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Mark 6b

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Mark 6:6b-9… Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. 8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff. Take no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra tunic.

Commentary

            After being rejected by his hometown in Nazareth Jesus proceeded onto the nearby villages teaching the message of the kingdom of God. In v. 7 he “called” the twelve disciples to him. The term for “call” here is a summons in order to confront someone face to face. Jesus wasn’t making a casual call to his disciples, rather, he was summoning them for a special service. Up to this point the disciples had been casual observers of all that Jesus had been doing. They were amazed at all that had transpired, and now Jesus was going to commission them into the same service that he had been doing (preaching, casting out demons & healing).

            In v. 7 Jesus summoned the disciples and sent them out in pairs, which would mean they would be in six groups going out in six different directions to preach. It is likely that he sent them in twos in order to keep them accountable to each other and to encourage one another along the way. The Mosaic Law forbade anyone from being convicted of a crime based upon the testimony of only one witness (Deut. 17:6; 19:15), and now Jesus commissions his disciples in twos to give the testimony of truth concerning the kingdom of God by two witnesses in each group. Jesus not only sent them out, he gave them his “authority” over evil spirits. This means that all the authority Jesus had over demons and sickness he gave to the Twelve. The tense of the verb “gave them authority” literally means that he kept giving them authority throughout their ministry. In other words, they had a continuous power over unclean spirits. Matthew 10:1-5 carefully notes that these powers belonged only to the twelve disciples who are later called “apostles.” They were “disciples” during their days of observing Christ; they were apostles after having been sent forth as qualified representatives of the kingdom of God through preaching.

            In v. 8 the disciples were given specific instructions to travel light. They weren’t to take food or a bag, and they were to take no money with them. They were permitted to wear sandals but not to take an extra tunic which was like a shirt only it was much longer. The ancients wore the tunic underneath their cloak which they also used to cover up with at night. The only thing, other than what the disciples had on their backs that they could take with them was a staff – a hooked stick symbolic of their prophetic office. Matthew and Luke’s accounts forbid the taking of a staff, but it’s likely that the staff they refer to is the shepherd’s rod that they used for protection. Jesus was telling them that they didn’t need to worry themselves with protection but that they could take the staff they carried to specify their prophetic ministry of preaching.

Food for Thought 

            ALL Christians are called into the service of the Gospel ministry. God calls believers into service in very much the same way He did to the twelve disciples. Once they had observed Jesus’ ministry, he summoned them into service and gave them his authority. So it is today with those called into ministry. And just like Jesus did with the disciples, he gives His children specific instructions, namely to preach the good news. He chooses us; we don’t choose Him. He gives us instructions; we don’t instruct him. As Christians, literally, “little Christs” we represent Jesus Christ. We don’t have power to heal people, but we can call upon the God who has that power. And we needn’t worry about provisions – even though we often do. He takes care of His own. So what are you waiting for? As a Christian you’ve been summoned to service. Get busy!

Mark 6:10-13… “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”12 And they went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Commentary

            After choosing the twelve disciples for service, giving them a divine commission to preach, giving them his power over evil spirits, and instructing them to rely only on what they took with them, Jesus told them to find a place to stay so as to preach the message of the kingdom of God. In v. 10 they were to find a house to stay in and remain there until they left that  particular town. Matthew’s Gospel says to find a “worthy” home to stay in, speaking in terms of its spiritual and moral character. To stay in someone’s home who had less than a reputable character the disciples would have had their ministries tainted. Furthermore, once they found a worthy home to stay in and house them while they preached in that town, they were instructed not to seek another home where the accommodations might be better. That would offend their original host. And if anyone did not welcome the men they were to leave that house and reject them as they had been rejected. This was a common practice for Jews who, when they would travel, would shake the Gentile dirt off of their feet upon reentering Israel so as not to pollute Israelite soil with pagan dust. Paul and Barnabas did this upon being rejected too (Acts 13:15).

            Dr. J. MacArthur says of the Jews who would reject the Twelve, “Jesus was not speaking of those who are slow to understand or believe but of those who, after hearing a clear testimony of the gospel and seeing dramatic and irrefutable signs of confirmation, continue to resist and oppose it. When a person’s mind is firmly set against God, we should turn our efforts to others.”

            In v. 12 the disciples did as they were instructed, and their message was that people should “repent” – a word that means “to change one’s mind or purpose.” This was John the Baptist’s message (cf. 1:15). In other words, the disciples went all over Israel teaching the people about Jesus Christ and to convince them that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. Those who didn’t believe it were called to change their minds and believe. As evidence that Jesus had given them his authority and as evidence that their message as Jesus’ disciples was unique and full of power, v. 13 says that the disciples drove out demons and healed many sick people. What Jesus the Son did in his power as one sent by God the Father the disciples did in his power.

            In v. 13 the text says that the disciples “anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” Though olive oil was used by the ancients for medicinal purposes along with pouring wine over open wounds, it is clear that the oil in this passage is used as a symbol of divine healing. Jesus is never said to have used oil when he healed sicknesses, and since he gave his power to the disciples to do the same it means that this oil was simply symbolic of healing.

Food for Thought 

            When true Christians wake up from their spiritual slumber they get busy with teaching the good news of Jesus Christ. But even Jesus instructed the disciples, and they had witnessed it first-hand, that many would not believe even after they performed their miraculous signs of healing. Just as he came to the earth 2,000 years ago to seek and gather the true children of God, so too is the task of all Christians: preach the gospel and make way for God’s elect to believe. Not everyone believes of course, but then again, everyone is not a child of God. Our witness to the truth of Christ through our words and deeds must be our focus. People’s lives can be healed simply by the power of the Word of God. His true children will believe and come to faith.

Mark 6:14-16… King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 Others said, “He is Elijah.” And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.” 16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”

Commentary

            King Herod in the Bible is known as Herod Antipas in secular history books. The son of Herod the Great, his title was “tetrarch” – “ruler of a fourth.” Following his father’s death the Romans divided Palestine into four parts, of which Herod Antipas ruled a fourth. His half-brother Archelaus was an “ethnarch” who ruled half of his father’s kingdom, and his other half-brother, Philip, ruled the other fourth part. Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great’s fourth wife Malthake who was a Samaritan. Of course Herod the Great was an Idumean (a descendant of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother), and he was a tyrant in every sense of the word. He had all 70 men of the Jewish Sanhedrin put to death, murdered one wife, killed two of his sons, and had all the male babies in Jerusalem under two years of age killed in an unsuccessful attempt to kill the Messiah. So it comes as little surprise that his son Antipas was such a tyrant in his day.

            By the time the events of Jesus sending out the disciples in twos occurs (vv. 7-13), Herod the Great had long since died, and Herod Antipas had been reigning for some 30 plus years. His palace was in Tiberias, on the southwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, and it’s noteworthy that Jesus never once went through that town even though he walked all over Galilee. But word of Jesus’ ministry did make it to Herod, and it frightened him greatly due to his guilty conscience.

            As the disciples traveled the Galilean countryside preaching the kingdom of God and repentance from sin, word came to King Herod. He heard about the sick being healed, demons being cast out, and the great following of people Jesus enjoyed. But Herod, stricken with a guilty conscience for having beheaded John the Baptist, was fearful that John had come back from the dead in the person of Jesus to take revenge on him. Many in his kingdom actually thought Jesus was John back from the dead, and some even thought he was Elijah (8th century BC prophet).

            In Mark 6:17ff. the account of John’s death is recounted by Mark. Herod had married his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, and John had spoken out boldly against them as adulterers. This infuriated Herodias who is attested in extra-biblical literature as a vile and wicked woman. In order to marry her Herod had to divorce his first wife who was the daughter of the Arabian King Aretas whose famed capital was the fortress city of Petra. Because of Herod’s divorce Aretas went to war with Herod and destroyed most of his army. It was only with the help of the Romans that Herod was able to remain in power. Be that as it was, Herod and Herodias continued their adulterous relationship, and Herodias was incensed over John’s preaching against them. But Herod protected John “knowing him to be a righteous man.” Herodias, however concocted a plan to have John beheaded, and she succeeded. His head was later handed over to her daughter as a gift from Herod, and John’s demise was complete.

Food for Thought

            The preaching of God’s Word has always created a stir among unbelievers. Just like John the Baptist, some actually die horrific deaths as a result of their bold proclamation of the Word of God. But preaching Truth is supposed to create a stir. If it doesn’t then it hasn’t been preached correctly. If the greatest men of all time died as a result of preaching the Truth (e.g. Jesus, John, & the apostles) then we’re in good company for being persecuted for doing the same thing.

Mark 6:17-22… For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. 21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I'll give it to you.”

Commentary

            John the Baptist made enemies with the wrong people when he spoke out against the unlawful union of Herod and Herodias. Herodias had been Herod’s sister-in-law, but they had an affair. John spoke out against this, and as v. 17 says, John was arrested, bound, and put in prison. But interestingly, it wasn’t Herod that had a problem with John’s preaching; it was Herodias, who in v. 19, “nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him.” So this conniving woman began to conjure up a way to have John killed since she herself had no power to do so. What she did have was the power of manipulation, and her grudge against John fueled her fire of revenge.

            Herod, however, apparently thought well of John the Baptist. There is no indication that he was angered over John’s words against him. He even held John “to be a righteous and holy man,” and he liked to listen to John preach (v. 20). This was not an uncommon trait among the aristocracy, for there were many intellectual superiors and patrons like Herod who supported philosophers which they disagreed with purely for cultural and entertainment purposes. God told his prophet Ezekiel the same thing in the sixth century BC: “My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. When all this comes true – and it surely will – then they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ez. 33:31-33). Herod may have liked to listen to John, but it is clear that John’s message of repentance was never grasped by Herod. Thus, John was nothing more than an entertaining prophet to Herod.

            In v. 21 an “opportune time” arrived when Herodias believed she could gain her revenge on John. It was Herod’s birthday, and he invited all of the high ranking military and political leaders in Galilee. Birthday’s were not traditionally celebrated by Jews in those days, for they were more of a Greek and Roman custom. Herod used the occasion as a time of celebration and drunken debauchery. Herodias used this to her advantage by sending her daughter to dance for Herod. This apparently attractive woman danced for Herod and “pleased” him – a euphemism for “sexually aroused.” He then, in a drunken and sexually driven stupor, offered the girl anything she wanted – up to half of his kingdom! Herodias would seize this opportunity.

Food for Thought

            Herod represents many today who have no problem with preachers of the Truth. But those who hail the Bible as “one of the greats” and Jesus Christ as “the best of teachers” but who do not heed the call of repentance are doomed to eternal damnation. Enjoying the message of a preacher and/or respecting the Bible’s teaching is meaningless without full obedience to it.

Mark 6:23-29… And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” “The head of John the Baptist,” she said. 25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he quickly sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came, took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

Commentary

            As Herod sat mesmerized and sexually aroused by the dancing of his step-daughter he offered up a promise to her on oath: “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” But Herod had no authority to offer this woman half of his kingdom, for he was a mere vassal of Rome, not a king. When Mark referred to Herod as “king” (v. 17) he does so sarcastically for Mark wrote the account long after these events. At the time of Mark’s writing Herod had been banished, and he’s clearly he’s being sarcastic about him being able to offer his kingdom.

            The girl, however, didn’t know what to ask for from Herod. So she went and asked her mother Herodias who had meticulously planned for this moment. Of course she seized the chance immediately by telling her to ask for the head of John the Baptist who was at that time being held in a dungeon. This was her “opportune time” to gain her revenge against John for speaking out against her marriage to Herod. So her daughter “at once hurried to the king with the request.” One can just sense the work of Satan as these evil people conjured up their plan. The girl then came to Herod and gave her request while all the party guests listened in: “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” Craig Keener says, “Beheading by the sword was the method of executing Roman citizens and other individuals of status; lower-class individuals were usually executed by crucifixion or other means, unless the matter was urgent.” Therefore, the girl’s asking for John’s head on a platter suggests that she wanted it served up as part of the dinner menu! Following her request there must have been a collective gasp from Herod and his dinner guests. Herod found himself in a pickle, for he had sworn on oath to give the girl anything she requested, and even though his oath wasn’t legally binding, he was far too spineless to stand up and say no. So he reluctantly summoned an executioner and ordered the beheading of John who sat as an innocent and righteous preacher in Herod’s dungeon. He had done nothing deserving of this fate except preach the Word of God.

            The executioner went immediately, cut John’s head off, and brought it to the girl on a platter who then took it to Herodias and gave it to her. When the head of Cicero was brought to Fulvia, the wife of Antony, she spat on it, pulled the tongue out, and drove a hairpin through it. The early church father Jerome believed that this is what Herodias did with John’s head. John’s disciples were obviously informed about the matter, and they took his body and buried it.

Food for Thought

            John the Baptist was conceived miraculously, and his life was set apart as a herald who would prepare the way for the Christ. This he did. Even Jesus called him “the greatest among those born of women.” But look at how he died and the scheme behind his death. All those who preach the Truth are kept eternally secure by God, but there is an evil and satanic scheme to kill all of God’s children. We can’t avoid that, but we must know that death is not the end, it’s a crown – the beginning of something greater. The flesh will perish, but God controls our destiny.

I)            A Summons by God (7a)

II)         Authority Given by God (7b)

III)      Provisions Supplied from God (8-9)

A)    Adequately supplied

B)    Admonished to live by faith

IV)      Worthy Hospitality from God (10)

V)         God’s Rejection of the Contemptuous (11)

VI)      God Message of Repentance (12)

VII)   God’s Confirming Credentials (13)

VIII)       Observations

  • “Send out” is literally, “Apostello
  • Verse 10… We will encounter friends and those receptive to the Gospel
  • Verse 11… We will encounter enemies and those who will reject us (family?)
  • Christians must sometimes reject other so-called “Christians”
  • Sometimes those “sent” can be unconverted. Judas was one of the Twelve sent out.
  • God sends us, equips us, and enables us to speak and to speak boldly.
  • As those “sent out” we are God’s representatives. We are “little Christs.”
  • Good preachers: Jesus, John, apostles, and the OT prophets
  • God’s true servants will be recognized for WHAT they speak, namely, God’s Word.
  • God’s potent Word, if spoken correctly, will catch the attention of His enemies (Herod)
  • Speaking out against evil (adultery) will set us at odds with many – even Christians

Observations on Herod:

  • You can’t silence the voice of God’s prophets. Though they die their tongue still speaks.
  • Those who make themselves captives of their lusts will in turn become captives of Satan.
  • Three problems: unfavorable celebrations… lewd dancing… rash oaths
  • Beware of taking oaths… Breaking one’s sinful oath is far more virtuous than keeping it and sinning further. David did it!
  • John grew more holy through his death. His tongue never stopped speaking.
  • Salome was just like her adulterous mother. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Herod’s lust began in his head, but it turned his hands BLOOD red.
  • Ambrose: “What could be more vile than to keep an oath simply to please one’s guests?”
  • A kingdom was promised for a dance; a prophet was sacrificed for the sake of an oath.
  • It’s why the JW’s don’t celebrate B-days
  • It’s why the Baptist’s don’t allow dancing.
  • In their proper context they are benign activities, but parties and lewd dancing result on nothing but sin.
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