19th September 2021

The Trapped and the Free

Her name was Salome. The stepdaughter of Herod makes a brief appearance in Mark 6, her story ending with the gruesome image of John the Baptist’s head on a silver platter. We know almost nothing for sure about Salome, and the Bible only mentions her here in this strange story where she dances for Herod and his guests and he promises her ‘up to half his kingdom’ in gratitude. She asks for the prophet’s head.

Looking closer at the details of this story we can see how trapped the characters were. First, there’s Herod. He’s a puppet king of the empire trying to show off to his guests. His new stepdaughter dances for them and he’s enchanted by lust. He then indulges his pride and makes a spectacle of this promise to give her up to half his kingdom.

He’s trapped—by his own inappropriate desires, by his prideful actions before his guests, by the powerful people who actually control him. He couldn’t give away half his kingdom even if he wanted to!

Salome is trapped by her and her mother’s political aspirations and bloodthirst for power. Trapped by her sexuality, she uses it as a weapon, rather than a source of joy. Trapped by her drunken stepfather making her entertain his guests.

This brief, tragic story shows the breakdown of the kingdom of humanity next to the kingdom of God. Pride, power, lust, and scheming internally combust in short order. The grisly final spectacle of John the Baptist’s death shows the brutal fruits of the kingdom of this world that is falling away.

Encapsulating this grim narrative on both sides is the story of Jesus sending out the twelve. He sends them out in freedom and generosity to share the message of the gospel with the world. Herod and Salome, in contrast, grasp tiny morsels of power to their own destruction.

Like the twelve, Jesus sends us out in freedom and generosity to share the Gospel, and we participate with him in a spirit of generosity, spontaneity, and love. But let’s be honest, there are also times we find ourselves feeling trapped—grasping and scheming for the empty illusions of this world.

Notice what Paul said in his letter to believers in Corinth:

…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV)

Where God is, there’s room for everyone at the table, there’s space for everyone to be themselves. When we feel trapped, we need to return to the center—to Jesus. We can ask the Holy Spirit to remind us of our freedom in Christ.

Because it is in submission to the rule of our true king, Lord Jesus—not to modern-day Herods, nor to the deception of self-rule —that we find authentic freedom. May the Holy Spirit continually remind you of the freedom you have in our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Presented by Greg Williams


About the presenter:
Word of Life each Sunday is taken from ‘Speaking of Life’, (https://www.gci.org/videos/media-speaking-of-life/), a public resource video on the USA website of Grace Communion International.  Greg Williams is President of Grace Communion International and lives in North Carolina, USA.

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