Gospel: Mk 6.14-29 tells of the arrest and execution of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. Some thought Jesus was John returned to life, others that He was Elijah who had returned.

King Herod in this vignette is Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, who had died in 4 BC. Antipas was the ‘Tetrarch’, the ruler, during much of Jesus’ life, of the dependent state of Galilee and Perea, who had taken his brother, Herod Philip’s wife, Herodias, as a wife for which John had criticized him. This criticism was why Antipas had him executed.

The incestuous relationships of the two Herod’s–Philip and Antipas were brothers so marrying the same woman successively was incestuous according to Scripture––and the judicial murder of John are a measure of the sinfulness of Israel in Jesus’ time. Scripture says ‘the law came in to increase the trespass’ (Rm 5.20) and that ‘the commandment might become sinful beyond measure’ (Rm 7.13). N.T. Wright thinks these texts mean that one purpose of God in giving the law (Torah) was to increase the sinfulness of Israel so that sin could be increased to a climax so that it could be dealt with and condemned in Jesus’ flesh on the cross. Of course, Israel had become increasingly corrupt ever since the conquest of the Holy Land. Rm 1.18 refers to sin as ungodliness and thus means a failure to worship God properly which is also the meaning of Idolatry. Rm 1.18-32 lays out the charge of idolatry against Israel and defines it as worshiping the creation rather than the Creator. God’s plan from the beginning when He called Abraham (Gen 12. 1-3) was to deal with the problem of sin and death by means of Israel, the chosen nation.

The Mosaic law was part of the plan in that it defined and revealed the sin that involved everyone. Another Scripture with the same meaning is ‘Scripture (i.e., the law) imprisoned everything under sin…’. Sin reached its climax as Jesus was confronted by Caiaphas, the High Priest, and Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator (ruler) in Judea, the representatives of the two greatest national examples of the law. And both handed down verdicts of ‘guilty’ against Jesus which they knew to be false. Jesus, in His innocence, was identified as the king of the Jews, in other words, the Messiah, as He was affixed to the cross for public display. The satan was, of course, behind the whole affair has left Jesus ‘for a time’ after the temptations in the wilderness (Mt 4.1-11). God could condemn the accumulated sins of Israel in the flesh of Jesus (Rm 8.3) as the chosen representative of Israel and the world once and for all. Sin and death, always conjoined, were defeated when the satan could not hold Jesus in death as He was raised from the grave on Easter morning. In defeating the satan through the cross Jesus the Messiah took the satan’s place and became the Ruler of the world, and the sin that had enslaved people since Adam was defeated once and for all. The sins which caused the exile of Israel in being remitted allowed believers to return by means of this new Exodus to a relationship with God through the Messiah. All who believe in the lordship of the Messiah Jesus and in His resurrection are justified (declared by God to be ‘righteous’ or ‘not guilty’ and members of God’s covenant family) and are adopted by God as sons and fellow heirs with Christ. This is the meaning of justification by faith. It is contrasted with justification by ‘works’, referring to keeping the law which no one is able to do perfectly (Rm 3.23).

Memory Verse:  If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Rm 10,9).