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.
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. and they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. Mark 6:14-44
Setting up a celebration can be loads of fun. There are people who really enjoy setting them up, figuring out who to invite, what will be served, and when. My wife is that way – she loves this stuff. Me, not so much, but I’m not good at, and Christel is. It’s like a new battery in the Energizer bunny. I get the impression that the party Herod threw for his political and military leaders was quite a hit, just like a Christel party. Great food and a really nice venue. An invitation would’ve been a huge deal.
Meanwhile, Jesus had his disciples to care for. His disciples had just returned from being sent; they were empty-handed and exhausted. Jesus knew they needed rest, and started leading them away from the crowds to find it. But, like many times before, people found out and met Jesus and the disciples as they stepped off the boat. Imagine being tired and hungry and coming face to face with a huge crowd, looking like lost sheep. Jesus welcomed and taught them. Towards the end of the day, the disciples tell Jesus to send them away to get food. Maybe they were hopeful for at least a nice meal and a good night’s sleep in peace and quiet. Then they hear the three unexpected words: “You feed them.”
Unlike Herod’s planners, they really had no food. They had a couple fish and loaves, but that was it. How can we feed these thousands with this little bit, they asked? Hearing this, Jesus had the people sit, and started breaking the bread and fish. Jesus fed them all. His feeding them brought them life. While Herod’s party ended in death, Jesus’ party ended in life. While Herod’s gathering required an invitation, everyone gathered with Jesus was invited and given enough to fill them. The most important thing was that, while Herod was served, Jesus did the serving. The king was served, but the Creator served.
As you listen to ‘Carried to the Table,’ reflect on the words and think about who you invite to your celebrations. How protective are you of the guest list, knowing some people can really change the dynamic of your time together, just like this huge crowd did for Jesus? Are you okay with inviting the outcast, the needy, the broken, the sinner?
By Rich Obrecht