29 -See also Matthew 14:1–12. Herod senses that in Jesus the powers which he thought he had banished when he executed John are at work; the disquieting voice of God calling him to account has not been silenced. The death of John the Baptist, told here and not in its natural place in the sequence of events (1:14), is prophetic of Jesus’ fate (Mark 9:12–13; Matthew 17:12–13). Both in the village (1–6) and in the royal court men are turning against Him; the cleavage deepens because of His teaching.

Mark 6: 17-29 -See also Matthew 14:3-12 & Luke 3:19-f. The previous verse provides an excuse for this 'digression,' relating the story of John's death. However, the 'sandwiching' of this story within the account of the disciples' mission, and following the discussion of Jesus' identity, is intended to tie the fate of John in with the Jesus story as a foretaste of what 'another John' must expect (note how the four references in Mark to Ἡρῳδης and to Ἡρῳδαινοι, 3:6; 6:14-29; 8:15 and 12:12 all imply hostility and threat to the work of God). Jesus' mission has been seen as in continuity with that of John since 1:7-11, 14-15; and the link will be made clearer in 9:11-13 and especially in 11:27-33. So while the story has its own interest as providing the conclusion to the earlier account of John (left unfinished in 1:14), it also serves to set the scene within which Jesus will approach his own confrontation with authority.

The Death of John the Baptist

14 Καὶ ἤκουσεν ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἡρῴδης, φανερὸν γὰρ ἐγένετο τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔλεγον ὅτι Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτίζων ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐνεργοῦσιν αἱ δυνάμεις ἐν αὐτῷ. 
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.”

ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἡρῴδης (ho basileus herodes|the king Herod) - See also Matthew 14:1. Mark may here have used the title “king” sarcastically (since Herod, the son of Herod the Great, was actually a tetrarch), or perhaps he simply used Herod’s popular title or may rather reflect the self-view or aspiration of Herod. He was tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea from his father's death in 4 BC till AD 39.

τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ (to onoma autou|the name/title of him) - Here bears the sense of fame. We are not told explicitly what it was that Herod heard, but this clause implies that it was of Jesus' reputation.

ἔλεγον (elegon|they were saying) - The third person plural is almost certainly right, though the singular, ἐλεγεν is very much better attested. The plural makes this phrase the beginning of reports on public perception regarding Jesus rather than that of Herod. It would have been natural for copyists to alter the verb into the singular to agree with ἠκουσεν.

ἐγήγερται (egegertai|has been raised)

ἐκ νεκρῶν (ek nekron|from [among the] dead)

ἐνεργοῦσιν (energousin|are at/in work) - Probably in a sense similar to the transfer of the spirit of Elijah to his companion Elisha (2 Kings 2:15).

15 ἄλλοι δὲ ἔλεγον ὅτι Ἠλίας ἐστίν• ἄλλοι δὲ ἔλεγον ὅτι προφήτης ὡς εἷς τῶν προφητῶν. 
But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”

προφήτης ὡς εἷς τῶν προφητῶν (prophetes hos eis ton propheton|prophet like one of the [old] prophets) - The consensus is clearly that Jesus is a prophet, but just how he fits into that ancient category is a matter of rather wild speculation.

16 ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ Ἡρῴδης ἔλεγεν• ὃν ἐγὼ ἀπεκεφάλισα Ἰωάννην, οὗτος ἠγέρθη. 
But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

ἠγέρθη (egerthe|was raised) - Herod, disturbed by an uneasy conscience and disposed to superstition, feared that John had come back to haunt him. 

17 Αὐτὸς γὰρ ὁ Ἡρῴδης ἀποστείλας ἐκράτησεν τὸν Ἰωάννην καὶ ἔδησεν αὐτὸν ἐν φυλακῇ διὰ Ἡρῳδιάδα τὴν γυναῖκα Φιλίππου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὅτι αὐτὴν ἐγάμησεν• 
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.

φυλακῇ (phulake|prison) - According to Josephus, Ant 18:119, John was imprisoned and executed in the fortress of Machaerus, to the east of the Dead Sea in the southeasternmost part of Peraea.

Ἡρῳδιάδα (herodiada|Herodias) - See also Matthew 14:3.

Φιλίππου (philippou|Philip) - See also Matthew 14:3. If by 'Philip' Philip the Tetrarch is meant, this contradicts Josephus who says (Ant 18:136) that Herodias was married to Herod the son of Herod the Great and Marianne II. Philip the Tetrarch actually married Salome. It would seem that either Mark is mistaken, or that Herod to whom Herodias was married had also the name Philip. There is considerable obscurity surrounding both the relationships and the names of the Herod family (particularly since the name 'Herod' seems to have been used both as a personal name for certain members of the family and as a family name for all), and it is possible that the Herod who was Herodias's first husband also bore the personal name Philip, as did her son-in-law."

18 ἔλεγεν γὰρ ὁ Ἰωάννης τῷ Ἡρῴδῃ ὅτι οὐκ ἔξεστίν σοι ἔχειν τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου. 
For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.”

Οὐκ ἔξεστίν (ouk exestin|not is permissible/lawful/proper) - We see in John the example of moral courage, not hesitating incur the wrath of the great and powerful, as often as it may be found necessary: for he, with whom there is acceptance of persons, does not honestly serve God.

Verses 19-20 set up the contrast, strongly reminiscent of the story of Ahab and Jezebel (whose 'target' was, of course, John's model Elijah), which the rest of the story will work out between a resolutely hostile Herodias and a wavering Antipas, who will eventually be tricked into pronouncing sentence against his better judgment. The parallel with Pilate's ineffectual resistance to the determined hostility of the priests in 15:1-15 is remarkable, yet another indication of Mark's desire to link together the fates of John and of Jesus. (Note how Pilate will in 15:14 by implication echo with regard to Jesus Antipas's view of John as δικαιος και ἁγιος).

19 ἡ δὲ Ἡρῳδιὰς ἐνεῖχεν αὐτῷ καὶ ἤθελεν αὐτὸν ἀποκτεῖναι, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο• 
And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not,

20 ὁ γὰρ Ἡρῴδης ἐφοβεῖτο τὸν Ἰωάννην, εἰδὼς αὐτὸν ἄνδρα δίκαιον καὶ ἅγιον, καὶ συνετήρει αὐτόν, καὶ ἀκούσας αὐτοῦ πολλὰ ἠπόρει, καὶ ἡδέως αὐτοῦ ἤκουεν.
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.

ἠπόρει (eporei|he was disturbed/at a loss) - The support for ἠπορει, though numerically weak, is strong in quality, and intrinsically this reading is more likely than ἐποιει which is read by the majority of Greek MSS. ἠπορει vividly describes Herod's moral weakness. Elsewhere in the NT ἀπορεω is used in the middle (hence W ἡπορειτο), and the unfamiliarity of the form may have led to the correction to ἐποιει in the majority of MSS.

ἡδέως (|gladly) - The implication is that, like Felix with another prisoner later (Acts 24:24-26), he was at least open to persuasion; but he remained confused and undecided.

21 Καὶ γενομένης ἡμέρας εὐκαίρου ὅτε Ἡρῴδης τοῖς γενεσίοις αὐτοῦ δεῖπνον ἐποίησεν τοῖς μεγιστᾶσιν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῖς χιλιάρχοις καὶ τοῖς πρώτοις τῆς Γαλιλαίας, 
But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee.

χιλιάρχοις (chiliarchois|military commanders) - High ranking military officers generally in charge of 600-1000 men.

πρῶτοις (protois|most leading/prominent persons) - There was a palace as well as a prison in the fortress of Machaerus, and presumably, though it was certainly a long way from Galilee, if Herod was resident there, he would be surrounded by his courtiers. It certainly seems to be implied (27-f) that John was imprisoned close at hand.

22 καὶ εἰσελθούσης τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτοῦ Ἡρῳδιάδος καὶ ὀρχησαμένης ἤρεσεν τῷ Ἡρῴδῃ καὶ τοῖς συνανακειμένοις. εἶπεν ὁ βασιλεὺς τῷ κορασίῳ• αἴτησόν με ὃ ἐὰν θέλῃς, καὶ δώσω σοι• 
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.”

τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτοῦ Ἡρῳδιάδος (tes thugatros autou heridiados|the daughter of him Herodias) - See also note on Matthew 14:6. There are textual difficulties here. The chief variants are: i) θυγατρος αὐτης της Ἡρῳδιαδος A C W Θ and the majority of Greek MSS and vg syrh; ii) θυγατρος αὐτου Ἡρῳδιαδος א B D L Δ 565; iii) θυγατρος της Ἡρῳδιαδος f1 22 131 it (some mss) syrs,p etc. 

According to (ii) the girl is herself named Herodias and is described as Herod's daughter. But in verse 24 she is Herodias' daughter. Herodias had a daughter called Salome, but she was not Herod's daughter; and the narrative does not seem to allow for the union between Herod and Herodias to have been long-standing enough for there to be a daughter sufficiently old by it. So most commentators accept reading (i). However, a majority of the UBS Committee decided somewhat reluctantly that the reading with αὐτου must be adopted on the strength of its external attestation; αὐτου "represents an early error. This might derive from a careless scribe who was puzzled by the intrusive αὐτης and mechanically altered it to αὐτου, thus producing a smoother text without realising what violence it did to the narrative in context. In that case, the majority reading, αὐτης (της) Ἡρῳδαιδος, would be preferred.

23 καὶ ὤμοσεν αὐτῇ [πολλὰ] ὅ τι ἐάν με αἰτήσῃς δώσω σοι ἕως ἡμίσους τῆς βασιλείας μου. 
And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.”

ὤμοσεν (omosen|he made a promise/swore an oath) - The adverbial addition of πολλα here is not very elegant, but typical of Mark (20; 3:12; 5:10, 23, 38, 43...); its absence from the majority of MSS is an obvious stylistic improvement.

ἕως ἡμίσους τῆς βασιλείας μου (eos hemisous tes basileias mou|up to half of the kingdom of me) - A proverbial reference to generosity, not to be taken literally (Esther 5:3, 6). Generosity suited the occasion and would win the approval of the guests. See also 1 Kings 13:8.

24 καὶ ἐξελθοῦσα εἶπεν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτῆς• τί αἰτήσωμαι; ἡ δὲ εἶπεν• τὴν κεφαλὴν Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτίζοντος. 
And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.”

αἰτήσωμαι (aitesomai|should I ask [for]/claim) - It is possible, though not certain, that a distinction is intended between the middle used here and the active in verses 22-23. If so, the meaning here would be 'claim', there being now a sort of business relationship since the king's promise.

25 καὶ εἰσελθοῦσα εὐθὺς μετὰ σπουδῆς πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα ᾐτήσατο λέγουσα• θέλω ἵνα ἐξαυτῆς δῷς μοι ἐπὶ πίνακι τὴν κεφαλὴν Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ.
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.”

26 καὶ περίλυπος γενόμενος ὁ βασιλεὺς διὰ τοὺς ὅρκους καὶ τοὺς ἀνακειμένους οὐκ ἠθέλησεν ἀθετῆσαι αὐτήν• 
And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.

27 καὶ εὐθὺς ἀποστείλας ὁ βασιλεὺς σπεκουλάτορα ἐπέταξεν ἐνέγκαι τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἀπελθὼν ἀπεκεφάλισεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ φυλακῇ 
And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison

28 καὶ ἤνεγκεν τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ πίνακι καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν τῷ κορασίῳ, καὶ τὸ κοράσιον ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτῆς. 
and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.

29 καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἦλθον καὶ ἦραν τὸ πτῶμα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔθηκαν αὐτὸ ἐν μνημείῳ.
When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb

See also Luke 9:8 for Herod's later fears; also Matthew 14:12 for John's disciples informing Jesus of what had happened.

Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS for personal and congregational use. 

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