AMBASSADORS FOR JESUS CHRIST ADVANCE GOD’S KINGDOM BY MEANS OF DELEGATED RIGHTEOUS POWER THAT ALWAYS TRUMPS DEPRAVED PAGAN POWER
Beheadings are in the news today – so as barbaric as this biblical account sounds to our civilized ears … depraved pagan power still operates from the same motivation and looks pretty much the same in the execution of its wicked agenda. Yesterday’s King Herod who served up the head of John the Baptist on a platter is not that much different from today’s Islamic supremacists who use terror and intimidation as tactics to advance their terrorist agenda.
Our passage today is one of those sandwich passages in the Gospel of Mark – two bookends of material that obviously fit together with an inner filling that begs the question: Why have I been inserted here? [Remember previous story of raising of Jairus’daughter from the dead with insertion of interruption of the healing of the woman with the 12 year blood flow issue] Here you have the 12 apostles sent out on their initial trial mission (6:7) and then they return to report back to Jesus (vs. 30). In the middle you have this flashback account of the beheading of John the Baptist by Herod Antipas. What is the connection?
The authority and power of Jesus Christ have been clearly established in the first 6 chapters of Mark’s gospel. Yet His identity as the Messiah remains an issue of confusion. We have reached an important transition point where Jesus has called His disciples and equipped and empowered them so that now He can send them out as His Ambassadors to advance God’s kingdom on a wider scale. Matt. 10:6 (one of the parallel passages along with Luke 9) makes it plain that they are still restricted to Jewish towns and villages rather than Gentile or even Samaritan cities. Jesus is preparing them for the days of the Great Commission when following His ascension they will be sent out as the pioneering missionaries to advance God’s kingdom in Jerusalem, and then in Judea and Samaria, and ultimately even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
But the demonstration of the righteous power of Jesus Christ through His appointed delegates always stands in contrast to the depraved pagan power of authority figures like Herod Antipas. In this passage we see the pathetic nature of Herod’s phony power.
By way of application we want to minister today in the confidence and faith and clear conscience of those who are relying on the delegated righteous power that comes to us from our Lord Jesus Christ. The disciples of Jesus (His ambassadors for the sake of the gospel) are not the ones who should be cringing in cowardly fear and conscience-ridden guilt like pathetic King Herod. Let’s bite into this tasty sandwich.
(:7A) APOSTLES SENT OUT ON INITIAL MISSIONARY JOURNEY
“And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs;”
From what we have studied of the apostles to this point in Mark’s gospel, we might conclude that Jesus is premature in sending them out at this point. They have not been very impressive so far.
– Came from humble beginnings with very little academic preparation or ministry training; most of them were fishermen; used to working with their hands; not fancy orators or charismatic speakers
– But they had obeyed the call of the Master to follow Him and Jesus had promised to make them fishers of men
– They were a little slow to pick up even the most basic teaching of the foundational parable of the different soils – Jesus expressed almost exasperation – “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?” (4:13)
– They accused Jesus of not caring that they were perishing in the storm on the Sea of Galilee so that Jesus had to wonder at their cowardice and lack of faith
– They lacked discernment on many levels – taking everything that He said so literally that when Jesus asked “Who touched my garments?” in the incident where He healed the woman with the long term bleeding issue … they made fun of His inquiry
It would seem like the twelve were more in line for some remedial training than for being sent out on such a responsible mission with no backup. These were the tiny group of core leaders that Jesus was putting at risk by putting them out on the front lines of the spiritual battlefield.
Application: Ministry success has everything to do with the delegated power of Jesus Christ and His resources … not the limitations of our human weakness and inadequate personalities and immature spiritual development
How do we respond to the Savior’s call to ministry? Do we offer up excuses and try to plead that we need more preparation?
Here the Master is the one authoritatively summoning the 12 and commanding them to go out
Importance of ministering in the context of plurality of spiritual leadership –
Note in these pairs there is not some type of predetermined hierarchy of leadership – Now you are the Lead Apostle and you will function as the subordinate or helping Apostle – they are sent out to minister together – not that their gifts are identical … but there is no hierarchy in their relationship
They can support one another, encourage one another, bear testimony that is united and more credible; serve as checks and balances for the blind spots in one another; hold one another accountable from the perspective of personal holiness
Parunak: “two by two.” Even with this sacred anointing, they are not to go alone. Cf. Paul’s example, teamed first with Barnabas, then with Silas. Eccl. 4:9-12.
Synergy: “The working together of two things (muscles or drugs for example) to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects”
MacArthur: Furthermore, there are Twelve of them. And that is not by chance, that is not merely happenstance. There are Twelve because there are Twelve tribes in Israel and they are the symbols of the New Israel, the true Israel, the Israel of God, the new people that the Lord is forming. In fact, they will rule over in the Millennial Kingdom, each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, each of them will have a tribe to rule and their names are already emblazoned upon the holy city, the New Jerusalem in the heaven of heavens. So they are permanently put in this position of spiritual responsibility and leadership.
According to Ephesians 2:20 they become the foundation stones of the church. Here is a massive indictment on Judaism at the time of Jesus. Mark it in your minds, folks, Jesus rejected totally the Judaism of His day. It was not sufficient to bring salvation to anyone and neither is the Judaism of this day, or any other day that rejects the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no way to heaven except through Him. And so He chooses the Twelve and renders a judgment on the nation Israel.
I. (:7B-13) DELEGATED RIGHTEOUS POWER — POWERFUL DELEGATED MINISTRY REFLECTS THE RIGHTEOUS AUTHORITY OF JESUS CHRIST
A. (:7B) Delegated Authority With Ultimate Dominion — Over Demons
“and He was giving them authority over the unclean spirits;”
This was not some limited type of power and authority
The apostles were not going to be disappointed halfway into their mission to discover that Jesus had only given them limited power and authority; they were not going to encounter any forces that were superior to Jesus Christ
The power of Jesus trumps all other supposed power and authority
What a privilege to be Ambassadors for such a kingdom! – not some puny, insignificant entity that other nations could walk all over – but going out into a hostile world with the conviction that you had the backing of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Even the demonic spirits would be subject to your power and would lend credibility to your credentials and authenticity
This was not some phony or counterfeit power; this was legitimate, authentic, ultimate power – the real deal
Why as Christians do we allow ourselves to live in such defeated states? Let’s be the Ambassadors that we were called to be – ones with ultimate delegated authority
B. (:8-11) Detailed Instructions — Regarding Bold Ministry Practices
1. (:8-9) Confidence in the Lord’s Material Provision
“and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belt; but to wear sandals; and He added, ‘Do not put on two tunics.’”
Guelich quoted by Constable: They were not even to take the usual extra tunic—that Palestinians often used as a blanket at night. The Twelve were to rely on God to provide their needs, including the need for hospitable hosts. The urgency of their mission required light travel, and it prohibited elaborate preparations. They could take a walking stick (“staff”), and they would need “sandals,” but they were not to take spares. Apparently Jesus stressed what not to take more than what to take, in order to deprive the disciples of any sense of self-sufficiency.
Staff and sandals and minimum clothes are the necessary equipment for itinerant preachers at that time who are moving from town to town
Illustration: Karen’s preparations for our trips: Rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it – different approach here
Brad Hertzog: Ex. 12:11 – celebration of the Passover before they are called out of Egypt; “you shall eat the feast in haste;” Needed to be ready for the Lord’s call to move out; just the bare necessities; not hindered by any extras; sense of urgency to this mission
2. (:10) Contentment with Available Hospitality
“And He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town.’”
Parunak: When you are received by one household in a community, be content there; don’t try to “swap up” to a more prosperous one where the food is better or the bed more comfortable.
3. (:11) Consecration from the Defilement of Rejecters Who Will Be Judged For Their Unbelief
“And any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake off the dust from the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.”
Constable: Shaking dust off their feet symbolized the defiling effect of contact with pagans. When the Twelve did this, it implied that those who had refused their message were unbelieving, defiled, and subject to divine judgment (cf. Acts 13:51; 18:6).
Copeland: This illustrates the principle of selection
a. We’re told not to “cast your pearls before swine” – cf. Mt 7:6
b. People judge themselves unworthy of the gospel by their lack of interest
1) Paul was willing to preach again if people were interested- Ac 13:42-44
2) But when people rejected the gospel, he turned elsewhere – Ac 13:45-46
— People judge themselves unworthy of eternal life by their disinterest
C. (:12-13) Documented Success — Threefold Ministry Accomplished with Power and Effectiveness
1. (:12) Preaching Ministry = Gospel of Repentance from Sin Leading to Power Over Death
“And they went out and preached that men should repent.”
2. (:13a) Exorcism Ministry = Power Over Demons
“And they were casting out many demons”
3. (:13b) Healing Ministry = Power Over Disease
“and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.”
Don DeWelt: To suppose that the oil was used medicinally, is contrary to the whole tenor of the narratives. It was “the vehicle of healing power committed to them” an external sign such as our Lord sometimes used to connect himself and the person cured. It was probably also a symbol of anointing by the Holy Spirit.-Schaff. The Jews were in the habit of anointing their faces and hair with oil every day when they went among their fellows. This was omitted when sick or fasting. The apostles anointed a sick man when about to heal him with a word and send him forth. It meant that the patient was able to go out among his fellow-men.
II. (:14-29) DEPRAVED PAGAN POWER — POWERFUL DELEGATED M INISTRY STIRS STRONG EMOTIONS OF FEAR AND GUILT IN DEPRAVED PAGAN RULERS
[There can be a heavy price for powerful ministry – just ask John the Baptist –
When you accept the mantle of ministry you must be prepared for the price of Martyrdom]
A. (:14-16) Powerful Ministry of the Apostles Stirs Strong Emotions of Fear on the Part of King Herod – Powerful Presence of John the Baptist and OT Prophets Remembered
1. Spreading Reputation of Jesus Christ
“And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known;”
This section inserted more for what it says about King Herod then what it says about John the Baptist; contrasting responses of Herod and Herodias
Constable: “Herod” Antipas was not really a king, “king” being a popular designation rather than an official title in his case. He was the tetrarch (ruler of one of four [political] divisions) who was born in 20 B.C., and ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39, when he was banished to Gaul. Perea lay east of the Jordan River and south of the Decapolis. Its northern border was about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, and its southern border was about halfway between the northern and southern ends of the Dead Sea. The territory of Ammon lay east of Perea. Mark probably called Antipas a king because that is how the people in his territory spoke of him popularly. It was natural for Mark, who was writing for Romans, to use this title since the Roman government used it to describe all eastern rulers
Alan Carr: His father was Herod the Great. Herod the Great was the king who had been ruling when Jesus was born. It was Herod the Great who had ordered the deaths of all the infants in Bethlehem, in an effort to destroy the Lord Jesus. When Herod died, the Roman emperor divided his kingdom into four parts. One part was given to the man in our text, Herod Antipas. He wasn’t really a king; he was actually a “tetrarch”, which means “the ruler of a fourth part.” He did demand, however, that his subjects call him “king”. Herod Antipas ruled from 4 A.D. to 39 A.D. He was banished to what is now France by the Roman emperor for demanding to be made a king in 39 A.D. Jesus summed up the character of Herod Antipas once by calling him a “fox”, Luke 13:32.
Matt. 14:1 Herod had heard “the report (news) concerning Jesus”
Great contrast in this section between Gentile figure head political ruler = Herod (not even a true king) and
King of the Universe and King of the Jews in particular = Jesus Christ
As well great parallel between Herod who unjustly put John the Baptist to death and
Pilate who condemned Jesus to death
2. Variety of Explanations for Powerful Ministry of the Apostles in the Name of Jesus
a. John the Baptist
“and people were saying, ‘John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.’”
“But others were saying, ‘He is Elijah.’”
c. OT Prophet
“And others were saying, ‘He is a prophet,
like one of the prophets of old.’”
3. Fear of King Herod
“But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying,
‘John, whom I beheaded, has risen!’”
You can’t keep a good man down!
B. (:17-29) Powerful Ministry of the Apostles Stirs Strong Emotions of Guilt on the Part of King Herod — Execution of John the Baptist Regretted
1. (:17-20) Reprisal Against the Rebuke Delivered by John the Baptist
“For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.”
Characteristics of depraved pagan power: [in the case of Herod Antipas – not in all cases]
– Responds to political pressures and manipulative forces rather than acting out of conviction on righteous grounds
– Involved with debauchery and all kinds of shameful sinful behavior
– Insecure and fearful when confronted with righteousness and holiness
– Perplexed and confused regarding the message of truth – courage of John the Baptist in rebuking the king by applying the truth in pressure situation
Parunak: John no doubt protested the union on two grounds:
a> Adultery. Herod divorced his own wife, and took Herodias while Philip was still living; thus the union was adulterous on the part of both parties. Deut. 22:22.
b> Incest. Marriage to a brother’s wife was forbidden (Lev. 18:16; 20:21; excepting the case of levirate marriage, Deut 25:5-10). . .
“Herod feared John,” because John was just and holy. The world recognizes spiritual power, and fears it. We, on the other hand, have nothing to fear from “them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul,” Matt. 10:28. So we should be encouraged, not cowed, in our spiritual combat. Yet Herod falls tragically short—if only he had feared God rather than John!
1. First married to Phasaelis, daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabatea
2. Divorced her to marry Herodias – Mk 6:17
a. Who was his half-niece, married to his half-brother Philip
b. They had fallen in love while in Rome together
c. They agreed to divorce their spouses and marry one another
Scott Grant: One of the roles of a prophet in Israel was to confront kings with the word of God when they strayed from it. John’s rebuke implied that someone who fancies himself king of the Jews had no business behaving in such a manner. John, with his lonely yet lovely voice from the wilderness, stood up to the powers of the world. By rebuking Herod, John marked himself out as a threat to the ruler’s aspirations. Herodias wanted John killed, but Herod, who enjoyed listening to John, resisted, fearing divine retribution for putting a righteous man to death.
2. (:21-25) Request for the Head of John the Baptist
“And a strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.’ And he swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom.’ And she went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ And she said, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’ And immediately she came in haste before the king and asked, saying, ‘I want you to give me right away the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’”
Characteristics of depraved pagan power:
– Networks with those who are in positions of worldly power and wealth and influence
– Times of celebration characterized by sinful indulgence and the lusts of the flesh
– Encourages sin on the part of others rather than promoting godliness
– Makes foolish and rash promises – executing injustice rather than justice
– Wrongly imagines that one has control of their own fortune and destiny
– Manipulated by others in soap opera family contexts of scheming and schism
– Pursues barbaric and wicked agendas rather than promoting the kingdom of God
Stag party – only intoxicated males present
Don DeWelt: Nicephorus states that Salome met with a terrible death as a punishment for her share in the sacrilegious crime. When crossing the ice it broke under her, and the fragments drifting together severed her head from her body.
3. (:26-28) Regret for the Beheading of John the Baptist
“And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.”
Characteristics of depraved pagan power:
– Restricted by pride from doing what is right
– Commands actions that are reprehensible and will give an account in eternity to higher authority
– Puts pleasing family members and prominent associates ahead of fearing God
4. (:29) Respect for the Body of John the Baptist
“And when his disciples heard about this,
they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb.”
Just as John the Baptist had been the forerunner for Jesus in His message of preaching the arrival of the kingdom of God …. So John was the forerunner for Jesus in His death and burial – could not be the forerunner for His resurrection because Jesus must be the first fruits
(:30) APOSTLES REPORT BACK ON THEIR POWERFUL MINISTRY EXPERIENCE
“And the apostles gathered together with Jesus;
and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught.”
This verse stands in contrast to the pathetic type of governing power just displayed by King Herod
Time of rejoicing in spiritual ministry success as the righteous delegated power of Jesus Christ has been on display in their preaching, their casting out of demons and their healing of the sick throughout the Jewish towns and villages
No reveling in debauchery – but rejoicing in transformed lives that have been delivered from the bondage of sin and the fear of death
Operated on the basis of faith and complete dependence on the Lord for their daily needs;
Operated on the basis of love (even for their enemies) and a good conscience – building others up instead of ruling by intimidation and brutality
Ministry success beyond their wildest dreams – that Jesus could use them in such a powerful fashion – what a privilege!