"Speaking the truth is dangerous to your health" is a sermon interpretation of Mark 6: 14-29. Speaking out against the popular, the powerful, the status quo, may result in consequences to your job, social circle, health, family life and privacy.
Some days are shockers. Bombshells. Pure Disasters. The morning of Sept 11, 2001 is forever etched in the minds of millions of Americans. Of four planes, two crashed into the Twin Towers, one crashed into the Pentagon, a fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field. Emergency people rushed to the scenes. Buildings were on fire, towers collapsing and people were shocked. The passengers of the fourth plane discovered what happened to the other three planes and decided to take action. Their courage prevented the loss of even more lives. Sept 11th, a bombshell of a day. A nation was stunned beyond belief.
Friday, November 22, 1963. Dallas, Texas. 12:30 PM. A presidential motorcade was working its way through Dallas. Several bullet shots rang out and one bullet pieced the skull of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. A great American leader was assassinated. A nation was numbed. That day was a disaster.
Such it was the day that John the Baptist was killed. His head chopped by King Herod. John the Baptist was the first authentic voice of God in Israel for four hundred years. People flocked out to the Jordan River to hear John preach. People revered the Baptist. Honored him. Venerated him. Held him up in highest esteem. But one day he was brutally murdered, and the nation was shocked, stunned, and staggered. Speaking the truth can be dangerous to your health.
People of God who are committed to God and speak the truth of God sometimes get killed or martyred for their honesty. John the Baptist did. Jesus did. Many of the first disciples did. Stephen, the first martyr, did. Disciples throughout the centuries have.
One of the early church father said that the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Throughout the centuries, the martyrs have inspired us Christians with their commitment unto death.
This story of John the Baptist invites us to have the courage to be truth tellers, to tell the truth of God’s morality to people around us. When we do, we are often ridiculed, rejected and even killed for doing so. Speaking the truth can be dangerous to your health.
A tendency among all Christians is to “play it safe,” “keep one’s mouth shut,” “don’t offend folks around us,” “keep peace in the family,” “keep peace in the nation.” Yes, there is a safety in being silent before the evil around us.
There are at least four characteristics of martyrs like John the Baptist.
First, Martyrs get killed, not for their convictions, but for expressing their convictions. Martyrs don’t keep their faith private. Martyrs are people who “don’t know better” but they open their mouths and often at the wrong times. They refuse to keep their mouths shut, and therefore they get into trouble. There are all kinds of people who have beliefs in Christ and beliefs in Christian values and they never get hurt at all. The key is to keep your mouth shut and you won’t get hurt. Keep your mouth shut and nobody will bother you. But as soon as you open your mouth about Christ and the Christian faith, that is when you will start becoming a martyr. It is the same Greek word for both witnesses and martyrs and both have a lot in common: both witnesses and martyrs open their mouths for Jesus Christ. So Stephen had this problem, as did all martyrs, of not keeping their mouth shut and keeping silent about their Christian convictions.
A second characteristic of a martyr is not only what they say but when and where they say it. For example, back in the Soviet Union during the Stalin era, if you declared that you were a Christian, you could be killed for it. If you said the same thing in the United States, nobody would be bothered at all. It is not just what you say but when and where you say it that makes for martyrdom. If you talk about Christ and social justice in church among believing friends, nobody gets too upset about it. But in certain situations and certain epochs of history, you can get killed for saying the same words.
A martyr is not a person who checks the wind of public opinion. They don’t say to themselves, “I will check the wind of public opinion and then I will make my pronouncement.” That person has the guts to go against culture. That person has the guts to go against public opinion. They have the guts to go against the king or governing authority.
John the Baptist expressed his convictions to both Herod and Herodias and got killed for it. It would have been safe for the Baptist to express his convictions privately to his disciples and friends. Yes, speaking the truth can be dangerous to your health.
A third characteristic of a martyr is that they are willing to die. They don’t want to die, but they are willing to die for Jesus Christ that others might live in justice and freedom.
Christian martyrs believe passionately in Jesus Christ. These martyrs believe so deeply that they are willing to die for their faith in Christ and their consequent moral values. These martyrs don’t hide behind the safety of silence; they speak God’s Word when and where it is not safe to speak the truth; and they are willing to die for the truth of Christ.
A four characteristic of martyrs: Martyrs inspire us. Martyrs encourage us. Martyrs lift us up so that we are more committed to Jesus Christ in our day and age, in our world.
The beheading of John the Baptist invites us to be honest about immorality when we see it, invites us to speak the truth even when its dangerous.
Sermon by Rev. Edward Markquart, edited by Ministry Depot.