Posted by: houmegni | February 19, 2009

The courage and honesty of John the Baptist: Sermon on Mark 6.14-29

Sermon on Mark 6. 14-29


Theme: The courage to stand on God’s side in a corrupted society (the courage to speak on behalf of God in corrupted society)


Context: According to the passage, John the Baptist was arrested and put in prison because he had the courage to speak clearly to Herod that he was not permitted to take the wife of his brother Philippe.


Indeed, Herod had repudiated his wife to take Herodias, Philippe’s spouse. The reason why he did so is not clearly stated in the passage, but we know that Herodias was unhappy with John the Baptist. The reason for her unhappiness was that the messenger of God condemned Herod’s action and therefore, her indirectly


Since the moment that John condemned the life in which the immoral couple was living, Herodias hated the servant of God. The hatred in her heart was so profound that she decided not only to have him arrested and put in jail, but she was looking at the opportunity that would cause his death.

From this very true yet sad history, we must consider at least two characteristics of John the Baptist’s position that would help us reviewing our personal attitude towards and in the society in which we find ourselves today: Courage and Honesty.


  1. Courage

John the Baptist, as a person appointed by God with a specific message for his people, was a courageous man. He knew in advance that king Herod had the authority to decide whether he would live or die. He also knew that telling the truth to king Herod could result to his death. He was aware of the fact that his life was in danger, and therefore, he could have chosen to keep silent. He could have said for instance: “That is Herod’s problem with God. He has to deal with God…


Despite of the great risk of exposing his life by taking an uncomfortable option against Herod, John the Baptist chose to say what can be summarized like this:


Mr. king Herod, I know that I am held in great esteem by you. I also know your inner willingness to protect me… But according to my commitment to serving the truth and advancing the Kingdom of God, I should tell you that you’re wrong. Your position as king doesn’t give you the right to repudiate your wife and take your brother’s wife….Mr king Herod, even though everybody around you seems to support you by saying nothing, let me tell you that the only and urgent thing you must do right now is to repent of your action… Mr Herod the honor and respect that you deserve as king do not permit you to go down to such level. You have put yourself in a position of war against God, and you need to repent…


We should ask ourselves a couple of questions at this stage: What causes John the Baptist to stand firm and accept to take such risks? How does he value his personal call and ministry?


It is evident that John the Baptist bears a profound respect towards his personal ministry, in such a way that everything on this earth is seen as worthless compared to God’s call in his life. In the meantime, his understanding of his relationship with Herod is sustained by the deep conviction that the unique way to show respect towards Herod is telling him the truth. It is encouraging to observe that even after John’s death, the truth he has spoken and his shadow continue to work in the conscience of Herod.


2. Honesty


As a courageous man, John was also a man of honesty and integrity. Materially and probably financially speaking, John the Baptist was a very limited person. More exactly, he was a poor man. In his deep poverty, he had the advantage of being esteemed by Herod, the greatest man of his people, and this could have stood as serious hindrance on John’s path, for we all know the ethics of most people living in context of poverty.


Instead of seeing king Herod’s attitude towards him as an opportunity to be grasped, John the Baptist decided to stand against king Herod’s position. He decided to stand on God’s side.


Generally, in a situation like that in which Herod is found here, there are approximately three main options as far as the attitude of the others towards him is concerned.


  1. The option of those who will say: “Yes”

This is indeed the easiest option. It costs nothing. Those who take this option would say for instance: “Herod what you are doing is understandable. You are a man with your weaknesses like any person on earth. God himself who created you knows that you’re a human being…”


This is the option of compromise. It is the option of those who have in one way or another decided to live according to the principles of this world.


  1. The option of those who will say: “No”

This is the option taken by people who decide to be honest no matter what goes on and what could happen. It is by far the most unpopular option. In any society, and especially in Africa which is the context I know the best, those who take this option are very few and rare.


It requires courage, readiness to lose everything and even one’s life. It requires readiness to lose relations, friends.  It lies on the deep conviction that righteousness and honesty are precious as values rather than instantaneous pleasures and anything else in this life.


  1. The option of those who will say: “Yes” and “No”

People that take this option are those who seek to satisfy both sides. Comparing to the two previous options, this third one is the most disastrous and dangerous option. We may say that it is the option taken by people willing to please God and Satan at the same time. They like to live in the light and darkness at the same time. They want to serve two masters at once.


The disastrousness of this option lies on the fact that it is almost impossible to identify people with such behaviors, and therefore impossible to know whether one can count on them or not. People with such behaviors tend to jump on the left side when the right side needs their clear allegiance, and vice versa. The ambiguity of such people makes them unworthy of any confidence in the eyes of everyone. It is always dangerous to trust them.


Lessons

  1. A messenger of God can be arrested, put in prison. He can be decapitated, but the word he has spoken can never be arrested nor decapitated. Knowing such a truth gives us the courage to walk on John’s path, and to continue to speak for God’s glory in our perverted society, for we know that even if for one reason or another we are beheaded, our words will not be beheaded. They will continue to work in the conscience of those who might have beheaded us.
  2. Speaking the truth to someone is not only a mark of our love towards him, but it is also a great mark of self-respect, the respect towards our personal ministry, and the respect towards the person to whom we speak.
  3. Churches, Christian organizations as well as the entire society are paralyzed by the massive presence of people whose position is unclear. As Christians, our leadership no matter is our position, will never be improved until in the Name of Jesus who has called us, we decide to leave the camp of dark positions. The mismanagement of many projects and organizations is the consequence of positions that tend to become the options of many Christian believers.

We could hear the voice of God speaking to us in various ways from Mark 6. 14-29. As we all seek to please Him in our daily lives, challenges and our society wherever we are, let us take courage and decide to stand in authority, by living a life of a man like John the Baptist. Let us decide, in the Name of Jesus Whom we have chosen to proclaim, to abandon our dark positions. The relevance or irrelevance of the gospel in our environment will depend on our response to this appeal.

At His service,

Richard Houmegni


Responses

  1. Thank you Richard for this fine contribution. The text is largely lucid, except point 3 of your lessons. If you could explain, in French or English, what you mean by “the camp of dark positions”. What do you mean that Christian organizations are paralized by people whose positions are unclear. What are these positions that become of the options of many believers? Why does it lead to mismanagement? Thanks, Peter

  2. I LIKE YOUR INSPIRING MESSAGE. I FEEL CHALLENGED TO ANNOUNCE THE TRUTH REGARDLESS OF THE CONSEQUENCES

  3. I wish that people could emulate the attributes of John the Baptist and the world would be a better place to be.


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