“Christ Alone”

John 6:24-35

August 1, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 6:24-35 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=400125113)

So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 

So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 

Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

| Centering Prayer |

“Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” (Exodus 16:9)

The Gospel draws deep from our ancestral roots.

To understand Jesus,

To see Jesus as he is revealed,

Is to return to the Passover narrative of our Hebrew ancestors,

Released from Egyptian slavery,

Miraculously saved with the parting of the Red Sea,

Liberated and forever free.

Their future lay in the land promised,

A land flowing milk and honey;

If only they could make their way across the Sinai desert.

The journey would take 40 years,

A full generation,

The completeness of the life of Moses.

It is important to recognize in the Passover story

That it is God doing the acting.

Moses is God’s proxy,

God’s mouthpiece,

God’s servant.

In the first of ten plagues

To soften Pharaoh’s heart

God tells Moses to stretch his hand over the waters of Egypt.

When he does, God turns the water into blood

Throughout the whole land. (Exodus 7:19)

After ten plagues, Pharaoh nearly had enough.

God’s action reveals his tenacious, unrelenting desire for his children to be free.

God directs,

Moses complies,

God acts.

God directed Moses how to celebrate Passover

As a perpetual ordinance,

To avoid the destroyer,

Which struck down the Egyptians but spared our own. (Exodus 12:27)

God directs,

Moses complies,

God acts.

The ensuing grief caused Pharaoh to cry out in pain

For not a house in Egypt could be found without someone dead.

Pharaoh reached the end of his rope.

He gave in and set our ancestors free.

God’s action reveals the depth and breath of the Lord’s  faithfulness

To the eternal covenant,

God’s everlasting promise to Abraham:

God is our God, and we will be his children.

The Lord’s blessing upon us will continue

From generation to generation.

God directs,

Moses complies,

God acts.

Each time in the Passover narrative,

More is revealed about

The nature of our God.

Likewise, for the festival of unleavened bread.

Likewise, for crossing the Red Sea.

Likewise, for Mana from Heaven (Exodus 16)

Twelve days in the desert with no food or water would make anyone complain.

“Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” (Exodus 16:9)

The Lord directed Moses to speak

“At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread;

Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” (Exodus 16:12)

Moses did as he was told.

In the evening God acted: sent quails in such quantity they  covered the camp.

Quail for dinner, every night,

In the morning God acted: the dew lifted to reveal bread,

That all might be fed.

Bread for breakfast, every day. Quail for dinner every living day,

Provided by a God whose nature is to save people from hunger.

God’s action reveals the fact that God intends

That all God’s children be abundantly nourished.


Jesus is not the second coming of Moses.

Intermediaries are gone; the age of prophets is over.

The Prophetic Age ended.

With Jesus,

The Messianic Age began.

Jesus is the Son of God.

God tacks a different direction while maintaining

A consistent nature and

Keeping the same destination.

The Lord decided direct intervention was necessary

To redeem, forgive, and save the world.

It was necessary to step through the fabric that separates this world from God’s eternal, heavenly world.

Divine intervention was the only way forward

To forgive and save the world.

With Trinitarian mystery,

Jesus and our Heavenly Father

Sharon a common divine DNA. Jesus and God are one and the same.

Pay attention to the actions of Jesus in the Gospel of John.

When Jesus acts,

Like the actions of God in the Passover narrative,

Something new is revealed about our God,

In context of the new, unfolding incarnation of Jesus Christ.

After miraculously feeding 5,000 would-be followers

With 5 loaves and 2 fish,

Jesus and his disciples give them the slip,

Probably during their after-dinner siesta.

The disciples,

As we heard last Sunday,

Sail away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee,

Only to be caught up in a storm.

Jesus walks on water,

Identifies himself,

And tells them “do not be afraid.” (6:20)

The boat safely reached the land toward which they were going.

Two miracles, or, two signs, in one day.

Not bad, for the God of creation.

Funny thing about hunger:

It keeps coming around,

Reoccurring every few hours.

Food perishes, hunger returns, everyone needs to eat.

5,000 people come searching for Jesus

Because their hunger returned.

5,000 people find him.

Jesus observes,

They came searching for him because their hunger returned,

Not because they were witnesses to the sign Jesus performed

Of multiplying bread and fish.

Their bellies were empty.

They were looking for another free lunch.

Pay attention to what Jesus does:

He commands them,

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (6:27)

In other words,

I gave you …

… Past tense …

Bread and fish,

And now you’re hungry again.

I, the Son of Man, will give you …

… Future tense …

Food that endures for eternal life.


God pulls back the veil and reveals something new.

Through context, words, and actions of Jesus we learn

That which Jesus provides is sufficient for eternal life.

That’s it.

There is no need for anything else.

There is no need for anything other than Jesus.

No need for a fountain of youth,

So, stop searching for it.

Tax cuts might put a little more money into your account,

But, as they say, ‘you can’t take it with you.’

Border walls won’t save you any more than universal health care will.

Democrats won’t save you; and, neither will Republicans.

Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, first responders may save you in the moment, but, you’ll live to die another day.

That gun you’re carrying won’t save you; and neither will going whole-hog vegan, organic, or Keto.

Stop with the idol worship!

Simply put, there is nothing God has revealed to us through the Gospel that offers salvation other than

Belief in Jesus Christ.

Everything else are mere idols;

Temptations that threaten to steal our attention,

To divert our eyes from Jesus.

Money, healthcare, patriotism, policy, politics …

All offer false promises of salvation.

Nothing of this earth can add one day, or one breath, to life.

In 100 years each of our bodies will be dead;

Yet, for those who believe in Christ?

We will be sustained,

We will endure for eternal life.

It is God who reveals to the children of Abraham

That salvation only comes through belief in Jesus Christ.


Whining must be in our DNA.

Our ancestors whined to Moses about their hunger.

The crowd of 5,000 whined to Jesus that they needed a sign,

A miracle,

Anything, that would confirm their belief in him.

“We want a sign.”

“Moses gave us a sign,” they complained: “bread from heaven.”

That was a pretty good miracle.

What can you do for us to make us believe?

Like Simon Cowell on America’s Got Talent,

“Show us your stuff.”

Well, it really wasn’t Moses who acted,

Who performed the miracle;

It was God.

Moses was simply the faithful go-between prophet.

It is God who provided quail and mana from heaven.

It is God who multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5,000.

It is God who provides for our daily nourishment today.

God is the principle.

We simply follow the Lord’s will and direction.

“What about this multiplication didn’t you see?”

“Were you blind,” Jesus probably thought to himself,

“Were you too busy eating to notice?”

The sign is the miracle of multiplication.

What God reveals through this sign

Is God’s deepest desire for us to believe in Jesus,

To abide in Christ,

To take up residence wholly and solely in a life in Christ.

Eat bread, fish, or quail,

Fill your stomachs;

and you’ll be satisfied for about 6 hours, max.

Believe in Jesus,

Abide in him;

and you’ll be satisfied for eternity.

Those who come to Christ will never hunger or thirst.

Those who come to Jesus, and abide in him,

Have already put on eternal life.


The Gospel of John is difficult to understand.

I get that.

Some have compared it to getting stuck in a briar patch,

Entangled in multiple, deeply woven messages of essential, divine truth.

Scholars find John difficult to map out a helpful outline.

Many wade into the Gospel of John,

Only to be quickly frustrated,

finding the waters too deep or treacherous and never return.

With the blessing of hindsight,

It is easy to laugh at the disciples of Jesus for their failure to understand.

Yet, it is a common characteristic of the Gospel of John

That just as Jesus reveals something about himself

There is a misunderstanding.

Think of the woman at the well.

“But you have no bucket.”

Think about Nicodemus

making the mistaken conclusion that Jesus was talking about entering the womb a second time.

Think about Jesus speaking about the destruction of the Temple.

Think about Jesus turning water into wine.

Understanding John is hard for everyone.

Our careful attention to the Gospel is not just about intellectual understanding.

For understanding, searching for God’s message, leads to abiding.

Understanding always leads to abiding.

Abide in Christ.

Take up residence in him.

This is why

I so passionately love the Gospel of John.

The quest always leads us back to Jesus.

Our search for understanding

Reveals much about our God

And our mutual relationship:

God wants us to be free.

God is faithful to the covenants made between us.

God wants all God’s children to be nourished, both physically and spiritually.

God wants all to believe in Jesus;

For Christ alone endures.

Christ alone satisfies.

Christ alone gives life, eternal life, to the world.


“Driven By Desperation”

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

July 18, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

| Centering Prayer |

Today’s message will be taken in reverse order.

I’ll begin with the ending verses 53 to 56 and conclude with the beginning verses 30 to 34.

Let us begin with a question:

Why were the sick laid in the marketplace

For Jesus to heal them?

I’m fascinated by

behavioral economics.

Behavioral economics is “a method of economic analysis

That applies psychological insights into human behavior

To explain economic decision-making.”

(Google search result for “Behavioral Economics”)

There have been three Nobel Prizes in Economic in the past 16 years

Awarded to research economist in behavioral economics,

The most recent being Richard Thaler from the University of Chicago in 2017.

Thaler’s research yielded insight into why people are predictably irrational

In ways that defy economic theory.

Behavioral economics examines incentives, both positive and negative,

(what can be done to encourage a behavior)

And consequences, both positive and negative.

Unintended consequences abound in systems that support

both rational and irrational decisions.

When it comes to incentives and consequences, here is an example:

If your employer offers a benefits package to you

That has free, matching money deposited into your retirement savings plan,

Without a requirement of mandatory participation,

Enrollment rates, or opt-in rates, are incredibly low.

Free money!

Who wouldn’t take free money.

Research shows a lot of people don’t.

However, if your employer offers a benefits package

That includes a pre-established retirement savings plan set up in your name

With a set amount taken out each paycheck matched by the employer,

Most employees will not opt-out.

They will remain in the pension plan.

They may not like the fact the employer is making a decision for them,

But the level of irritation doesn’t rise to the level

For them to take the effort to go to HR and change their benefit package.

The result is more employees will be saving for retirement,

Which, most would conclude,

Is a good thing.

Supporters of behavioral economics believe it is an effective tool to improve the world,

Critics suggest that it is manipulation and social engineering.

Positive reinforcement, or economic nudges, work.

There is a reason placing fruit at eye level in a store sells more fruit

While banning junk food just doesn’t work.

Behavioral economics has applications in so many areas of life and leisure;

Health care, manufacturing, education, technology, and social media

(think about all the opt-in and opt-out policies in Facebook, Google, and others).

It has applications in business and finance, politics and public policy, public safety, law enforcement and the courts, and,

I’d suggest today, interpreting the Gospel.

The Gospel of Mark quite eloquently narrates

How the kingdom of God upends the economy of this world.

“wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.” (6:56)

Marketplace, or “agora”  (Greek) reflects a public space

In which legal hearings, elections, and debates took place,

Water is drawn from a centralized well,

Goods and services were bought and sold.

“Thus the marketplace was the political and commercial center of the city or town.”

(Elizabeth Webb, as found at working preacher dot org)

Today we learn

Family and friends gather in the sick, diseased, weakest, and most vulnerable members of the community;

Bring them in from exile,

begging outside the protection of the city walls.

They laid them in the political and commercial center of town,

Disrupting all economic and social commerce.

The marketplace in this world

Belongs to the rich and powerful.

In God’s kingdom,

The market is occupied by the poor and powerless.

In Jesus’ kingdom economy

The economy of this world is subverted,

“many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (10:31)


Drives people to Jesus,

Where Jesus gathers them in

And heals them.

Desperation drives people to make decisions

That disrupt the marketplace and are economically irrational.

But in the Kingdom of God,

Desperation leads to being gathered together and being healed.

All who touched

“the fringe of (Jesus’) cloak … were healed.” (6:56)

Desperation drove the sick to the marketplace to be healed by Jesus.

But, be careful.

Desperation, absent of faith, can lead to irrational decisions and

Bad, unintended consequences.

Poverty, powerlessness, and sickness drive people to desperate measures.

People sell themselves into bankruptcy to pay for cancer treatments.

Individuals travel the world in search of miracle treatments and cures.

People interpret causality where there is none.

People leave family and ancestral homes behind in search of safety and security.

Individuals even pay human smugglers to be packed in a sweltering tractor trailer to cross the border.

People pack up their children and move elsewhere if food and shelter is unaffordable or unavailable.

Some even resort to running drugs, selling drugs, and selling themselves if it will help feed their children.

Absent of faith, desperation can lead to tragic outcomes.

Desperate, faithful people, however,

Gather in the marketplace,

Confident that Jesus will heal them.

Jesus heals them;

All of them,

Disrupting the economies of this world.

Faith and social action lead to healing.

Faith and social action lead to the healing of the world

and the completion of God’s Kingdom.

Allow me to pivot

To the second insight from this passage.

It is from these verses, 30-34, that I decided to title this message “Driven By Desperation.”

In this narrative,

Jesus gathered with his apostles

Who had been working the countryside in pairs,

Dependent upon the grace of God and the hospitality of the locals.

They had been

Preaching repentance, healing the sick, and casting out demons. (6:6-13)

By all accounts the apostles had been wildly successful;

So successful they drew crowds and were so busy they didn’t have time to eat.

Jesus gathers them in for a time to rest.

They attempted to slip away in a boat to a deserted place,

But their effort to take a day off

Was subverted by the persistent, relentless, pursuant crowd.

What made the crowd so persistent?

One scholar I read suggested the crowd’s behavior

Was a sign of being “driven by their own desperation.”

(Preaching the New Common Lectionary Year B After Pentecost, by Craddock, Hayes, Holladay, and Tucker, 1985, pg.100)

What made the crowd so desperate?

I don’t think it was the fact that Jesus and his apostles had been healing the sick in the surrounding towns and countryside.

Yes, Jesus and his apostles had been successfully,


Healing the sick.

Certainly there would have been sick people in the crowd;

But not many.

Most sick and diseased people would not have been able to

Engage in an active pursuit of Jesus.

What made the crowd so desperate?

The three-step response of Jesus gives us a helpful clue.

1. Jesus sees the crowd.

2. Jesus has compassion on them,

because they are “like sheep without a shepherd.” (6:34)

3. Jesus begins to teach them many things.

Jesus sees they are wondering aimlessly, literally and figuratively,

Like sheep without a shepherd.

Without direction, they will become lost.

Without protection, sheep fall prey to wolves.

The expected lifespan of sheep without a shepherd is short,

Very short.

What made the crowd so desperate?

I’d suggest, based on Jesus’ response,

Came from a fear of death.

Fear of death will drive people to desperate acts.

To some extent

We all fear death;

Some more than others.

To some extent

We all fear the death of a loved one.

Death is the ultimate test of faith and

To some extent

Most of us wonder if we will live up to the test.

I know I do.  

The key for the faithful is simply this:

Allow the fear of death

To drive you to the feet of Jesus.

Let Jesus take it from there.

Which brings us to the third response of Jesus.

It is so revealing;

“he began to teach them many things.” (6:34)

Jesus taught them.

He connected the dots,

Stirred in the Gospel,

And bakes it with God’s eternal truth.

The conclusion appears before our very eyes:

Education is Christ’s response to our deepest, mortal fears.

Being informed brings assurance.

The cross and empty tomb is his faithful fulfillment of his promise and truth.

The education that Jesus taught is summed up in the third chapter of John.

It begins with

“God so loved the world.”

In other words, God loves every one of you.

God loves you.

Know it.

Wear it.

Share it.

“God gave his one and only Son.”

God makes sacrifices for you.

God made the greatest possible sacrifice just for you.

Yes, you are that important.

“Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish.”

This is Jesus’ promise:

Believe and you will not die.

Believe and receive eternal life.

He addresses the fear of death issue with crystal clarity.

Fear drives people to desperate measures.

Take over the marketplace.

Upset the economy, if that’s what it takes,

Lay the sick together, that they may be healed.

For the faithful

Desperation leads to being brought together

And being healed.

Fear drives people to desperate measures.

Chase down Jesus and his apostles.

Desperation drives one to the feet of Jesus,

That all may learn all that our Lord has to teach.

For the faithful

Desperation leads to the promise of the Gospel

And God’s faithful fulfillment of it.

This is Good News for the faithful

Driven to desperation.


“Searching for Good News”

Mark 6:14-29

July 11, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Mark 6:14-29 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=398399510)

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

| Centering Prayer |

I went to bed on that Saturday night

Quite confident that morning worship

Was well planned and my sermon is ready to go.

About 2:00 a.m. my pager woke me to a different reality.

A man had been stabbed in front of the church,

Right across the street from where I slept.

I went from sleep to warp speed in zero point one of a nano second.

I was called to put to work years of training, practice, and experience.

It was a futile attempt,

Even though my crew on the ambulance and I

Did everything possible to save the man’s life.

Three hours later,

I was showered.

The paper work was done.

I was back home.

Lying awake in bed I remember thinking to myself,

“Where is the good news?”

Where is Good News to be found?

If you are like me,

The Gospel lesson for today

Probably left you wondering

“Where is good news to be found

In this narrative about King Herod,

Herodias and her daughter, and

The beheading of John the Baptist?”

I mean, Holy cow!

This scene is more like a steamy romance novel that ends in an ISIS death camp.

Any volunteers to clarify the Gospel lesson?

Would anyone like to expand on the beheading of John the Baptist

And pitch an idea of how we can apply the Gospel to our life today?

My guess is that

Most of my colleagues in their pulpits this morning are punting;

Preferring to preach on the Old Testament or Epistle lessons

Instead of tackling sex, partying, and murder.

(Full disclosure.

In 36 years of pastoral ministry,

I also avoided preaching on the beheading of John the Baptist

Ten out of twelve times. I’ve only preached on this passage in 1997 and 2018.)

So, here we go.

It is helpful to step back and take in the larger picture,

The 30,000 foot perspective,

To obtain deeper understanding of the Gospel.

Our narrative follows

Jesus teaching in his hometown synagogue,

In Nazareth.

He was marginalized and scorned by his own family and neighbors. (6:1-6)

Indeed, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house,” Jesus observes. (6:4)

I love how Jesus gives himself just enough cover by using a double negative.

It left his critics scratching their heads trying to think it through.

Jesus leaves Nazareth behind, shaking the dust off his feet.

He teaches in the surrounding countryside.

He sends out his twelve disciples in six pairs,

Instructing them to take nothing for their journey except a staff.

No bread.

No bag.

No money.

Only the clothes on your back.

Stay, Jesus instructed them, with those who welcome you.

If there are those who do not welcome you,

Do as I did back in Nazareth,

Turn around and leave.

Shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them. (6:7-11)

The strategy of Jesus was successful

Because his six teams proclaimed repentance and

“cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (6:12-13)

That’s quite a party Jesus throws:




Disciplined behavior.

Faithful attention to God’s will.

Fast forward to today’s Gospel.

Concurrently, while Jesus and his six pairs of disciples are out in the countryside

Living off of God’s grace and the hospitality of the population,

Herod is throwing a different kind of party.

Depart the 30,000 feet perspective

And let’s take a close-up view of what’s going on.

Herod was the proxy king for Rome,

One of many sons of Herod the Great.

You remember him,

The one who slaughtered innocent children in an attempt to kill baby Jesus.

Herod the son wielded great power

So long as he kept the population in check and under control.

He was an impulsive, undiscipline fool Saddled with a lot of power and wealth.

(Not like we haven’t seen this kind of story today)

Sex sells;

Especially if it’s a public figure

Who would delight the crowd with

Public humiliation and a fall from grace.

Herod divorced his wife.


He divorced his wife to marry his brother’s wife.

Now we’re talking…

He divorced his wife to marry his brother’s wife because he was apparently infatuated with her daughter…

Bingo! Ding! Ding! Ding!

We’ve got a genuine sexual scandal of the most salacious sort!

John the Baptist,

A righteous and holy man, Mark reports 6:20),

Spoke up and spoke out in blistering criticism 

Of Herod tawdry behavior,

Bringing forth the wrath of Herodias.

What to do? But to have John arrested and innocently held?

(I hope you and I appreciate Freedom of Speech, because Herod didn’t!)

It’s Herod’s birthday.

Pop! Goes the corks, and wine begins to flow.

Unable to control his impulses,

Herod paints himself into a corner.

In this Gospel narrative where neither Jesus or John the Baptist appears,

We experience events spinning out of control.

Herod is unable to back down.

Pay attention to detail:

“What should I ask for?” daughter asks mother.

“The head of John the baptizer.” (6:24)

Daughter inflates the request,

“I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” (6:25)

At once!

On a platter!

Hyperbole sells.

Exaggeration emboldens.

Why settle with mere pennies when millions will do?

Presentation is everything!

Pay attention to detail:

“Immediately the king,” (that would be Herod)

“sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head.” (6:27)

Instead of bringing the head as ordered to the king,

The soldier of the guard brings it to the girl

Who then gives it to her mother. (6:28)

Obviously, even the soldier of the guard could read between the lines.

A common soldier could see where guilt lay

In the midst of wanton excess and debauchery.

The contrast between Jesus and his disciples

Living in austerity, preaching and healing in the countryside,

Living on absolutely nothing but the hospitality of the people and the grace of God

Stands in polar opposite

To the banquet Herod is hosting

That spins out of control in a drunken haze

Of adultery, murder, corruption, and greed.

That’s the close-up view.

Where is Good News to be found?

In this Gospel narrative of the beheading of John the Baptist,

There may be none.

Yet, the Gospel begs the faithful,

When considering the contrast of Jesus and Herod,

To ask the question,

What kind of banquet does Jesus host?

What kind of banquet does Jesus host?

Jesus gathers his disciples close

Takes the bread,

Gives thanks to God who gave it,

Breaks the bread,

And gives it to them, saying

“This is my body broken for you for the forgiveness of sin.”

This is the banquet Jesus hosts.

Jesus takes the cup,

Gives thanks to God who gave it,

Pours the cup,

And shares it with them, saying

“This is my blood, the cup of the new covenant, shed for you.”

The new covenant is simply this:

Believe in Jesus Christ and receive eternal life.

This is the banquet Jesus hosts.

More than merely a martyred life,

The banquet Jesus hosts points to

The forgiveness of sins by his death upon a cross

And the salvation of the world by means of his resurrection.

Where is Good News to be found?

About six months later

I was enjoying our weekly breakfast meeting

With area colleagues in ministry

When an elderly woman entered the restaurant.

Carefully navigating with her walker

She made her way over to our table.

“Would any of you, by chance, be Rev. Goddard?”

The table fell quiet.

“O boy,” I thought to myself.

“What am I in for now?”

“The police told me that you worked on my son, the night he was stabbed in front of the church.”

I swallowed hard.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“We all did our very best to save his life.”

“I’m very sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you,” she said.

After a pause she said, “I only have one question,

‘Did he suffer?’”

“No, ma’am. He did not suffer.” I answered her honestly.

“Oh, what a relief!” she said.

She stood up straight, as if the weight of the world had been removed from her shoulders.

“That’s all I needed to know.”

Sometimes we’re so bogged down

In the hand-to-hand combat of daily trials and temptations

We can’t even imagine there is a 30,000 foot perspective

That God has been working on all along.

Redemption is God’s plan.

Forgiveness and salvation are God’s gifts.

That’s Good news.

Good news, indeed. Amen.