Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist 2015
On this, the Feast of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist,
There seems to be little chance of a happy ending.
And the story Scripture tells is a difficult one.
There’s a mother
And there’s a daughter
There’s a King
And there’s a Baptizer
There’s a birthday party where
There’s a request made
There’s a promise given and
There’s a promise kept
And on account of that promise, someone has to die.
It goes like this:
Herodias’ daughter, Salome, is the kind of girl who wants it all.
And so is her mom.
That’s how she ends up in front of her Uncle Herod on his birthday.
And since it’s a party, and since he’s in such a good mood, the King makes her an extravagant promise: up to half his kingdom; all for a little dance.
That’s a generous gift on any scale.
But what does she ask for?
After a brief chat with her mom,
Despite being offered half of everything Uncle Herod’s got,
She asks for something that will do her no good at all:
The head of John the Baptizer on a silver platter.
Herod didn’t want to do it.
Deep down he knew that someone who will preach God’s Word to you, even when you don’t like it, is worth having around.
But a man is only as good as his word.
And he made a promise to his niece in front of all his friends.
So there’s no backing out now.
You know the rest, of course.
The daughter gets just what she asked for:
John the Baptist’s head on a platter.
It’s sad, and rather gruesome, and not the ending we were hoping for.
But maybe if the story were told just a bit differently…
Maybe if all those characters came back and gave it another go,
Then perhaps we could get the ending we all want.
That story might go something like…this morning.
There’s a mother
and a daughter
There’s a Baptizer: two by my count
There’s a King much greater than Herod.
There’s a party
And a request
A promise given
And a promise kept
And on account of that promise, Someone has to die.
On a day when so much is the same, things may still go differently.
The King has thrown a party with songs and Food and Drink.
He’s invited all His friends.
Little Lucia has come before the Him.
And she’s the kind of girl who wants it all.
She’s even so bold that she would make a request:
the head of John the Baptist.
Don’t be put off. It’s O.K.
After all, St. Paul writes that the head of every man is Christ,
and that is most certainly true when it comes Jesus’ own cousin, St. John.
So this morning, when Lucia’s asks for his head,
It is a request for Jesus Himself.
And the King is happy to oblige.
He has no choice.
The King has made a promise in front of all of you and the whole host of heaven.
He has staked His very Name on the promise made right there in the font.
There with Word and Water
God our King has cleaned her
He has made her new
He has adopted her into His family
And He has given to her far more than half His Kingdom.
By giving His own Son, the King has delivered to the baptized His entire kingdom.
And nothing can ever take that away.
No devil, no power, no height, no depth, nothing can separate her from the Love of God, and her eternal inheritance.
So when the great, Last Day comes, and she sees the Judge who has every right to condemn her,
She can reply, saying, “You promised.”
Because He did. And He is a Man of His Word.
That, however, is not the end of the story.
I told you.
Somebody has to die.
That somebody is Jesus Himself.
The promises made to Lucia and to all of you in your baptism do not come cheap.
Quite the opposite. They cost Him everything.
But it is with her and you and me in mind that Jesus goes to the cross, where He suffers and dies for all of our sins.
And then it is all Easter!
Jesus was buried in the tomb, and raised up again on the third day!
“We were therefore buried with Him, through Baptism, into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6.4)
THAT IS YOUR GIFT!
All made yours in the water.
So when you come up today,
Touch the water
And trace the cross in remembrance of your baptism:
That glorious, Gospel moment that is not over,
Your baptism lasts forever and ever because Jesus lasts forever and ever.
That gift given to you
It is sure and certain. Full and complete!
Because Christ Himself has done it.
And this story really does have a happy ending;
Which is to say that it has no ending at all.
Instead, an eternal wedding feast.
Of which we now receive a foretaste.
The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
To Him be all the Glory, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages.