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Posts Tagged ‘Beheading of John the Baptist’

“…(King Herod Antipas feigns) an interest in John’s preaching, readily admitting: This man really preaches well. For he was afraid of John, knowing that he was godly man and that the whole country stood in awe of him and considered him to be a holy man.  But beware, lords are lords, and always seek their own interests above those of other people.  As they say, It is not good to eat cherries with lords; they eat the cherries and shower you with the pits; and the favor of lords is as capricious as the weather in April.  No lord takes kindly to rebukes, except those of an extraordinarily pious nature who could take it.  David, Josiah, and Jehoshapat did suffer the reprimands of the prophets; but the other kings refused it, and had such prophets and preachers beheaded.”

“…when the pastor rebukes others, you say, What a preacher he is, what  telling message, he really gets across! But when he finds fault with you, you say, Those clerics, don’t they ever talk about anyone else but me?  Their you have not heard it in the proper spirit. Even the devil and the malicious gossips love to hear other people put on the butcher’s block; but when their own lying and wickedness are rebuked, they can’t stand it. But if I want to hear the truth, even where it touches my person and I must accept rebuke and amend myself, as David, Josiah, and Jehoshaphat did, that is the right way to hear. But those who are willing to hear the truth, even when it is against themselves, are rare birds upon the earth. At least sparrows and ravens are not so common as the sort who love to have themselves patted on the back and praised.”

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In 1924, Paul E. Kretzmann, Ph. D., D. D., confessional Lutheran pastor and professor published his 4 volume, 3,000 page, commentary on the Bible.  The Gospel reading for 12 July A.D. 2015, 7th Sunday after Pentecost is the narrative of the beheading of John the Baptist: St. Mark 6: 14-29. The circumstances that led to John’s decapitation was at a banquet that King Herod (Antipas) held.   The quote from Dr. Kretzmann’s commentary is his two quotes on verses verses 26-29:  the first from  Dr.Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments  and the second  from Martin Luther.  There is a powerful and mournful timeliness to both quotes which is at the same encouraging for us in these dark days:

 “What here is related of the court and court life of King Herod is a faithful picture of the world, of the life of the world, and of the lust of the world. The smooth, pliant children of the world are for the most part, even when they pretend to be honorable, what Herod and Herodias were, harlots and adulterers, and if not murderers, yet thieves, deceivers, perjurers, etc, But the chief sin of the world is this, that she will not listen to admonition, that she spurns the Word of God, and is angry against those that warn her against destruction and perdition. Wherever the world, even the apparently decent, cultured, fashionable world, celebrates her festivals, there the delights of feasting, of reveling and drunkenness, are indulged in, there one finds swearing, blaspheming, cursing, there gambling and dancing and rioting are the order of the day, and wine and passion inflame heart and mind. There a dissolute, godless conduct is in evidence, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life. And the end of the wild delight and joy is often murder, the shedding of blood, and other great shame and vice.”

On the other hand, there is a lesson for the faithful believers in this story. “Therefore let no one have a terror concerning suffering and cross. Let no one envy the persecutors of the Gospel that they are enjoying honors, are great and mighty. For cross and suffering is the only way by which thou shalt come to the heritage and the kingdom of Christ; and all saints, and Christ Himself, have gone this way. Who, then, would be terrorized and complain about it? And it will be seen how quickly the change will come for the tyrants, that their suffering will come upon them in due time and finally last in eternity. From this may God mercifully keep us, and rather let us, with the sainted John the Baptist, suffer all manner of ignominy and disgrace, that we may but come to the kingdom of God; as our Lord Christ says that it is appointed to us, as to Him, cross and suffering.”

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Appointed readings: Romans 6:1-5Mark 6:14-29

About this festival:
In contrast to the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (observed on June 24), this festival commemorates his beheading by the tetrarch, Herod Antipas. From the perspective of the world, it was an ignominious end to John the Baptist’s life. Yet it was in fact a noble participation in the cross of Christ, which was John’s greatest glory of all. Christ Himself said that there had arisen none greater than John the Baptist. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and also the herald of the New Testament. As the forerunner of Christ, John fulfilled the prophecy that the great prophet Elijah would return before the great and terrible day of the Lord. By his preaching and Baptism of repentance, John turned “the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” And in the footsteps of the prophets who had gone before him—in anticipation of the Christ whose way he prepared—this servant of the Lord manifested the cross by the witness of his death. (From theTreasury of Daily Prayer, p. 670).

Reflection:  let us remember why John the Baptizer was killed:

St. Matthew14: 3For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”  

John taught the sanctity of marriage to the powers that be.  This is what cost John his life and his life is a martyria, a witness, to the Word in and out of season.

Marriage has been “out of season” (see2 Timothy 4:1-3) for some time now:  divorce and remarriage as serial monogamy, “hooking-up”, living together, pornography and masturbation, abortion, birth control as denial of reproduction, and now ‘marriage’ of same-sex couples, and probably soon, acceptance of polygamy.  Now our sexuality is not virtuous, never has been since Eden, so the Lord gave a commandment:  You shall not commit adultery.

This may be the first time in Western European history that the list above has been legally sanctioned and for a good part of society  and culture accepted. We are living in a neo-pagan, neo-Roman world, as did our forebears in the Church did from AD33 to Edict of Milan in AD313 (see: Edict_of_Milan) .  But for those in the Church, like John, have so preached and taught on the Lord’s gift of marriage according to His Scriptures, His Word, the results have been so far social ostracization and railing against Christians.   Christians capitulated to the culture, by promoting ‘sexual justice’, being ‘cutting edge’, ‘reaching  out’ to ‘alternative families’, the lust to be on “the right side of history” or just plain immorality because it feels good.

We need the lesson from John the Baptizer.  John was last of the prophets. The prophets were on the wrong side of history, but on the right side of the Lord.One of the verses that has haunted me is this one from Isaiah 52:11, and it is cited by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:17:

Therefore go out from their midst,and be separate from them, says the Lord,and touch no unclean thing;then I will welcome you…

This verse may be the basis of the Amish, at least in the movie ‘Witness'(!) Does this mean we need to be like the Amish? This is St. Augustine on 2 Corinthians 6: 17:

How many and vehement rebukes did Jeremiah preach against the sinners and wicked ones of his people. Yet he lived among them, he entered into the same temple with them, celebrated the same mysteries; he lived in that congregation of wicked men, but by his preaching “he came out from among them.” This is what it means “to come out from among them”; this is what it means to not “touch the unclean thing.” It means not consenting to them in will and not sparing them in word. I say this of Jeremiah, of Isaiah, of Daniel, and Ezekiel, and the rest of the prophets, who did not retire from the wicked people, lest they should desert the good who were mingled with that people. (emphasis my own)

“It means not consenting to them in will and not sparing them in word.”  The Lord has called His Church as the communion of His Will and Word, both of which are one.  As in the days of the Roman Empire, the Church did not consent with much of the pagan culture and touched not the unclean things. Do Christians fail in the sanctity of marriage?  Yes, but this can not be an excuse to continue touching unclean things and so sin (see  Romans 6:1-3) When we do sin, we know the terrors of hell and turn in repentance to the Lord Who died and rose for us. We are not “sparing them in word” as we should not in His Church.

This is still our vocation in marriage, according to the Lord’s Word of Law and Promise, not to touch the unclean thing.  Possible? Not on our own but only in Him are all things possible.  As John was a prophet, he did not spare them in the Word of God.  The Church can not either. Why?  As St. Augustine preached so that His people will be spared and I would add, as John and the Lord calls us:  to true repentance that sinners might turn to the Lord and live.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, You gave Your servant John the Baptist to be the forerunner of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in both his preaching of repentance and his innocent death. Grant that we, who have died and risen with Christ in Holy Baptism, may daily repent of our sins, patiently suffer for the sake of the truth, and fearlessly bear witness to His victory over death; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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