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The Cost of Following Christ
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The Cost of Following Christ
Mark 6:1–29 – Introducing…Jesus – February 28, 2021
This past Thursday the US House of Representatives passed House Resolution 5, now known as “The Equality Act.” It’s likely the bill won’t pass the Senate, but it will at least come up for a vote this time. In 2019 the same bill was put forward but it never got a vote in the Senate. It’s likely to get one this round.
The point of the bill is to take ideas like “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” and make them part of our national, federal Civil Rights Laws. Workplaces, retail establishments, sports, adoption agencies, and schools could no longer discriminate on the basis of a person’s “gender identity” or “sexual orientation.”
If a person identifies as a female, they need to be able to do anything and everything currently available to females.
A man who identifies as a woman should be able to access women’s sports and scholarships, women’s homeless shelters, and women’s everything.
Christian adoption agencies would be required to allow any type of couple to adopt.
In its current form, the law makes no provisions for religious exemptions. Part of the goal of the law seems to be to make it so that Christian business owners and citizens could no longer claim their religious convictions prevent them from doing or saying certain things.
Increasingly there’s the desire to make it so that our Christianity is appropriate for our hearts and churches and homes, but nowhere else.
More and more it seems like what the culture isn’t content for Christians to let other people live as they see fit. The culture wants us to affirm things the Bible says simply aren’t true.
We don’t know where this will go. Revivals happen. National leaders get saved. God has a thousand ways to remove someone from a place of influence.
But the tug-o-war is out there. And many of you are living in it in your workplaces. Generally, the larger your company and the more national or international it is, the more you’re feeling the pressure to suppress your Christian views and toe the line for a certain agenda.
Our passage this morning speaks to this issue. It may not speak to it in a very optimistic way, but it does bring a healthy dose of realism.
The Bible is profoundly realistic. Last week the message was on trusting God to answer bold prayers. And that truth absolutely stands.
Today’s truth is that sometimes following Christ will get you rewarded in this life. But sometimes it means you’ll be opposed or even killed. Three categories: (1) By Those Closest to Us, (2) By Those We’re Trying to Help, (3) By Very Powerful Enemies.
If you’re not a Christian, this will be an interesting sermon for you. This sermon isn’t promising if you turn to Christ you’ll get health, wealth, a spouse, and a house full of kids. It’s actually promising that if you turn to Christ you might end up rejected by your friends and killed. But if you do turn to Christ, I can say it’s still worth it.
Turning to Christ you’ll be forgiven of all your sins. That mountain of guilt on your back will be lifted off. You’ll be at peace with your heavenly Father. You’ll receive eternal life. So that even if someone does kill you, it’s only taking you to a place better than anything you could dream of.
That’s the realism the Bible offers—profound confidence in an all-powerful God. Honestly facing the opposition we’ll face in this world.
READ MARK 6:1–13 and pray.
I. Opposed By Those Closest To Us
“His hometown” (Mark 6:1) – Back in Nazareth. Not Bethlehem where he was born, but Nazareth where he grew up.
As his custom, “he began to teach in the synagogue” (Mark 6:2). People “astonished” (ibid.).
And then the questions come (Mark 6:2–3):
- “Where did this man get things…wisdom…such mighty works…”? (6:2)
- “Is not this the carpenter?” (6:3)
“One who constructs, builder, carpenter” (BDAG).
Guelich (WBC 1:1–8:26): “term used for manual labor with stone, metal or wood,” and means “Jesus grew up and learned a trade like everyone else in Nazareth” (310).
France (NIGTC, 243): “In a small village the tektōn would need to be versatile, able to deal both with agricultural and other implements and also with the construction and repair of buildings….He was a significant figure in the village economy, probably also undertaking skilled work in the surrounding area.”
- “The son of Mary?” – Four brothers (James, Joses, Judas, Simon) and “sisters” = at least 6 half-siblings.
Guelich (WBC, 310): Four brothers, though “only two of whom are known elsewhere in the NT (James, Jude).
“These questions point to his being a local son, a common, ordinary man with a trade and a family known to all. This common knowledge of who Jesus ‘really’ was led the townspeople to reject the alternative that God might be using him in any special way.”
- “And they took offense at him” (6:3) – “offense” = skandalizō. Their response is basically, “It’s “scandalous” what he’s doing, parading around like some sort of God. We know him!”
Jesus’ response (Mark 6:4–6)
- A proverb to his audience (6:4) – Don’t miss increasing closeness: “hometown… relatives…household.”
- Then Mark’s emphasis is on the UNBELIEF of the village:
- In 6:5, “He COULD NOT do mighty work there”
- In 6:6, Jesus’ turn to marvel. “He marveled because of their unbelief.”
The takeaway: If it was true for Jesus, it’ll be true for us. Sometimes we’re opposed by those closest to us.
- Sometimes the closest to us give us the most resistance.
- Sometimes the cost of following Christ is rejection by our own families.
- It’s common in Muslim countries that turning to Christ means your family turning from you.
- Happens in the US, too.
II. Opposed By Those We’re Trying to Help
Now for the first time the Twelve are commissioned.
- “The Twelve” (Mark 6:7)
- “Send them out two by two” (Mark 6:7) – Word for “send” is apostellō, verb connected to the noun, apostolos (“apostle”).
- Their commission from Jesus not just assignment to convey a message or do something a typical human representative might do.
- Included “authority over the unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7)—Demons!
- Jesus gave them authority they didn’t have before.
- A normal person in a normal situation doesn’t have “authority over unclean spirits.” That’s something you must be given.
Resist any materialistic motives
- They’re to travel light and fight against materialism.
- The supply list is short, allows for flexibility and efficiency.
- Reminds of Exodus 12:11 on the night of the first Passover. Israelites were to eat in haste with “belt fastened,” “sandals on,” “staff in your hand.”
- Gospel of Matthew adds the word of Jesus not to ACQUIRE anything.
- This isn’t about getting money or gold or power or influence. It’s about ministry.
- It’s about representing Christ and doing the work of Christ wherever you can.
We get a little snapshot of their ministry — Mark 6:13.
- 3 things – “Proclaim,” “cast out demons,” “anointed” sick w/ oil & healed.
- “Anointing with oil” for healing is mentioned here and in James 5.
- The oil isn’t some magical potion or some “essential oil.”
- It’s a symbol of being anointed with the Spirit of God.
- It’s the Spirit who does the healing:
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:14–15)
- Like laying hands on people when we pray for them, Bible models how we minister to people.
- We should imitate those, even if we can’t fully explain the ins and outs of it.
But Jesus also prepares them for being resisted — Mark 6:11.
- When resisted, shake the dust off your feet.
- Comes from a Jewish practice when walk in a Gentile region.
- As you leave, shake dust off to get every last trace off of you.
- Statement that this region, this area is unclean and not blessed by God.
- Jesus is saying, when resisted, make this statement to say, “You’re not resisting me. You’re resisting God. And by resisting God, God is resisting you.”
But we want to hear this as a reminder. People will reject us. Even THOSE WE’RE TRYING TO HELP will oppose us. Even if you bring a message of salvation, healing from diseases, and deliverance from demons, they’ll reject you. No matter how carefully you speak, how godly you act, how much you check your motives, sometimes people will not “receive you” or “listen to you.”
III. Opposed By Very Powerful Enemies
When we read this third part of the narrative it’ll feel like it doesn’t belong.
- But it does.
- Yet another example of how people can resist us.
READ MARK 6:14–29.
With Jesus’ dramatic ministry in chapters 4–5, his reputation spreads. King Herod chimes in (Mark 6:14).
He’s trying to make sense of Jesus.
- His best guess is that Jesus is some kind of resurrected John the Baptist.
- Others think it’s the return of Elijah—promised in Malachi 4:5–6, the last two verses of the OT.
- Those verses do promise that Elijah will return before the day of the Lord comes.
- Elijah did come, but it was John the Baptist (Mark 9:12–13).
- Herod thinks Jesus is John the Baptist who was “raised” (Mark 6:16).
- Herod had already “beheaded” the Baptist, but he sees Jesus as some kind of return of John.
Mark decides to tell the story of John’s beheading here. It’s a flashback to give some explanation of what happened.
Who is King Herod?
- The name “Herod” in the NT is confusing, since three men go by the name “King Herod” and a 4th could have.
The first one is Herod the Great, the head of this family line.
- He is the one responsible for rebuilding the temple of Jesus’ day (John 2:20).
- He was the Herod the three wise men from the east came to see just after the birth of Jesus (Matt 2).
- Herod the Great is the one who ordered the killing of all the male children 2-years and under born in Bethlehem around the time Jesus was born.
- He dies right after that incident (4 BC).
The 2nd Herod is the one in our passage, Herod the Great’s son, Herod Antipas.
- He’s not a king but desperately wants to be one.
- He’ll ask Caesar Augustus for that title, but Augustus will refuse.
- But as Mark’s gives his history, he’s effectively a “king” in this part of the world, especially to people like Jesus and the apostles.
- He has all the powers and privileges a king would have.
- He rules from 4 BC until AD 39, a few years after Pentecost in Acts 2.
- Herod Antipas is the one who beheads John the Baptist.
The third Herod appears in Acts 12, also called “Herod the King.”
- This Herod is the child of Herod Antipas and also goes by Herod Agrippa I.
- He’s the one who kills James the apostle.
The fourth Herod goes is Agrippa’s son, Herod Agrippa II.
- Luke calls him King Agrippa in Acts 25:13 when the apostle Paul goes on trial before him.
The woman Herodias enters our narrative as well.
- The scandal surrounding her is that her previous husband was Philip, another son of Herod the Great.
- She was married to this King Herod’s brother.
- Divorced him.
- Married Herod Antipas.
John the Baptist spoke out against this sin—Mark 6:18.
- Herodias could not tolerate this.
- Her opposition against John the Baptist was deep and personal.
- Politically she needed him dead to protect her position.
- Personally she wanted him dead.
Eventually “AN OPPORTUNITY CAME” (Mark 6:21).
- Daughter of Herodias dances before this “King Herod” and pleases him.
- He’s in a good mood.
- Surrounded by his powerful friends.
- Wants to impress people with his generosity.
- Tells the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you” (Mark 6:22). He even adds, “up to half my kingdom” (Mark 6:23).
- The daughter goes to her ruthless mother and Herodias sees a golden opportunity.
- The mother wastes no time.
- The girl’s response in the Greek in Mark 6:25 is filled with drama.
- In the original it reads:
“I want…that…immediately…you might give…to me…on a platter…the head…of John the Baptist.”
- King Herod didn’t see it coming. But he was trapped. He told his men to do it. They went and immediately beheaded John. The girl got the platter and gave it to her mom. Herodias the ruthless queen got her wish.
We need to remember who John the Baptist is.
- Promised to Zechariah by the angel Gabriel
- Born to Elizabeth when she had given up hope of having a child.
- The Prophet foretold in Isaiah 40:3 who would cry out in the wilderness and prepare the way of the LORD.
- The one who faithfully called out all who deserved it.
- He was the one to baptize his cousin Jesus in the Jordan River.
- And he watched as Jesus was then baptized with the Holy Spirit.
- He heard the Father speak from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).
And as Jesus’ ministry was growing, he humbly said:
He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
But the greatest commendation he received came from Jesus himself:
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt 11:11a)
But with such an impeccable record, his head ends up on a platter.
- Because of a vindictive woman determined to get what she wanted.
- Even if it meant killing an innocent man deserving only of her respect and commendation.
John the Baptist was faithful with everything the Lord gave him. He had his moments of uncertainty, asking Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we expect another?” But he was tirelessly faithful. He spoke fearlessly to kings and priests and Pharisees and Roman soldiers. His reward? His EARTHLY reward was getting his head on a platter. There was a HEAVELY reward we can’t even imagine. But his EARTHLY reward was getting his head on a platter.
And when you stand back and take in the whole chapter, you realize that’s what God is telling us.
- Jesus is rejected by his own people
- Jesus promises that some will not receive or listen to the apostles
- Then we read of the greatest man born to woman ending up with his head on a platter.
- Following Christ in this life will not always get you rewarded. Sometimes it gets you killed.
There is a basic conflict of interests, even of ideologies, between the kingdom of God and the norms of human society. An ambassador of the kingdom of God is called not only to a mission of restoration and deliverance, but also to a conflict of which John’s fate provides an extreme example.
R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark
Sometimes following Christ will get you rewarded in this life. But sometimes it means you’ll be opposed or even killed. Three categories: (1) By Those Closest to Us, (2) By Those We’re Trying to Help, (3) By Very Powerful Enemies.
But God’s word is clear. Even when they do, press on. Continue on. Don’t quit.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Heb 12:1–3)
And a final blessing from Jesus’ younger brother Jude. A man who later in life realized who came to realize who this mysterious brother of his really was.
We run our race “looking to Jesus” because of this view of who Jesus is.
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24–25)
Prayer and closing song
 France, The Gospel of Mark, NIGTC, 246.
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