“So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” (Mark 6:12–13 ESV)
“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.” (Mark 6:30 ESV)
This is a very interesting passage in Mark because he is telling the story of Jesus sending out the twelve disciples on what turns out to be their first evangelistic/missional trip. Mark could have completely cut out vv. 14-29 and the reader would never have known it. He drops the disciples in the middle of their trip and proceeds to tell the story of how John the Baptist died [which is gruesome and sad], then without missing a beat goes right back to the story of the disciples.
We need to think about why Mark does this. Did he have a primitive form of ADHD? Was he writing along and suddenly thought of John the Baptist’s death and slipped it in before he forgot about it?
One of the things that is worth knowing about the gospel writers is that they seldom did things without reason. Sometimes we think that they were sitting there with a pen asking themselves, “let’s see, what happened next?” I do not think this is how they composed any of their writings.
Think about John the Baptist for a minute. Why was he around at all? He was given a specific mission by God; he was going to be the forerunner of the Messiah.
“And he [John the Baptist] will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”” (Luke 1:16–17 ESV)
John was going to prepare the way for the Lord. He was a proclaimer of truth and repentance to the masses in Judea. What happened to John the Baptist in Mark 6.14-29? He was beheaded at the direct order of Herod Antipas. His ministry of proclamation was over. Who will take his place in order to proclaim Jesus’ message? The twelve disciples and those who would follow them by faith.
Mark sandwiches John’s death right in the middle of his description of the first missional journey of the disciples because they are the natural descendants of John the Baptist. He had performed his mission and been killed, they were going to take up his same message and preach it to whomever would listen. This is the nature of the gospel message: the messengers die out, but the message goes on.
Our generation of Christ-followers is in the process of proclaiming the gospel to the world. Our generation will soon die out and go home to be with the Lord. God will raise up a new generation of messengers to proclaim the same gospel message that the disciples preached two thousand years ago, the messengers die out, but the message goes on.