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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 10 - Series B 
Text: Mark 6:14-29 
Title: “Mistaken Identity” 
Date: Sunday, July 15, 2018
Pastor Steve Bocklage
 
When he was vice president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson tried to get a room in Baltimore's finest hotel wearing soiled working clothes. The manager, a fellow by the name of Boyden, took one look at Jefferson's scruffy clothes and turned him away. A few minutes later, after someone had informed Boyden he had just turned away the vice president, the manager immediately sent a servant to find Jefferson and offer him a room and as many rooms as he wished. After he hearing the message, Jefferson replied: "Tell Boyden that I value his good intentions highly, but if he has no room for a dirty farmer, he shall have none for the vice president." 
Mistaken identity is not an uncommon thing. The Bible records more than one incident of mistaken identity. Our sermon text today from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Mark is one of mistaken identity. At the time of Jesus' ministry, the ruler of Galilee was a fellow by the name of Herod Antipas. Like many people, Herod found himself falling in love. Normally, there is nothing wrong when a king or a commoner falls in love. But King Herod's love was complicated by a few difficulties. First, Herod was already married…married to a princess. The other difficulty was the fact that Herod’s true love was married to his brother Phillip. You might rightly understand that the Lord took a dim view of Herod's exploits.
Indeed, the Lord expressed His displeasure with Herod's marital misadventures through the preaching of John the Baptist. Never one to mince words, John thoroughly and repeatedly condemns the ruler's immoral relationship. For his efforts, John finds himself locked away in the high security fortress-prison, even though Herod knows that John “[is] a righteous and holy man.” (Mk 6:17, 20) But in a misplaced sense of values and feeling obliged to keep his word to Herodias’ dancing daughter, Herod reluctantly ends up giving the order to have John beheaded. 
That should have brought down the curtain on John the Baptizer. He should have faded into obscurity…but it doesn’t happen that way. Shortly after John's body is buried, reports begin to make their way to the palace and Herod's ear. These are stories about a Man who, like John, is preaching with authority. Stories about an Individual like John who is calling people to repentance and the kingdom of heaven. Stories about a Person who is giving sight to the blind, mobility to the lame, and bringing the dead back to life. Inquiring minds want to know: "Who is this Guy?" Some think: "It's John the Baptizer who has been raised from the dead." There are others suggesting this Guy is Elijah. Still, others are convinced the mystery Man is cut from the same bolt of cloth as the prophets of the Old Testament. Herod, no doubt disturbed by the part he has played in John's death, is convinced that this Guy is the resurrected John who would, in all probability, pick up his criticism of Herod where he had left off.
It’s a case of mistaken identity. This Fellow who is causing such a stir is not John or any Old Testament prophet. This Person who speaks with Divine authority and does magnificent miracles is non-other than John's cousin, Jesus of Nazareth. Just who is this Jesus? What do you think of Him? If I was to list the names of movie stars and other folks who are in the limelight, you would not only know who they are…you would also know if you like them or not. If I were to ask you about your in-laws, you could tell me. If I asked your opinion about the policeman who gave you a speeding ticket, you could tell me what you thought about him or her, couldn't you? But the question for today is: "Who is Jesus?" I'm not asking about Jesus as a Teacher, or a Healer, or a Philosopher. I'm asking, "What do you think of Jesus? Is He your crucified and risen Savior?" 
Now, if you want to find out something about a person…any person…the best way to do so is to talk to those who know him best. Let's do that in regard to Jesus. If we're going to get an honest opinion, we can't just talk to Jesus' friends. So, let's begin by speaking to Jesus' enemies. Let's ask the Pharisees. They always find fault in what Jesus says and does. Let's ask: "Being upstanding pillars of the community, what is your biggest criticism of the Christ?" To that question, they quickly reply, "This Man received sinners." That's your best shot? Jesus associated with sinners? Thank God He did! If Jesus hadn't associated with sinners…if He hadn't reached out to us, rescued and redeemed us…what would have happened to us? But, wait, the Pharisees aren't done. As they huddle at the foot of Jesus' cross, they call out this challenge: "Jesus, You saved others, why can’t You save Yourself?" No one can argue with that. If Jesus had saved Himself and gotten down off that cross and walked away, His mission of rescuing humanity from sin, death, and devil would have been incomplete and you and I would remain in our sins. 
Now, what about Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who presided over the Savior's trial? Pilate would tell you, "Jesus is a person in whom I found no fault." (Jn. 19:4) How about Judas…the traitor who betrayed Jesus with a kiss? The disciple's guilty conscience will confess: Jesus blood is innocent. Can you believe it? Both Jesus' judge and His betrayer, the ones who have the most to gain by degrading and defaming Jesus, declared Him to be guilt free and innocent of any wrongdoing. And when it comes to the Christ, there can be no mistaken identity. The Centurion who was the overseer at the crucifixion and a battle-hardened soldier says: "This Man was the Son of God." (Mt. 27: 54) Jesus' enemies agree and stand together to say: "Jesus is innocent of wrongdoing and the only charge for which He can be convicted is in caring for sinners." 
We have heard from Jesus' enemies, now listen to His friends. The prophet John the Baptist died believing what he had confessed at the Jordan River: "Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (Jn. 1:29) Thomas was the disciple who, like much of humanity, couldn't quite bring himself to believe Jesus had conquered death. Still, when the disciple was confronted by the risen Christ, when He was offered the opportunity to see Jesus' nail-scarred hands, had the chance to put his fingers into Jesus' spear-slashed side, he was compelled to confess: "My Lord and my God." (Jn. 20:28) Saul, who had once tried to stomp out the flames of the faith known as the Way said, "This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." (1 Tim. 1:15) The angels of heaven say Jesus had come to be our "Savior, Christ the Lord." (Lk. 2:11) And if you don't want to listen to the angels of heaven, how about listening to the devils of hell as they call out: "...Jesus of Nazareth. Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God." (Lk. 4:34) Friends, enemies, angels, and devils have all shared their position on the Savior. Still, there is one, last voice who needs to be heard. The Father in heaven thunders from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." (Mt. 17:5)
In regard to God the Father’s beloved Son, you must not mistake His identity! Jesus, the sinless Son of God, entered this world to save you. Saving you was His single and exclusive purpose. To save you, Jesus resisted Satan's temptations. To save you, the Lord kept the laws of God you and I have broken. To save you, Christ took your sins to Himself by unfairly dying upon the cross of Calvary. To show to a doubting world He has finished His work, He rose from the grave on the third day. Jesus lives, and He wants you to live also. 
That’s why the Holy Spirit has been calling people to faith. He also wants no identity mistakes when it comes to Jesus Christ. Being baptized into Christ, you “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” for life and salvation. (Eph. 1:13) Being baptized into Christ, 
He wants you to know Him, believe in Him, and confess Him as your Savior and Lord. Amen.
 

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