Sunday, July 5, 2015

On the Death of a Prophet

Below is a perspective that one can take of the sad and gruesome story of the death of John the Baptizer in Mark 6:14-29, the gospel reading for July 12, 2015. For my exegesis and preliminary notes on this text, which I have updated from three years ago, go to this link.

In a curious way, this death story is also a resurrection story. Mark presents the death of John as the interior story of his familiar bracketing technique, where he begins one story, then inserts a second story, before concluding the first story. The outer story of this bracket is the story of Jesus sending the twelve in 6:7-13, which concludes in 6:30. The interior story is John’s death. By bracketing the stories as connective stories, the mission of the twelve is the resurrection power of the death of John. Earlier in Mark the same pattern occurs: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God” (1:14). The power of coercion, even unto death, lies with Rome. The power of resurrection lies with the gospel. It is like the prophetic words of Archbishop Oscar Romero who argued that if he were put to death, he would rise up in the spirit of the people. Coercion unto death is the ultimate and only power of Rome. The gospel does not overcome that power by its own coercion, but by the promise of resurrection. The promise of resurrection is not so much “having a mansion on the other side,” as it is the enduring power of the gospel that even death cannot overcome. Resurrection is not a weird Christian death-wish. It is simply the profound act of denying death its place of ultimacy.

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