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The Tale of two Banquets and the Cost of Discipleship

The Tale of two Banquets and the Cost of Discipleship

 Mark 6: 14-44

G’day everyone and welcome to Church. Today we will be focusing on two accounts from Mark’s Gospel (6:14-44). At first glance, these back to back accounts seem to interrupt the flow of the narrative in that the mission of the twelve (6:7-13) and their reporting back to Jesus (6:30) is placed either side of the beheading of John the Baptist (6:14-29). What Mark is employing is a literary device called a ‘sandwich construction’ in order to draw some comparisons.

        The point of comparison from today’s reading is that each story is about a banquet. This comparison draws many contrasts, for whilst Herod’s banquet was held in a palace, Jesus held his in the open air and upon the greening hills of Galilee. And whilst Herod only invited VIP’s, Jesus catered for all, wether great or small. And unlike Herod, whose primary purpose for holding a banquet was to bolster his position and boost his standing, the reason for Jesus’ banquet was simply to provide for needy people. Finally, whilst Herod’s banquet ends in a horrific and unjustified death, Jesus’ banquet was to sustain and satisfy life.

Yet there is another point of comparison in this sandwich construction. Mark brackets the martyrdom of John the Baptist with the mission and the reporting back of the disciples to emphasise the connection between mission and martyrdom, discipleship and death. Whoever wants to be a follower of Christ must first consider the fate of John, for John’s martyrdom not only foreshadows Jesus’ death but highlights the cost of discipleship. Later on in Mark, Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it” (Mark 8:34-35 NLT).