This Sunday we commemorate the martyrdom of John the Baptist. The church on earth remembers those who testified to Christ, even unto death. John the Baptist has been joined by many under the altar in the book of Revelation, who are waiting a little longer for the remaking of the earth at Jesus’ second coming. We do not preach a prosperity gospel, in which God gives us temporal, material blessings as the reward for our devotion. No, Paul is clear in Romans that we are united with Christ Jesus through baptism, into his death.

God blesses us with newness of life, with forgiveness of sins now and in eternity. Although we still struggle with sin now, we are forgiven, and God sees us robed in Christ’s righteousness. We hope in what we have not yet seen, in what we see in a mirror dimly. Jesus promised that our lives on earth would be difficult, that the world would hate us. It is in His death and resurrection that we trust – He has paid the price for our sins, and we are united to Him in our baptism. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

 

The First lesson is from the book of Revelation, chapter 6, verses 9-11:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

The Epistle lesson is from Romans, chapter 6, verses 1-5:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

The Gospel for the Martyrdom of John the Baptist is from Mark, chapter 6, verses 14-29:

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He 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 it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’s daughter 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 to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Salome With the Head of Saint John the Baptist, by Andrea Solario [Public domain]

 

First Lutheran Church of Boston Devotional Readings

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