A Tale of Two Banquets

In our gospel passage this past Sunday, I connected the the reading we read from chapter 6 of Mark’s gospel, the death of John the Baptist, to the passage right after it, the feeding of the five thousand.

I made the point that Mark puts the darkly selfishness and life-taking brokenness of King Herod’s banquet (Mark 6:14-29) next to the poverty of the people and the life giving abundance of God through Christ in the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:30-44) to contrast the two banquets.

in the first story of a banquet, the author of Mark’s Gospel does a great job of describing the complexity of situation Herod finds himself in. The Gospel even records Herod’s own recognition of John’s holiness and righteousness.

You and I can appreciate the complexity of Herod’s dilemma.

Yet, the tragedy and cruelty of his choice shows his disconnect from the Gospel message.

Herod and his merrymakers together brought death.

This story is then contrasted to the story of the banquet that Jesus hosts. At this banquet, the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus and his disciples bring life.

Herod had abundant earthly means to be compassionate and just, but he choose not to be.

Jesus had simple earthly means, only five loaves of bread and two fish, yet Jesus choose to be abundant in compassion and mercy.

I am full aware that decisions in our life are not always so clear cut, and that is part of the challenge of living as a Christian with one foot in the Kingdom of God and one foot here in the material world.

But Mark’s Gospel, by contrasting these two banquets next to each other, reminds us that we don’t need much by earthly standards, to choose to act with an abundance of God’s love and compassion.