Monday, March 29, 2010
Lent, Day 35: Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, "John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him." But others were saying, "He is Elijah." And others were saying, "He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old."
But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, "John, whom I beheaded, has risen!"
Mark begins his story of John's execution after the fact, with King Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great) hearing reports of the wonders done by Jesus. Herod's conscience cuts through the surmises of everyone else to his own conviction, his own 'Tell-Tale Heart" saying it's "John, whom I beheaded, who has risen."
The story that then unfolds is as much about Herod's sinfulness as it is John's suffering. Perhaps this is the right way to enter into holy week – with a focus not only on the righteous one whose death points toward our Savior's death but also the sinfulness that brought about that death.
Why? Well, for one thing, my own tell-tale heart will not stop speaking about the sins I've committed (not to mention those I would if I could). Like Herod, what I hear in others comments, no matter how innocent or un-related, seems to bring me back to me and what I've done. I have the benefit of not being a king and not having these sins gossiped about throughout the land; indeed, I keep them well-hidden (or so I hope). But even was I cunning enough to hide them from everyone else, the one who saw Zacheaus in the tree and Judas dip the bread and Peter make his third denial, sees me and, alas, knows my heart. And as I cannot escape his gaze, I cannot escape the saddest reality, namely that my sinfulness results in his suffering and death.
Poor Herod, that he could not cry out with me, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."