Mark 6:14-29 – Sometimes things really stink

cracked earth


Mud and Water – not just for kids!

This can be a powerful act of corporate and personal reflection.

We acknowledge that the good gifts of God have become corrupted in our world, and often we can do nothing to fix it. Sometimes we can, and we should, as John Wesley said, ‘do all the good we can, by all the means we can … for as long as ever we can’. But other times we live in the mess until God restores his creation.

You will need:

  • Two large bowls or tubs
  • Compost or topsoil
  • A selection of small objects that can get wet, eg DVD, keys, mug, dice, toys, pen, sweets, coins.
  • Water
  • Towel

What to do:

Make some sloppy mud in one tub and put warm soapy water in the other. Place the towel nearby.

Invite people to choose an object, either from your selection or something they have, and to consider what it could represent for good and for ill. For example, a key can represent the blessing of a secure home, of comfort and warmth. It could also represent imprisonment, slavery and exclusion.

Take the object and plunge it in the mud, naming all the bad symbolism, and bring it out, spoiled and dirtied. We can confess how God’s gifts have been misused and spoiled.

Then wash it clean in the water as you name the blessings it represents. As God’s hands on earth we should be acting as the cleansing water, to restore and redeem his gifts. And we can rejoice that God in Christ has triumphed over sin and death, and will one day fully restore all things.


Tie string on the various object and place them in the mud beforehand, with the string hanging over the edge. Pull out the objects one-by-one and talk about the negative connotations, then wash them clean and talk about redemption.


We’re familiar with the story. It’s been painted, made in to a play by Oscar Wilde and even an opera, with the famous ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’. But that classy façade dulls our disgust at this cacophony of incest, lust, greed and the vilest injustice. The Daily Mail would have had a field-day!

Are you ready? Take a deep breath …

Our Herod was the son of Herod (the Great), and Phillip was his half-brother. Dad Herod executed some other brothers and gave orphaned granddaughter, Herodias, to half-uncle Phillip as a wife. They had a daughter, Salome, then Herodias left Phillip and moved in with half-uncle-cum-brother-in-law Herod (this Herod), and THAT’s when John the Baptist stepped in.

He calls out this morally-corrupt rat’s nest and winds up in prison for his trouble. Herod liked to listen to John, but was too in love with his position of power to act on what he heard. Then he throws a massive party and brings out his young and luscious step-daughter-cum-great-half-niece-cum-zeroth-cousin-twice-removed for everyone to drool over. Testosterone takes over, and he makes a showy and rash promise. Then instead of having the guts to admit he’s done something stupid, he gives in to the vengeful scheming of his wife-cum-sister-in-law-cum-niece, and murders John to save his pride.

It’s a sorry tale of all that is worst in humanity. And all that John’s friends can do is mourn.

Sometimes things really stink.

But there’s nothing new under the sun. Every day there is injustice. Folks get away with stuff they should not get away with. Other folks suffer for things that are not their fault. It’s not right and it’s not good, but it’s how it is in our broken world.

This doesn’t mean we should not fight against it. We are called to be salt and light: bringing savour, getting rid of rotten-ness, bringing light, dispelling darkness. But in this life we will not get rid of it all. ‘The poor you will always have with you’, said Jesus. We still work to eradicate the damaging effects of poverty, but we hold that alongside knowing that the job is too big for us.

It takes someone else to wipe every tear from our eyes, to make a world with no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev 21). And that will be so. Meanwhile, in this world, sometimes things really stink. And we rightly mourn.


Mark 6:14-29 Living Bible (TLB)

King Herod soon heard about Jesus, for his miracles were talked about everywhere. The king thought Jesus was John the Baptist come back to life again. So the people were saying, “No wonder he can do such miracles.” Others thought Jesus was Elijah the ancient prophet, now returned to life again; still others claimed he was a new prophet like the great ones of the past.

“No,” Herod said, “it is John, the man I beheaded. He has come back from the dead.”

For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John because he kept saying it was wrong for the king to marry Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Herodias wanted John killed in revenge, but without Herod’s approval she was powerless. And Herod respected John, knowing that he was a good and holy man, and so he kept him under his protection. Herod was disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so he liked to listen to him.

Herodias’s chance finally came. It was Herod’s birthday and he gave a stag party for his palace aides, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee. Then Herodias’s daughter came in and danced before them and greatly pleased them all.

“Ask me for anything you like,” the king vowed, “even half of my kingdom, and I will give it to you!”

She went out and consulted her mother, who told her, “Ask for John the Baptist’s head!”

So she hurried back to the king and told him, “I want the head of John the Baptist—right now—on a tray!”

Then the king was sorry, but he was embarrassed to break his oath in front of his guests. So he sent one of his bodyguards to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier killed John in the prison, and brought back his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl and she took it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came for his body and buried it in a tomb.


Living Bible (TLB)

The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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