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Mark 6:14-29

 

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." But others said, "He is Elijah." And others said, "He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." But when Herod heard of it, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised." 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. For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 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.

 

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 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." And he vowed to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom." And she went out and said to her mother, "For what should I ask?" And she said, "The head of John the Baptist." 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." And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. (ESV)

What to Believe

The Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist 

29 August 2014

I am guilty of listening to late night talk radio. When getting ready to retire for the evening, I sometimes listen to "Coast to Coast A.M With George Noory," which, I presume, is broadcast to keep over-the-road truckers awake and put insomniacs to sleep. Even the new Executive Director of the Luther Academy, Dr. Robert Bennett, has been a guest on the program to talk about demon possession, during which he made a fine testimony to Christ! Personally, I can only listen to the program for a few minutes because it makes me nuts. Except when Dr. Bennett is on, the program features conversation with proponents of the paranormal, alien sightings, conversations with the dead, ESP, mental space travel, the power of crystals, and of course one of the de rigueur topics: the conspiracy of the US government to hide a cache of alien space ships and alien bodies in Roswell, New Mexico. Sometimes it is uproariously funny because of the serious way in which people describe such nonsense. I like listening to a few minutes of it occasionally, because it lets me in on the latest lunacies swirling around in the popular psyche. It strikes me as deeply tragic that people can blather on the public airwaves about floating around in space and other nonsense: "Oh, oh, watch out for the asteroid coming right for you! Whew, that was close!" Sometimes it sounds like people are reading from Douglas Adam's hilarious book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on the air, only they don't get the jokes.

 

If you presented to the same people the truth of the gospel about Jesus Christ; that He came from the bosom of His Father, that He was made man, and dwelt among us for a while, they would say that was the craziest thing that they had ever heard. This only proves that those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.

 

This is also true on a narrower stage. Those who want to return to the law as the basis for righteousness in God's sight will throw over the gospel and Christ in a heartbeat. We throw Jesus overboard rather easily. If we are not set solidly in Him then we will fall back into the law and lose the whole Christian religion. He is the one in whom the whole Christian religion either stands or falls. Yet how easily the human heart is sucked into a legalistic approach to Christianity, where control of a set of rules or precepts leaves us with the illusion that we have the law under our control. By doing this you are dreaming that the beggar is rich and the weakling is a world class athlete.

 

Without Christ you are quite lost. You don't know if you should follow the law, your own opinion, the requirements of your church, the pope, or the opinion of your crazy dead uncle who is haunting your house and sending you directions through astral projections (whatever they are!). This is always the way of the world, but it seems all the more clear these days where people are so lost and blown about by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14). They will latch on to almost any "spirituality" just as long as it doesn't have anything to do with our dear Lord Christ. Without Christ people might well believe almost anything and, often do.

 

Martin Luther

 

"The topic that Paul is treating here is extremely important and worthy of the most careful consideration, namely, that falling away from the grace of God back into the law loses the whole knowledge of the truth. Those who fall back into the law, do not know their own sin. They are confused whether they follow God, themselves, or the devil. They do not recognize the power and use of the law. However, they seek honor by observing it, although they don't understand it.  For without understanding grace, that is, the gospel about Christ, it is impossible for a man to consider the law to be a weak and beggarly element (Gal 4:9), useless for righteousness.

 

He supposes the very opposite about the law, namely, not only that it is necessary for salvation, but that it even strengthens and makes rich the weak and beggarly, that is, that those who keep it merit righteousness and eternal salvation. If this opinion stands, the promise of God is denied and Christ is removed, while lies, wickedness, and idolatry are established. The pope with all his bishops, schools, and his entire synagogue, has taught that his laws are necessary for righteousness. Therefore, he was a teacher of weak and beggarly elements, by which he made the church of Christ all over the world most sick and poor; that is, he burdened and miserably afflicted the church with his wicked laws by obscuring Christ and by covering over and burying His gospel. Thus, if you want to observe the laws of the pope without any offense to conscience, you should observe them without any presumption of righteousness; for this is granted through Christ alone." 

 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.9
 
Collect for the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

Almighty God, You sent 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. Amen.

 

For those who feel burdened by their sins and griefs, that they might find a true shepherd to whom they might confess and receive holy absolution as from Christ Himself

 

In thanksgiving to God, that Kim Cheng continues to recover from cancer surgery

 

For all Christians, that they might place themselves under the will of God, acknowledging that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts 
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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