Damariscotta Baptist Church
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

11/17/14 Sermon - Choices

“Choices”

Mark 6:14-29

 

Our Scripture text today demonstrates how good Mark is at describing events. If we really look at the story I think the freshly cut head of John the Baptist would fit quite well in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. And the part where Herod is convinced that Jesus is John the Baptist, risen from the dead, to torture him for cutting his head off in the first place, sounds like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe poem. Literature doesn’t get any better than this.

 

Mark also does a good job of positioning this story in between when Jesus had sent out his disciples and before the disciples will return. This is the time of greatest expansion of Jesus’ ministry. We read that Jesus’ name had become well known, and he was the talk of the town.

Because we are able to look at this story and analyze what was happening, I don’t want you to miss what was really going on here. This was a society, in this case, involving a Middle East Jewish Society and the Roman Government, which was doing its religion and its government, religiously.

They were both convinced they were doing it correctly. Then God himself,

the one who set the whole thing in motion,

comes down as a human

and starts showing everyone what heaven was “really like”. The reality was,

humans had messed up the whole religious thing.

Satan had gained control, long enough to have convince humans they were more intelligent than God, and this Jesus thing was ridiculous. In fact, the religious people were trying to turn it around by saying, Jesus was from Satan. But –

Jesus and his disciples were doing so many “good” miracles, for those who were paying attention and who had ears to hear. In fact, everyone was now asking questions.

Everyone was trying to figure out

what or who

Jesus was.

He was obviously religious and had amazing powers, which explains why Herod thought he was John the Baptist, resurrected. Others said he was Elijah or one of the prophets of old.

However,  Herod was convinced John had come back to haunt him. Herod was correct in that the ministry of John and the ministry of Jesus were similar but it was Herod’s guilt that convinced him that Jesus was the resurrected righteous and holy man that he had beheaded to satisfy an oath he made to his daughter when he was allegedly drunk and boasting.

 

Mark explains in detail what occurred in Herod’s palace during Herod’s birthday celebration. As we read through this account I want you to pay close attention to the choices Herod makes. It is a clear case of digging oneself in a hole and then burying oneself in it. One poor choice leads to another, and another, and another.

 

The Herod in this story is “Herod Antipas”, son of Herod the Great. Note, we are talking about Herod, Jr. The son of someone named Herod “the Great”. Family systems theory would immediately comprehend an identity crisis in one being the son of someone who is labeled “great”. Well, Herod Antipas was born before 20 BC and died after 39AD.

He became the ruler of Galilee, after his father’s death in 4BC, named to this throne by the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus.

 

To give you an idea of what type of ruler the father was, Herod the Great, was the ruler the wise men, who were following the star, to Bethlehem, visited to find out where the King of kings lived. And following the wise men’s visit, Herod the Great had all of the Jewish baby boys, in Bethlehem, under the age of 2 years, killed.  

Now, Herod the son, was not as ruthless as his father. In fact, this Herod had a respect for the Jewish religion and a reverence for the holy man called John the Baptist.

 

I would label this a “good choice”.

 

We read he liked to listen to John the Baptist, even though the things John said mystified him.

 

Another “good choice.”

 

 

Being one of the richest and most famous in town, Herod Antipas had learned how to get the things he wanted, at least the physical pleasures, but when it came to the fruit of the Spirit, like peace, joy, love, etc. Herod missed out.

This particular story focus’ on the choice of wives Herod made. Herod decided he wanted his half-brother’s wife and so he stole her from him and married her.

 

“Poor Choice”

 

John the Baptist came around and publicly scolded Herod, saying it was not lawful for Herod to have his brother’s wife. Herod tolerated John,

 

(Good choice)

 

however, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

 

Herodias, his wife was seethed with anger, and wanted John dead. But we read that she was not able to accomplish this because Herod feared John and so he protected John. Although he had John arrested he still liked to listen to him.

(Good choices)

 

Herod’s lifestyle gets the best of him and we read that Herod gives himself a birthday party. Josephus, the historian of the time, records that Herod was well known for his “wild, drunken parties.”

 

(Poor choice)

 

At any rate, we have a disgruntled wife, who knows her husband well, and sends their daughter out to dance for her father, along with the big wigs and dignitaries, of the town. Herod and his guests are pleased by his daughter’s dance and with an intoxicated impetuous promise, Herod offers her up to half of his kingdom.

 

(a very Poor choice).

 

Being young and trusting of her mother, the daughter quickly asks Herodias what it is she should request, and the response is, the head of John the Baptist.  Did you notice, the daughter returns to her father and states, she not only wants the head of John the Baptist, she wants it on a platter!

 

Herodias has her revenge! The man who publicly humiliated her, is now humiliatedly “dead”.

 

Herod makes a regretfully poor choice, by following through with the public oath he had given.

 

Mark records that Herod was “greatly distressed” the Greek word for this is “perilupos” and is only used in Mark’s gospel one other time and that was to describe Jesus’ feelings in the garden of Gethsemane, prior to his own crucifixion.

 

Because of the choices each man made, John the Baptist loses his earthly life and gains the blessing of God, and Herod loses the voice of spiritual life and sinks further into the emptiness of self-centeredness.

 

What makes us chose the things we do?

 

A lot of times I am not even sure we think about what we do, until after the fact. Or if we do think, we often think the choice has already been decided, or that we don’t have a choice and we “go with the flow”.

 

I suspect something like this was happening in Herod Antipas’ life. And yet, if we read between the lines of this story we discover a man who heard the possibility of God’s blessing in the voice of John the Baptist, but chose to keep God at arm’s length.

 

He respected religion, but did not want to become too involved.

 

Herod’s choices reveal he was more concerned with the world and set aside the voice inside that told him to listen to the man of God.

 

Ultimately Herod chose to put his relationships with others before his relationship with God.

 

We read that Herod ended up with regret.

 

What about you?

 

What has been your response to the voice of God?

 

Are you listening but keeping God at arm’s length?

 

Do you respect Christianity but choose not to become too involved?

 

Are you more concerned with what the world thinks about you and continue to set aside God’s voice calling you?

 

Or, have you been setting that still small voice aside for so long, you can no longer hear it anymore?

 

What sort of choices are you making?

 

You made it here today, so you can claim a “good choice”. And since you are all human, I know that you have also made some “poor choices”. The key is to make more good choices than poor choices.  I would like to offer a simple plan to insure the blessings of God.

 

1.      Listen for the voice of God, and follow it. For Herod, God’s voice came from John the Baptist. For us it can come in a variety of different ways, through a sermon, the voice of a friend, through a beautiful sunrise or sunset. The idea is to be on the lookout for it, and to heed it, whether it is an instruction or a reminder.

 

2.      Decide to make your relationship with God the top priority of all your relationships. This is a tough one, because the world is giving us a different message every minute of every day. The world says we need to focus on taking care of ourselves. Take care of number one and once you are taken care of, then you should look out for others. God says to focus on Him and He will take care of you. And if you think about it, He can do a much better job of taking care of you then you can.

 

3.      Focus on who you are in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

When we are in Christ, we have at our disposal all the spiritual blessings possible in the heavenly realms.

 

These three steps may be simple, but that doesn’t mean they are easy.

 

Listening to the voice of God means you are going to have to turn the volume down on all the other voices that are speaking loudly. Those voices are speaking loudly on purpose, Satan doesn’t want you to hear the voice of God. So you need to slow down and intentionally listen. And then once you have heard it, it may mean doing things differently. Oh! Oh!

Change!

NOT EASY!

(Matthew West influence at Women of Faith)

 

Making your relationship with God your #1 relationship may mean re-aligning priorities.

Again, doing things differently –

More changes –

NOT EASY!

Example: Becky and nursery, taking photos

 

Now, what about focusing on who you are in Christ.

What exactly does it mean to have Christ in you?  

Well for starters, it means making the same choices Jesus would make. He came to earth and demonstrated how. It’s all right here in the Bible.

 

Knowing what to do

and doing it

are two different things.

 

But just like any good exercise program, once you start it, it gets easier. You see, the real work has already been done.

 

It’s up to us to claim God’s promise from Ephesians 1:3. We have been blessed in the heavenly realms

Heaven is near.

Which means that every spiritual blessing in Christ is near.

Let’s take a hold of them and rejoice.

 

Pray.

 

Lord, help us to hear your still small voice. Help us to not be like Herod and keep you at arm’s length, but to welcome you in. Then help us to not just listen, but to make a point to put our relationship with you #1 in our lives,

Daily,

We recognize that labels are a part of our life, help us to listen to the labels you give us, Help us to truly believe that as a child of the one true king, your spiritual blessings are waiting for us, help us to receive them and then pass them on.

May your kingdom be expanded, in Jesus name, AMEN.