Mistaken Identity

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I continued our new preaching series, “Who Do You Say I Am?”, by looking at a strange episode in Matthew 14:1-13 on the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod Antipas. This passage has import for revealing Jesus’ identity and also gives us insight into the life of discipleship.

This message is part of the sixth part of our longer series on Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” and “Stories of the Kingdom.”

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants,
‘This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead!’” (Matthew 14:1-2)

Jesus Mistaken for John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-2)

Reports about Jesus reach Herod Antipas

The similar ministry of Jesus and John the Baptist

Herod Antipas’ similar concerns about Jesus and John

John the Baptist Crashes Herod’s Party (Matthew 14:3-12)

John speaks truth about Herod’s actions

Herod’s party and family drama

John’s brutal death at Herod’s hands

Jesus Withdraws (Matthew 14:13)

Withdrawing from Herod Antipas and the crowds

Withdrawing with the apostles and to be with the Father


Dig Deeper:

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize John’s message in Matthew 3:2
  • Journal, draw, paint, or ink this story as a way of reflecting on how you see Jesus and who Jesus really is to you.
  • Read more about John the Baptist’s life in the following passages:
  • Luke 1:5-25, 39-80
  • Luke 3:1-20
  • Matthew 3:1-12
  • John 1:6-8, 19-34
  • John 3:22-36
  • Matthew 11:1-19
  • Matthew 14:1-12
  • Mark 6:14-29
  • Matthew 17:11-13; 21:32
  • Read more about Herod Antipas here or here.

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 May 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Marva Dawn“Remembering Marva Dawn, a Saint of Modern Worship” – I first encountered the writings of Marva Dawn while preparing for ministry at Northern Theological Seminary. That is also where I also first heard her in person at a conference organized by Bob Webber, a friend and mentor during those days before Bob’s passing in 2007. Her books Sexual Character, Truly the Community, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, and Keeping the Sabbath Wholly have influenced me significantly. Here is a tribute to Marva Dawn by Mike Cosper at Christianity Today. “When a mentor saw me struggling with worship in our fledging church plant, he handed me a copy of Marva Dawn’s Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship in this Urgent Time. I wondered what a Lutheran and a lover of historic worship practices would have to say to a congregation whose traditions came more from indie rock shows than any church.”


refugee resettlement“Biden raises refugee ceiling, and faith-based groups brace for rebuilding work” – From Emily McFarlan Miller and Jack Jenkins at Religion News: “Faith-based refugee resettlement groups are celebrating President Joe Biden’s decision to raise the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. for the remainder of the federal fiscal year to 62,500, even as they acknowledge that they need to rebuild their capacity after years of cuts under the previous administration. The announcement from the Biden White House comes after significant pushback from the faith-based groups that form the backbone of the nation’s refugee resettlement program after the president signed a memorandum last month aimed at speeding up refugee admissions that did not touch the historic low set by former President Donald Trump.”


Fleming Rutledge“The Body of Christ in an Empire of Lies” and “On writing political sermons” – In these two posts, seasoned pastor and theologian, Fleming Rutledge, offers some pointed and poignant advice to pastors for the current moment. Rutledge is perhaps best known for her masterful work, The Crucifixion: Understanding the death of Jesus Christ, which has won acclaim from across the theological spectrum (see this, this, or this). Whether you agree or disagree with her, Rutledge’s commentary and advice in these posts is worth reading and grappling with, something I continue to do as a pastor and preacher in these divisive and challenging days.


madmenThe Spirituality of Solitude: In the Poverty of Solitude All Riches Are Present” – Ben Self at Mockingbird: “In a post a couple weeks ago, I used the paintings of Edward Hopper to suggest that there is an important difference between loneliness and solitude, and that despite our understandable exhaustion with the loneliness of these times, we may strangely come to miss certain aspects of solitude when this pandemic is over. But what is it, more specifically, we might miss?…On the one hand, we most naturally try to remedy the pain of being alone — our loneliness — through contact with others. But paradoxically, we also seek to remedy that same basic pain — but the pain of being separate from God — through solitude, separation from others. Thus, it is our very loneliness that can drive us both into the arms of others and away from others into solitude, to spaces where we might be ‘alone with the Alone.'”


Barons - memory reading“Why we remember more by reading – especially print – than from audio or video” – Linguistics professor Naomi S. Baron in The Conversation: “During the pandemic, many college professors abandoned assignments from printed textbooks and turned instead to digital texts or multimedia coursework. As a professor of linguistics, I have been studying how electronic communication compares to traditional print when it comes to learning. Is comprehension the same whether a person reads a text onscreen or on paper? And are listening and viewing content as effective as reading the written word when covering the same material? The answers to both questions are often ‘no,’ as I discuss in my book How We Read Now, released in March 2021. The reasons relate to a variety of factors, including diminished concentration, an entertainment mindset and a tendency to multitask while consuming digital content.”


kovacs-1“Underwater Photos Taken During Blackwater Dives Frame the Atlantic Ocean’s Stunning Diversity” – Grace Ebert at Colossal: “After sunset, self-taught photographer Steven Kovacs plunges into the open ocean around Palm Beach to shoot the minuscule, unassuming creatures floating in the depths. He’s spent the last eight years on blackwater dives about 730 feet off the eastern coast of Florida in a process that ‘entails drifting near the surface at night from 0 to 100 feet over very deep water.’ Often framing species rarely seen by humans, Kovac shoots the larval fish against the dark backdrop in a way that highlights the most striking aspects of their bodies, including wispy, translucent fins, iridescent features, and bulbous eyes.”


Music: Jpk. (feat. Solar. & I. Erickson), “By Your Side”

A Prayer for Stillness (with a word from Thomas à Kempis)

Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know,
to love what I ought to love,
to praise what delights Thee most,
to value what is precious in Thy sight,
to hate what is offensive to Thee.
Do not suffer me to judge according to the sight of my eyes,
nor to pass sentence according to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men;
but to discern with a true judgment between things visible and spiritual,
and above all always to inquire what is the good pleasure of Thy will.

— Thomas à Kempis

Still me, my God.
Quiet me.

All the raging thoughts and twisted times.
Bring me back to You.
Reorient my soul to You.

All the confusion and misdirection—
May my hunger be for You.

My divided self and these divided days—
May my rest be in You.

Quiet me.
Still me, my God.

A Necessary Tension: Bonhoeffer on Solitude and Community

As I continue to reflect on unity as we walk through our current series at Eastrook Church, “One: The Being of God in the Life of the Church,” here is a powerful quotation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together on the necessary tension between solitude and community:

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called. “The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone…I will not be with you then, nor you with me” (Luther).

But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you. “If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer they [the fellowship] suffer with me” (Luther).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper & Row, 1954).

Get Away, Leader!

Without a doubt, ministry is busy, demanding and people intensive. In this sort of work it is easy to get drained out and worn down by what we do.

But leaders, we need to get away.

Take a look at the life of Jesus. He was no exception to this. His life was busy. In Luke 4:31-41, we see Jesus’ day was full of activity: teaching, casting out demons, healing the sick, laying hands on people, and more.

How did Jesus deal with the busyness and potential to lose focus? He dealt with it by drawing away with the Father.

At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving. But he said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’ (Luke 4:42-43)

Jesus drew away from the people. Jesus took time with the Father. Jesus heard the Father speak of what was the next move. Jesus maintained focus by the Father’s side.

We need to do this as leaders. Though the demands of ministry never end, we cannot escape the need to draw away and refocus with the Father.

We should consider doing this daily: taking time, whenever it best works, to hear from God.

We should consider doing this weekly: drawing away to refocus before heading into the busyness of our weeks.

We should consider doing this monthly: setting aside a day each month for prayer, study, and personal refreshing.

We should consider doing this annually: getting away for a day or two to fast, pray, and hear from our Father.

As leaders, we need to get away from what is at hand in order to stay focused and fresh in our ministry.