Connections 07.11.2021: By Association

Mark 6:14-29

We know how it works.

Person A knows, relates to, or has been seen with Person B.

Person B is known to believe X or to have done Y.

Therefore, people believe that Person A must believe X or approve of Y.

It’s called guilt by association. We usually want to avoid it.

But being linked to someone else’s reputation isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Take for example Herod Antipas’s association of Jesus with John the Baptizer.

Word about Jesus was getting around. People in and around Herod’s court were discussing him. They considered various options that might explain why Jesus was able to do the amazing things he was doing. Among the possibilities floated were that he might be Elijah or one of the other prophets. But Herod settles on another suggestion: Jesus is John the Baptizer risen from the dead.

Maybe it was Herod’s guilt talking. After all, right after Herod draws his conclusion about Jesus being John returned from the dead, Mark tells us about the events that culminated in Herod’s having John beheaded. Still, something about what people were saying about Jesus caused Herod to associate Jesus with John.

While Herod’s identification of Jesus with John was wrong, his association of Jesus with John was right. They were both doing what they were supposed to do to accomplish God’s purposes. They were both committed to being who they were, to saying what they needed to say, and to doing what they needed to do.

Jesus and John were associated in another way—they would both die for their faithfulness to their mission. John had already lost his life, and Jesus would soon lose his.

So, Herod and others might have judged Jesus to be guilty by his association with John—John was deemed a threat to those in power, and Jesus would be too. But Jesus’ association with John was actually a positive thing—for those able to perceive it.

Mark tells us that, after John was beheaded, his disciples retrieved and buried his body. In so doing, they declared their loyalty to their leader. But they also risked being deemed guilty by association with him. It was a risk they were willing to take. Jesus’ disciples initially abandoned him, but after he was raised from the dead, they embraced people’s judgment that they were guilty by association with him—although what people regarded as guilt was actually faithfulness to the same mission of God to which John and Jesus gave their lives.

How committed are we to our association with Jesus? How willing are we to give our lives away in service to God’s purposes?

Discussion

  • What other reasons might Herod have had for associating Jesus with John the Baptizer?
  • How might we understand Herod’s attitude toward John (vv. 19-20)?
  • How does what happens to John anticipate what will happen to Jesus?
  • How does Jesus’ name become known (v. 14) through the ways we live? What do the ways we live tell people about Jesus?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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