Lent – 12th reading for discipleship reflections

James DouglasLent Readings and reflections, Reflections

Wow – 2 lapsed days – not good!

Reading – Mark 6:1-29

As I sit at my kitchen table at my laptop, with reminders of the large party we had last week still around me, and having substantially more than two changes of clothes (a tunic was a garment similar to the alb I wear when I lead worship), I’m struck by how vulnerable Jesus asks the disciples to be as he sends them out on their first ‘mission’. He tells them to rely on others’ hospitality rather than their own resources, refusing them the kind of comforts I wouldn’t go down the road without, let alone around the country.He also tells them to (very publicly) shake from their feet the dust of towns that won’t welcome them – the kind of confrontational tactic I would struggle with almost as much as leaving home with no money to go and stay with strangers – it’s no wonder Peter later points out to Jesus that the disciples have left everything to follow him. The disciples are successful (in contrast to Jesus in his home town just a few verses earlier), calling people to repent, driving out demons and curing illnesses. Their deprivation and their success is jammed up against John the Baptist, whose distinctive diet and clothing match his distinctive death, beheaded and served on a platter for the vindictive whim of a person of power. It’s a grim narrative which has echoes at the end of Nicodemus and friends, placing Jesus in the tomb. But one line in particular strikes me in this passage –

For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.

Even though John perplexed Herod, he ‘kept him around’, protecting him from Herodias. Herod doesn’t understand John, but recognises in this camel hair clad, locust munching, desert dwelling prophet someone holy, someone worth listening to, someone worth keeping around. I wonder if anyone thinks of me that way (possibly including the apparel and diet observations) – as perplexing but compelling, odd but holy, someone worth protecting and listening to. I wonder what my discipleship would need to look like to prompt such a reaction?