In Mark 6 the author tells us Jesus sends out his disciples to preach and heal— but suddenly in the middle of the story, as Mark likes to do, he stops and tells another story, about Herod killing John the Baptist: a sordid tale of power, seduction, intrigue, depravity, violence—the works. Then the disciples come home and Jesus says, “Let’s go away to a quiet place.” What’s with the mental whiplash, cutting between the two very different scenes?
Well, they’re not different scenes. Mark is not just portraying Herod’s awfulness. He’s reminding us of the brokenness of the world we serve. We carry our gospel of healing, reconciliation, justice, gentleness and joy into a world of fear, greed, racism, militarism, cannibalistic capitalism, violence and dehumanization. The tragic danger of Herod’s court is right where we’re sent to preach the good news. Mark is just being realistic.
Everything in Mark is a prelude to the cross and resurrection, because everything in life is. The difficulties, the injustices, the tragedies we face, are not barriers. They’re the road. They’re the setting for the good news. And even with all that evil the news is still good. The cross is how resurrection begins.
So, dearly beloved, go out there. At times it will be rough and nasty. But you carry with you the light of God, and the darkness cannot overcome it. Heal the broken and proclaim the good news. And then, come home, and go with Jesus to a quiet place, and rest.
July 8, 2021