This morning I was reading Mark 6:1-29. That was as far as I could get because there were three very different stories jammed into such a few verses.
The first story was about Jesus preaching in his home town. At the end of the story he says “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” But the part that really stood out for me came next. “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” Could you imagine! It’s said almost casually, dismissively. He just healed a few sick people. That’s all?!! What an amazing miracle that would be today, but in Jesus’ time, that was ALL he would do in his hometown because the people there had so little faith.
That really got me to thinking about the miracles of Jesus. He turned water into wine, raised several people from the dead, calmed the sea, walked on water, cast out demons, made the lame to walk and the blind to see, ROSE FROM THE DEAD himself… and oh yeah, he healed sick people. The son of Man, in whom we place our faith was truly miraculous. If he could heal sick people who had little faith, how much more can he do, will he do for us in our own faith?
The next part of this chapter tells of Jesus sending out the disciples to minister and he “gave them authority over evil spirits. These were his instructions. Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts…” Again I had to stop because that was the line that stood out. Jesus was calling on the twelve to fully trust in God and in His ability to provide for them everything that they could possibly need on their journey…while they were doing God’s work. I think about how these two stories are related. A story of little faith and “small miracles” directly followed by a story calling on you to completely trust in God and as a result “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”
I don’t know about you, but there are times in my life when I find it easy to completely trust in God, to have faith and be healed and there are times when I don’t. When I let the worries of the world overwhelm me and I start to lose faith. I don’t listen to my internal messages of distress and instead listen to what world is telling me. And this brings me to the final story in this section. The story of the beheading of John the Baptist by King Herod.
Herod held John in prison because John condemned Herod’s marriage to his own brother’s wife, Herodias. And because John made her feel uncomfortable, Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted him killed. But “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.” Herod knew in his heart the truth of what John was preaching but he wasn’t yet ready to bring himself to acknowledge his wrong doing. He was puzzled. And then, at a banquet, he made a promise to the daughter of Herodias in front of all of his friends and dinner guests (important people that he wanted to impress obviously) that he would give her anything she asked for. And what did she ask for? The head of John the Baptist to be brought to her, right then, on a platter.
It says in verse 26 that Herod was “greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests he did not want to refuse her.” We all know how the story ends. With the death of an innocent man. Rather than do what was right, rather than face possible humiliation, Herod had John beheaded to. How many times in our own lives have we done the wrong thing? Gone against our own internal feelings of distress rather than face the possibility of being embarrassed or humiliated in front of other people? Not had enough faith?
There is so much in these readings for me to think about today. To try to understand. Because I think it is significant that Mark puts this story about John’s death in the middle of messages about faith. I think he is trying to say something about what happens to us when, like Herod or the people in Jesus’s hometown, our faith is weak.
We don’t have the benefit of the disciples. We don’t get to see Jesus perform miracles in front of us, but that doesn’t mean he can’t perform miracles within us. Today I’m feel as if God is telling me to have faith, to trust that he will give me everything I need, if I am only willing to leave behind my baggage and take “nothing for the journey”.