Someone’s got some explaining to do

Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because everyone was talking about him. Some were saying, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. That is why he can do such miracles.” 15 Others said, “He’s the prophet Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet like the other great prophets of the past.”

16 When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.”

17 For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. 18 John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, 20 for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him. – Mark 6:14-20

Sunlit Leaves | Austin, Texas | October 2020

Apparently it is fake news that Ricky Ricardo ever actually said to Lucy, “Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.” But it seems so in character for him and their relationship. Lucy was always involved in some crazy scheme. Ricky was always frustrated with her. She would be sad and contrite until it suddenly turned out that she was right. She had no ‘splainin’ to do. He should have known.

The people of Jesus’ day should have known as well. Herod should have known better. He should have realized that you cannot dodge God forever. You can imprison his servants. You can ignore their call to repent. You can get away with murder. You can show everyone how powerful you are. 

Except you’re not powerful. You won’t get away with murder. You will one day repent – most likely too late for it to do you any good. But there is something happening here that Herod desperately wants to understand. Has John been raised from the dead? Has Elijah come again? Is there a new prophet to take John’s place? Can Herod ever get some peace? There’s got to be an explanation.

There are two reasons this desire for an explanation is wrongheaded. First of all, it is not for God to explain himself to him. If God is stirring things up, it is up to us to turn to him for comfort, in repentance, in faith, and humility. It is not up to us to figure God out so we can put him in a convenient and reasonable box. 

Second – and more important – getting our mysteries explained won’t really bring peace to our hearts. Proverbs says it well, “Lean not on your own understanding.” Better to trust in God – whether you can understand him or not. Better to allow God to work beyond our understanding. Better to marvel at the mystery than try to calm our hearts by grasping all the dynamics of God’s works and ways. 

We might take a lesson here from Herod: a lesson on how not to act. Rather than asking others, or speculating on what God is up to, or who Jesus is, better we look to Jesus’ teachings and life. Better to listen to his word. Better to trust in his ways. Better to disavow any idea that we’re in charge. Better to believe than understand.

Why will never fully satisfy. Our own understanding won’t bring peace. But faith in Jesus will prevail. In him we find peace. And the mystery is then focused on his goodness and grace and not on our having it all figured out. 

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