Today's text centers in two men: John the Baptist and King Herod. The identity of Jesus is the issue immediately at hand. We discussed this identity issue in the previous chapter, noting that Mark 4:35--6:6 deals with this question. The disciples wonder who Jesus is. Jesus proceeds to demonstrate who he is through a series of spectacular miracles. He drives out a legion of demons, heals a woman with a flow of blood and raises a young girl from the dead. Still, when he arrives in his hometown, his kinfolk could only see that he was a lowly carpenter's son.
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Oscar Wilde penned a powerful story about behaviors and definitions and justice called The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian was a handsome young man, a model of physical beauty and moral virtue. People complimented him on his good graces. Parents pointed to him as an example to their youth. One artist even painted an exquisite portrait of him.
"Have you seen it?" whispered the Barbie doll to her next door neighbour.
The next Barbie doll in line was instantly alert. There were five different Barbie dolls, who lived jumbled together in the toy cupboard but who were so jealous of each other that they rarely spoke. "Seen what?" asked the second Barbie doll, blue eyes darting all round the room.
"The Princess," replied the first Barbie with glee. "Caitlin's done her hair and it looks terrible!"
These verses from Mark's gospel are a call to commitment, a call to sacrifice, and a call to give up everything of earthly value in life. To say these are difficult verses is truly an understatement. It is pretty clear that the disciples are not at all ready for what Jesus is saying. They are not ready for Jesus to die and they certainly are not ready to die themselves.