August 29, 2008 - The Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

Today's Reading: Mark 6:14-29

Daily Lectionary: 1 Kings 11:42-12:19; 2 Corinthians 7:1-16

Now King Herod heard of [Jesus], for His name had become well known. And he said, "John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him." (Mark 6:14)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. For Herod, John the Baptist was entertainment. He heard John's preaching, but didn't listen to it. Perhaps because he was superstitious, Herod knew he shouldn't hurt John. But lust got the better of him, and a slinky dance by his stepdaughter ended up in a vow to give her John's head on a platter. So John, the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first preacher of Christ, died in a dungeon.

When Jesus came doing miracles, Herod was freaked out. He thought John was back from the dead. For Herod, the kingdom of God was about power and miracles and things that happened to scare him. He didn't know, didn't believe, didn't care, that the true Kingdom of God was about righteousness in Christ and the forgiveness of sins.

When John came preaching, He cried out, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He pointed to Jesus and told everyone that He was the one who would take away sins. Even in death, John the Baptist points to Christ. He dies, because of Christ, beheaded by an evil man. This foreshadows Jesus, who dies at the hands of evil men. But when Jesus dies, He dies for the whole world.

John died without the full picture. But he had seen Christ. Whatever evil comes your way, rejoice! For even more than John, you have heard the story of Jesus' death for sins and His resurrection from the dead. You have been baptized with a Baptism given by Jesus. You have been absolved by Jesus' own words. You eat and drink the body and blood of the Lamb of God. What joy, that hearing the Gospel and receiving the gifts of Jesus, you are even greater than John the Baptist himself (Matthew 11:11)! Greater in this way: You have heard the full Gospel of what Jesus has done for John and for you and for all people. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Our thanks for John the Baptist Who, till his dying day, Made straight paths for the Savior And heralded His way! In witnessing to Jesus Through times of threat or shame May we with faith and courage The Lamb of God proclaim. (LSB 518:24)