2019-12-08 – Mark 6:14-29 – Voice of the Martyrs
Bible Text: Mark 6:14-29 | Preacher: Pastor Jerry Higdon | Series: Mark | 2019-12-08 – Mark 6.14-29 – Voice of the Martyrs
(Christmas Decorations, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Caroling, Youth Lock-in)
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us today.
As we have introduced our International Missions this morning, I am curious to ask you this morning, have you ever met in person a real life missionary? Somebody that puts their life on the line for the purposes of the Gospel. Maybe traveling with their family to the far reaches of the world in order to make an impact for Christ. I have had the privilege of knowing and working alongside many missionaries around the world and I am here to tell you they are some amazing and dedicated servants. My heart yearns for them, and I pray yours does to. Today we are going to see in scripture, the challenges and toils that some faced as they endeavored to declare Jesus as Lord. Going out and spreading the Gospel to the world at large can be an exciting and rewarding endeavor for sure, but it can also be riddled with risk, persecution and challenge. I think today God wants us to become more aware and more sensitive to some of the challenges that being an evangelical disciple and/or missionary might entail.
Please turn in your Bibles to Mark 6.14, pew Bibles pg. 892 in God’s Inspired, Infallible and Living Word, but let us first start with Prayer.
Last we deliberated in this book of Mark, we saw how Jesus had sent out His Apostles two-by-two into the city to proclaim the Gospel Good News of Christ’s salvation offered. They went out, six-pairs of poor, ordinary, untrained, most unlikely spokesmen, and what God was doing through them rose to the attention of the highest officials in their land. Through their small and simple ministry, Jesus’s name became known in that city and beyond.
14 King Herod heard about it [it being the disciple missionaries and the Gospel], because Jesus’s name had become well known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that’s why miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He’s Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet, like one of the prophets from long ago.”
To give you a little back story here, John the Baptist and Jesus were second cousins. Mary and Elizabeth, according to scripture were first cousins. John and Jesus were the same age and probably looked a little alike I would imagine.
John was considered by many to be a prophet who was living in the spirit of Elijah. John and Elijah had many similarities in their character. They both were known as being rough looking characters, wearing Camel hair clothing and eating honey and locusts. The prophet Elijah was one of only two people in the Bible that we know of that was physically taken up to heaven while being still alive. Then, according to the Old Testament prophesy in Malachi 3&4, Elijah was supposed to come back and prepare the way for the Lord, just like we know John the Baptist did. Therefore, many people, when they saw John the Baptist and Jesus, and all they were doing, tried to figure them out. Were they Elijah or the Messiah Savior or somebody else? That issue is what King Herod was chewing on in these verses.
16 When Herod heard of it, he said, “John, the one I beheaded, has been raised!” 17 For Herod himself had given orders to arrest John and to chain him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife because he had married her.
18 John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias held a grudge against him and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing he was a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard him he would be very perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.
We don’t know exactly how long John the Baptist was held in prison, however Herod kept John for a while it seems and he was entertained by John’s conversations. But John boldly told the King the error of his ways. In this case King Herod was living with Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, and John the Baptist let him know that by doing so he was living in sin. King’s are not normally called out by others, and Herod’s wife was furious with John and was looking for a way to rid the kingdom of him and his influence.
21 An opportune time came on his birthday, when Herod gave a banquet for his nobles, military commanders, and the leading men of Galilee.22 When Herodias’s own daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I’ll give it to you.”
23 He promised her with an oath: “Whatever you ask me I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?”
“John the Baptist’s head,” she said. 25 At once she hurried to the king and said,
“I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head on a latter immediately.”
26 Although the king was deeply distressed, because of his oaths and the guests he did not want to refuse her. 27 The king immediately sent for an executioner and commanded him to bring John’s head. So he went and beheaded him in prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When John’s disciples heard about it, they came and removed his corpse and placed it in a tomb.
Although this ends the account of John’s death in this book of Mark, the book of Matthew has a few extra details about what happened afterwards.
Matthew 14:12 Continues: 12 John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. 13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.
Such a sad ending to a wonderful Martyr of our faith. The title of this message today is Voice of the Martyrs. The word Martyr, according to Merriam Webster means “a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion” or “a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle”. And that is exactly what John the Baptist did for Christ and us. He gave his life for the cause of Christ.
John was blessed to be the one who prepared the way of the Lord Jesus Christ. People would come from far away, out to the wilderness where he lived to hear his teaching and get baptized. Jesus Himself was baptized by John the Baptist. John is known to be a very direct and “in your face” kind of prophet. And as we see now his demise, that confronting mode of his eventually lead to his death.
In our New Testament scripture is written just a few accounts of John the Baptist. So in his honor I thought it would be good to read a couple of those accounts. Turn if you will with me now to Matthew 3, and read with along: (Matthew 3)
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”
4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from
these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Later in scripture, John the Baptist is also mentioned in Matthew 11. As written, verse 2 starts:
2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” 7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.
[pause] Wisdom is justified indeed by her deeds. What a great piece of His-story about John the Baptist. Finally, my favorite verse quote is from John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Jesus lived a most righteous life, and John lived a life that we all should emulate better. Yet both he and Jesus were martyred as a result of their faith and courage and we now honor them today.
John was the greatest prophet evangelist and missionary that ever lived. And Jesus asks now, through His Greatest Commandment and His Great Commission, that all of His followers give their lives to the cause of faith as well.
We talked earlier about our SBC missionaries at the start of our services today. Those missionaries are putting their lives on the line for Christ, just like John the Baptist did some 2000 years ago. Nationally and internationally our Southern Baptist Convention has more than 5,000 missionaries currently in the field spreading the Good News Gospel to the world. I would argue that we need to be more intentional in our support of these missionaries. They are carrying out the Great Commission to the ends of the earth on our behalf. My prayer is that one day one of you might have the privilege of joining them in that high endeavor.
We just finished Thanksgiving and now we are heading into the Christmas week where we highly emphasize what Jesus did for us. We now can know God because He came in the flesh as a babe in the manger. We now can know God because He lived a life of righteousness and sacrificed on our account as we now have written testimony in our Bibles. How wonderful is He, that He gave His life for me.
We are going to close today with another song from Jason. But as he sings, we are going to pass around the offering tray once again. This monies collected will be going for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering for our international missionaries. Those Christians who choose to spend their lives like John the Baptist. Putting themselves and their families at risk for the purposes of the Gospel to the nations. May God be with you and them on this day.
Let us Pray.