“He brought in the head on a platter
and gave it to the girl.
The girl in turn gave it to her mother.
When his disciples heard about it,
they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.”
-from Mk 6:14-29
“Let brotherly love continue.
Do not neglect hospitality,
for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”
– from Heb 13:1-8
The two daily readings strongly emphasize the difference between the Old and New Testaments in terms of ideals. Marks Gospel recounts the beheading of John the Baptist by Herod. Paul’s is from a letter to the Hebrews. Herod is obsessed with maintaining authority and the showing of strength and might. The crowds that were gathering around Jesus thought he might be John raised from the dead. With that Herod becomes concerned and recounts his authority in the beheading of John. Herod’s ideal world places him as sole authority and his authority is over life and death. His view was not unique in that ancient world. Conquering nations and supreme rule were the objectives of the emperors and it was that mindset Jesus’s people contended with daily. Their rulers ruled with a brutal power over life and death.
In Paul’s letter to the Hebrews he sets out the agenda of Christianity and that is “let brotherly love continue.” To them that is the ideal of the day. In their testament there is no justification for beheading, or stoning, or crucifixion, or rule of one human being over another. To them it is not their rule that counts, but only Gods. John the baptist is that pivotal person between the Old and New Testament.. His world’s testament ends with his body being laid in a tomb. Paul’s testament begins with Jesus rising out of a tomb. Jesus conquers the death bestowed upon him, and also that death inflicted on John. That conquering of death defeats the brutality of those ancient kings and emperors just as it defeats the dictators of this day. It conquers not through the brutality of the Old Testament, but through the message of love proclaimed in the New.