Sunday

“King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’” (v. 14-15)

Psalm: Psalm 85

Background

Word was spreading about Jesus; his teaching, the miraculous healings, with even a synagogue leader’s daughter brought back to life (Mark 5:41-42), and now news reached the ears of Herod, whose residence in Galilee was in the mainly Gentile city of Tiberius. Jesus’ disciples had been sent into Galilee on their first practical training session (Mark 6:7), so it is likely that Jesus was by then a topic of conversation in homes, street corners, markets and synagogues, the big question being: Who is this man?

Opinion was divided. Some said it was John the Baptist who had been raised from the dead (verse 14), which troubled Herod’s guilty conscience greatly, because he knew it was weakness on his part that had resulted in John’s death, simply to appease his wife Herodias after John’s criticism of their marriage (verses 19-20). To Herod, this could be John returning to exact his revenge, and that was enough to put fear in his heart.

Those who were nationalists wondered if it was Elijah come again (verse 15), a thought which had also crossed their minds when John the Baptist appeared (John 1:21). A common belief was that their Messiah would come as a conquering king who would win the Jews freedom from oppression, and before this happened the prophet Elijah would appear to herald in that great day. Even today, when Jews celebrate the Passover Feast the tradition is to leave an empty chair at the table, and an open door for Elijah.

Others, who were simply waiting for the voice of God to be heard after such a long period of apparent silence (around 400 years since the prophet Malachi) hoped that Jesus might be the prophet they were looking for, bringing once again the authentic word of God (verse 15). Jesus certainly brought people the word of God, because he spoke with the voice of God. But he brought so much more, for in him we believe is seen the fulness, the very life and essence of God.

To Ponder

  • Why do you think that Jesus did not just come straight out with a clear and unequivocal statement about who he was that everyone could understand?
  • Do you think people are still asking that big question: Who is this man? If so, what can the Church do to help them?
  • The people were waiting for a prophet to proclaim God’s word to them. How do you hear God’s word in your daily life?
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