The Holy Gospel: July 15, 2012 (Year B)

Read:  Mark 6:14-29

Meditation: “Paying With Your Life”

The gospel would not be realistic if it bypassed the note of martyrdom.  There are at least two lessons to be taken away from this story.

First, we must include the possibility of deep sacrifice in our discipleship.  A few years ago, I read an article which said more people died for their faith in the 20th century than in any previous century.  Living where I do, and as I do, that came as a surprise to me.  And while I don’t know how statisticians compile these kinds of figures, it was enough to bring me to a point of reflection with respect to the extent to which I am ready and willing to give up my life for the sake of Christ.

I believe we have entered into a new “Dark Ages”—defined as a cultural rejection of the Christian faith, thus moving Christianity to the margins and caricaturing Christians as either ignorant or perhaps even dangerous.  I believe we are going to see additional opposition to our faith.  But however it occurs, it forces us to ask whether or not our commitment to Christ is deep enough to withstand the storms.

A second lesson has to do with grief.  The disciples were out in ministry when they received the news of John’s death.  It was a death that may have instilled fear in them and a sense of uncertainty about their own future, but it was surely an experience which brought them great sadness.

The spiritual life must be of such nature that it can embrace “desolation” as well as “consolation.”  One of the tragedies of a properity-gospel is that it leaves no room for a legitimate processing of negative life experiences.  But when only the “good things” and the “happy times” are included in spirituality, we’re counterfeiting the faith.

Jesus’ final Beatitude reminds us that we will be persecuted.  We just have to be sure it is “for righteousness’ sake.”  Such was the case for John, and such will be our lot at some level.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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