Pentecost 7 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
July 11, 2021
Amos 7:7-15, Eph. 1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29

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            When it comes to sin, Lutherans are not really very advanced as far ranking sins as greater or lesser sins; mortal or venial.  All sins in thought, word and deed break your relationship with God and need to be covered by the blood of Jesus but some do not have much effect on those around you.  Many sins are those stupid routine sins of anger, lustful thoughts, selfishness that seem to be a constant companion.  You know they are sins and you confess them, but they do not bother you that much. These are part of being a natural born sinner living in a fallen world. 

            There are others sins, however, that can haunt you.  Sins against others.  Big sins. Sins with devastating consequences. Sins that you cannot undo or make better.  Carelessness that leads to the injury or death of another.  The drunken one night stand that could destroy your marriage. The abortion which seemed like the right thing to do at the time.  Sins that haunt you.

            Herod Antipas is haunted by what he did to John the Baptist.  John the Baptist was an innocent victim of Herod’s lusts and cowardice.  Herod Antipas divorced his politically connected first wife so that he could marry his half-niece who was already married to his brother.  You can only imagine the uncontrolled lust that must have driven together Herod Antipas and his brother’s wife, Herodias, despite all the damage and even warfare that their relationship would cause.  And once together they did not want to hear that what they were doing was wrong.  We are all a bit like that.  Far too often, when you are caught up in sinful behavior, you do not want to hear the truth about what you are doing. 

            So when John the Baptist, a prophet of God, tells Herod Antipas, Mark 6:18 (ESV) 18 …It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”, neither Herod or his wife want to hear John’s call to repentance and so Herod has John thrown in prison.  But that is not enough for Herodias.  She must be thinking “How dare that wild haired preacher try to tell me what to do? I want him executed.”

            Then comes the night of Herod’s birthday party.  The drinks are flowing abundantly and Herod’s step-daughter, who is also his niece, and is probably 12, 13, 14 years old entertains the guests with a dance, almost certainly erotic.  Between the lust for his young stepdaughter and the alcohol Herod sloppily promises the dancer anything she wants, up to half his kingdom. Daughter consults with mother and Herodias sees the opportunity to get what she wants.  She asks for John the Baptist’s head on a platter.

            If Herod had courage, he would do the right thing and protect John from his wife’s vindictiveness, but Herod is a coward. He is too afraid of what people might say who heard him make the drunken promise, so he orders John beheaded.

            And later he is haunted by what he has done.  When Herod hears about what Jesus is doing Herod declares Mark 6:16 (ESV) 16 …“John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”  Herod is haunted by what he did to John and now worries John has come back for revenge. Herod is haunted by his sin.

            We see others in the Bible haunted by their sin. Adam and Eve who disobeyed God.  Joseph’s brothers who sold him into slavery. Moses who murdered an Egyptian. David who committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed.  Peter who denies Jesus three times.  Judas Iscariot who sells Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver.  These and so many others are haunted by their deep, dark sins.  So many people today are also haunted by their sin. 

            This account of Herod and John the Baptist is horrific; something out of some overly violent and sexual medieval story about kings. We get to the end of the reading after John’s head is brought to the party.  Mark 6:29 (ESV)  29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.  “This is the Gospel of the Lord.”  How is this ugly evil the Gospel?

            What is fascinating in Mark is how he sandwiches stories together.  If we zoom out just a bit we see that this account is preceded by Jesus sending His disciples out two by two and followed by the disciples returning and reporting what they have done. Mark 6:12–13 (ESV)  12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. 

            While we are hearing the account of John’s beheading, the disciples are out calling people to repent.  They are doing the very thing that cost John his head.  We see that even in times of opposition and struggle the Church continues on its mission to call people to repent and believe the Good News of forgiveness in Jesus — because there is forgiveness in Jesus. Forgiveness is offered to everyone, some believe the Good News and some reject it.  We see this both ways in the Bible.

            God comes to Adam and Eve and gives them the promise of forgiveness.  Joseph’s brothers receive forgiveness from Joseph and the Lord.  Moses is forgiven and becomes God’s messenger.  David is confronted by the prophet Nathan and David repents and pleads with God for forgiveness.  Psalm 51:1–2 (ESV) 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”  David receives the Lord’s forgiveness.

            Peter betrays Jesus on the night of His arrest after promising 14:29 (ESV) 29 … “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”  When Peter hears the rooster crow and realizes what he has done he weeps bitterly.  But there is forgiveness.  On the shores of the Sea of Galilee Jesus restores Peter three times and sends him to feed His sheep.

          So many are haunted by sin and guilt and shame.  This need not be.  Jesus is here for you.  Repent and believe the Good News.  Confess your sins.  Jesus washes away your sin.  Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)  18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 

            Judas Iscariot sells Jesus out to the chief priests for thirty pieces of silver and betrays Him with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane.  After he sees Jesus condemned and brought to the governor Judas has a change of heart. His sin overwhelms him.  There is forgiveness available through Jesus, but Judas instead goes to the priests and throws the money at them they tell him that his sin is not their problem.  In despair, Judas hangs himself.  Judas rejects forgiveness.

            Herod Antipas is haunted by his sin of killing John the Baptist.  The call to repent and believe the Good News is for Herod also, but He does not want anything to do with it.  Jesus is even sent to Herod before His crucifixion, but Herod only wants Jesus perform miracles to entertain him.  Herod rejects forgiveness.

            So many are haunted by sin and guilt and shame.  This need not be.  Jesus is here for you.  Repent and believe the Good News.  Confess your sins.  Jesus washes away your sin.  Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)  18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 

            In Christ your sin is removed from you Psalm 103:12 (ESV) 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 

            In your baptism you were adopted as a child of God through Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 1:7–8 (ESV) 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight…”  You have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of your inheritance until you acquire possession of it.”

            In Christ there is forgiveness.  Jesus destroys the ghost of sins past so they cannot haunt you. You are free in Jesus.  So when the devil tries to throw those old, forgiven sins in your face, tell him, “that sin no longer belongs to me.  Jesus paid the price.”  Amen. 

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