True Faith and False Faith
Translated by Allan Liang
Mark 6:14-29 These passages speak of two important figures, one is King Herod, the client king of Judea under the Roman authority, the other is John the Baptist, the prophet sent out by God. A familiar scene in history would again be reenacted, that is, the prophet, under God’s instruction rebukes the prince and exposes his sin, but the prince in turn, imprisons and slays the rebuking prophet in accordance to his own will. According to human experience and our understanding of the rise and fall of heroes, none of the prophets would be heroes in the traditional sense - the servants of God almost always were beaten, imprisoned, mocked and killed. Why did God not turn the tables and slay the evil kings while leading the prophet’s revolution to victory? Would that not greatly inspire the people and cause them to listen more closely to the prophet’s words? Today’s passage can provide us the answer from a certain perspective. The passage incorporates the uncommon style of reverse chronology. Is it not greatly ironic that the killer should marvel and think that his victim is now raised from the dead? The kings of this world have the power to pronounce one dead. However, the Scriptures, through the mouth of the king, tells the reader that above the power of the king to slay, there exists a greater power that allows for the dead to be raised alive. Dear brothers and sisters, the gospel on this earth manifests in a way that appears weak, being oppressed and martyred, but soon reveals itself to be the mighty power of resurrection and victory. The gospel tells all those who believe the gospel that they are not to seek for a shield of invincibility in this world of unbelief, but rather, they are to walk with Jesus on the path of death and resurrection. This is the way of the cross. The rulers of this world may hold the power of death, easily and brutally subjecting one to death, but the heavenly King of Kings reveals through death, the glories of resurrection, and will surely in the final judgment, condemn the evildoers to eternal punishment, and grant the righteous eternal life, displaying his justice in an ultimate fashion. This is the wisdom that God has shown in the cross. (1 Corinthians, 1:18-19). If any is to believe the gospel because of John the Baptist’s death, he probably has understood the mysteries of the gospel and the wisdom of the cross. We are to build our true faith on the true understanding of the gospel, and at the same time, we are to be wary of all false faith that threatens to harm us. Mark 6:20 mentions, “Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.” In the context of the modern church, Herod was one who took delight in listening to the messages of famous preachers, respected the servants of God, and actively took part in acts resembling service. How did such a person become the murderer of John the Baptist and co-murderer of Jesus? Earlier, Jesus in his parable of the sower, mentioned the shallow soil (also called the rocky soil). Such persons listen to the Word of God and immediately find themselves interested, yet do not experience a rebirth of the spirit, so that even if they have outward expressions of faith, their unbelief becomes exposed when persecutions and trials come. King Herod is an example of such soil. His temptation appeared after he became entangled in immoral relations with the wife of his brother, Herodias, and the subsequent attempt to avenge John the Baptist for his criticisms on this matter. The actions of King Herod reveal that he had merely outward appearances of righteousness, but had no internal righteousness, and certainly did not have the life of the reborn spirit. The parable of the sower also contained a soil of thorns, where faith would be smothered and choked by the cares,worries and desires of this world, causing no growth to be possible. King Herod was choked by his authority, throne, and rule - earthly pursuits and worries. To solidify his rule, he assembled religious folk to build for him a temple. There were two occasions on which he demonstrated great worries, both related to his fear of losing his rule. On the first occasion Herodias prompted Herod to kill John the Baptist, but due to his fear of the people, he did not dare kill him. (Mathew 14:5). On the second occasion, Herod feared to lose the trust of his officials who were at the banquet, and consequently killed John the Baptist. (Mark 6:26). Evidently, Herod did not place God in the highest position, but cared most about securing his rule, that being the chief object of his desire. Dear brothers and sisters, do we believe Jesus because we have been reborn by the gospel, or is it because of other reasons? The true gospel does not result in our old self living better, but results in it dying more completely. If we are far off from the cross of Jesus, then we also are far off from the empty tomb of Jesus. “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all Things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8) Please meditate in prayer: in this season of the coronavirus, do I have the true peace from God? Is the power of the resurrection greater in me than the threat of death? Has the gospel completely transformed my old self along with its understanding of right and wrong, its perceptions of reality, and its desires and pursuits? Or has it remained largely unchanged? What do I care most about?