As Jesus has begun to expand his ministry outside the town of Capernaum he has enlisted the help of his disciples. When Jesus called his first disciple in 1:16-20 he told them that soon they would be fishing for men. He also told them in 3:14-15 that their primary task was to “be with him”. They needed to understand who he was and what he was doing, and they have grown in this understanding as they have travelled with Jesus and witnessed his work. Now Jesus says it’s time for them to take their role in the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus gives them certain instructions. “Don’t take anything with you”, he says. If they go to a place that receives the message of the Kingdom of God, they will be provided for. If they go to a place that rejects the Kingdom of God, they are to move along to the next place. Verse 12 tells us the content of their message. They proclaimed that people should repent; people should align their lives with the coming Kingdom. Their message is the same message Jesus was preaching. Verse 13 says they performed many of the signs of the Kingdom just like Jesus did. But, the result is not their popularity, but the increased popularity of Jesus. They didn’t go in their own authority like Jesus did, but they went in his authority. As Jesus becomes more popular than even before, the powers-that-be hear the rumbling of rebellion.
In this time in history in this part of the world, rebellions happened often. So, the increased popularity of a man such as Jesus would be noticed by the authorities. The last time someone was this popular was when John the Baptist was baptizing people in the Jordan River. So by this time, the King ruling over this part of Palestine heard about Jesus.
Read Mark 6:14-29.
Herod was the King of this region of Israel, but since he was still under Roman authority, he was simply a “puppet”. His primary objective from the Roman Government’s standpoint is to keep the peace. So when he hears of Jesus and the things he is doing, he begins to wonder if a rebellion is stirring or if, like with John, someone is going to threaten his authority in Israel.
John made the mistake of telling the King he was committing adultery so he was arrested and then killed. This seems like an odd place in the Gospel of Mark to place a story about John the Baptist being killed. But as Jesus’s ministry continues to expand and people everywhere are responding to him in belief, this story serves as a reminder to what happens to those who oppose the Kingdom of Man. John the Baptist dared to stand against Herod’s Kingdom, and it cost him his head. Jesus reminded Herod of John, in fact he thought Jesus might be the reincarnation of John. Jesus comes, similar to John, and Mark’s Gospel reminds us here about the direction that this story is going. Jesus’s message has begun to offend people. He offended his family and people he grew up with. If he continues to preach this message, he is eventually going to offend the wrong people. If God’s Kingdom is going to come, this means that Herod’s Kingdom will be supplanted. Herod wouldn’t allow John to speak against his governing practices, and he certainly won’t stand by idly while another comes pronouncing a coming Kingdom. Back in chapter 3:6, the Herodians, or religious leaders loyal to Herod, were beginning to plot Jesus’s death. In other words, if this is what happened to John the Baptist, it’s only a matter of time before something like this happens to Jesus. Verse 29 is also important. When John was killed, his disciples laid his body in a tomb. End of story. It’s a little odd that back in verse 26 Herod thinks that Jesus might be John resurrected. John’s disciples never claimed that he had risen from the dead. These are important elements of the story as we move forward.
Those of us who have read it know what will happen. Jesus will leave Herod’s jurisdiction as he and his disciples proclaim the Good news of the Time being fulfilled and God’s Kingdom coming. Eventually, they will make it to Jerusalem which is under the authority of another puppet King named Pontius Pilate. It is there that the Kingdoms will finally collide. The Kingdom of God will confront the Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of Darkness. And it will appear that the Kingdom of God will be defeated. But after three days, Easter comes, and we see that the Kingdom of God will be triumphant. Jesus’s enthronement and victory is so different from what the Kingdoms of Man and the Kingdom of Darkness expect that he is able to overthrow them through their own devices of the treachery of sin and death. He overthrows them through death into resurrection.
He has accomplished this victory and one day we will follow his lead. Because we follow him, we will also be raised triumphant over sin and death. So, like his first disciples, we have to first believe and repent.
The placement of this story may seem odd, but one of the purposes is so we see that Jesus is different from the earthly kings. He is the King bringing the Kingdom with him, but God’s people had Herod as a puppet King. Jesus was coming to be their true King. He would not use the authority for his own pleasure and advantage like earthly kings, but in his great compassion would protect and provide for his people as their True King.