Tyler David speaks on Mark 6:14-29
Series: The Gospel of Mark
In the first chapter of Mark we’re told of this man named John who God told to go preach a message of repentance and baptism. So John began to baptize people, even including Jesus before He started his ministry. This is why he’s called John the Baptist, or John the Baptizer.
Then in Mark 1:14 we find out that he gets arrested. That is all we hear of him. We have no idea what happened next. Then, in chapter six we find out he gets killed by a guy named Herod, a local ruler over the Jewish people.
There’s something profound to be learned by this story. It’s a parable for us in our lives.
All of us will either be like John or be like Herod.
More Like Herod
John was a man who submitted himself to the word of God, even when it cost him his freedom and his life.
Herod was a man who liked to hear the word of God, but never actually obeyed it. He never actually did what the word said, because the cost was far too high for him.
The truth is all of us are more like Herod than we would like to admit.
We like to come to Sunday service to hear preaching, and sing songs, because it feels good. We like the emotional feeling we have when somebody passionately preaches the word of God or leads us in singing.
Herod liked hearing the words of God and what the Bible had to say too. But in the end, when it came down to it, he never actually obeyed it. Eventually, because he kept delaying and putting it off, obedience became almost impossible for him.
His sin eventually led him away from obeying God.
I am fearful that many of us are headed in the same direction.
Hearing vs. Obeying
It is so easy to mistake hearing the Word of God as actually obeying the Word of God.
It’s easy to confuse the enjoyment of preaching from the Bible and singing songs from the Bible with actually obeying the Bible.
We’ll hear sermons that tell us to confess our sins to other people. We like the sound of that, but when you look at your life, there’s no actual story of confession.
You may hear the command to tell others about Jesus. You love the way that makes you feel, but when you look at your life, there’s no actual story of you ever sharing the gospel.
When we sing songs about giving everything to God, we feel moved and determined to do something, but when you look at your life, there’s no actual story of you sacrificing anything.
We make following Jesus about talking about what we should do instead of actually doing what we should do.
Herod is a warning for us against our lack of, and often, delayed obedience. Every moment we delay obeying God is a moment that sin is hardening our hearts. Every delay of obedience is a move away from God.
Eventually, we may desire to obey, but our hearts are far too hard and we’re led away by our sin, ultimately to destruction.
We need to pay attention to Herod’s story so that we’re not fooled into thinking we can obey later. We need to pay attention to John’s story too, because it shows us what obedience costs, what it’s going to cost to have God as our reward.
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” Mark 6:14-16 (ESV)
After Jesus sent out His disciples on a missionary journey, word began to spread about Him all the way to Herod. He heard reports about this man named Jesus doing these miraculous things. With those reports were some explanations of who they thought He was, “we’ve heard people say He’s a prophet or Elijah, but some people say they think it’s John the Baptist raised from the dead”. Herod thought it must be John the Baptist, because he killed him and felt guilty, so he assumed the worst.
For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. Mark 6:17-20 (ESV)
John and Herod had a pretty interesting relationship. John had been preaching a message of repentance and baptism to the people of Israel and then turned his preaching toward Herod and called him out. He said Herod was wrong, was against God and needed to turn from his sin and back to God. He specifically called him out. He said his marriage to Herodias was wrong; he was offensive to God and needed to repent. Leviticus 18 makes it pretty clear, “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; it is your brother's nakedness”.
Herodias, his wife, was furious about this. She had a grudge against John and wanted him dead and wanted Herod to kill him. He could have if he wanted to, but he didn’t. He wouldn’t let it happen, because he feared John.
Herod revered him as a holy and righteous man. He knew something was different about John. More than that, he was fascinated by what John had to say. He heard what he had to say gladly, even though he called him out on his sin. John kept denouncing him, yet he kept hearing him gladly. Why?
Something was attractive about John’s preaching; it drew Herod in. He was perplexed. He was pulled and divided and could have gone one of two ways.
He agreed with what John was saying. He knew what the Bible said, but he was not sure what he wanted to do, obey or disobey God. Both ways looked appealing to him.
How many of us have been there? We hear a sermon and God is obviously commanding us to change and yet we’re unconvinced.
It’s not that we disagree with what’s being said, we’re just not convinced to the point of actually changing. How many sermons have you heard where you had a moment of conviction and made promises to God, but then you look at your life and it doesn’t amount to any real change?
That moment of conviction was nothing more than a fleeting thought of change. We’ve all been there, including Herod.
I can only imagine that Herod thought he had more time. He thought he would eventually get to that, to the change. He would continue to study and read the Scripture about what John was saying and would eventually get to it, to obeying and changing his ways.
If you looked at this story and stopped right here you might think Herod was actually being drawn closer to God. His heart was softening towards God. He spared John’s life. He’s hearing the Word of God and he’s interested in it. You could say this was the story of how God saved Herod through the preaching of John. But that’s not what happened.
But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias's daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom” Mark 6:21-23 (ESV)
Mark fast-forwards to Herod’s birthday where he was having a party. He invited all the leading men of his district and it got shady quick. His stepdaughter comes into the party and begins to dance for the men.
You would think as soon as Herod recognized his teenage stepdaughter dancing for the men, he would have stopped it. That’s what he should have done, but he didn’t, rather, he encouraged it. Herod partook in the degrading of his own teenage stepdaughter.
This shouldn’t surprise you. What had John challenged him on? His sexual sin. He already had all kinds of sexual sin in his life. He knew he shouldn’t have married Herodias, yet he didn’t care enough to obey. This sin already owned him and his life.
It’s just like the sin in our lives. It keeps pushing the envelope. Slowly, but surely, it keeps pressing those boundaries. What ends up happening is sin begins to lead us to places we never thought we’d be. It takes us to do certain things we never thought we would. We become enslaved to our sin, as did Herod.
Herod was caught up in the moment and in his sin. He made a promise to this girl. He was intoxicated by the sensuality of the moment, by the honor of the men in the room. He was trying to show off in front of his guests. He said, “Girl, whatever you want, I’ll get it for you. Up to half of my kingdom, trust me, I’ll give it to you.”
And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:24-29 (ESV)
Herodias had been scheming the entire time. She had been biding her time, waiting for the moment when she could make her plans come true. She saw the party as the perfect moment and sent her daughter in. She sent her own daughter into the room to dance for the men. She must have known Herod’s weakness. She knew she could get what she wanted.
The girl asked him for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Herod didn’t want to look weak, so he agreed. John the Baptist was beheaded, because a grown man couldn’t control himself around a teenage girl.
That’s how John the Baptist died.
And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. Mark 6:26 (ESV, emphasis added)
God wants us to see something about Herod. He was detailed about how Herod felt when he gave the order. He was exceedingly sorry, filled with sorrow to the point that it hurt.
He knew he shouldn’t have done it. He knew he should have said no to the teenage girl, but he couldn’t. His sin had enslaved him and he couldn’t stop. Because of the men around him, how he loved the approval of them, he was led to do things he never thought he would do.
He was led to do things that were evil and perverse. He was led to destroy lives of the people around him.
Every single one of us have been there. You’ve experienced that thought, that feeling to do something you know you shouldn’t, but you just couldn’t stop.
You know you shouldn’t do that one thing. Watch pornography. Gossip. Bad mouth that person. Neglect your family or your wife. You don’t even want to, but you just can’t stop.
Sin enslaves us and leads us to destruction.
Even though we’ve all had these moments, we try to convince ourselves that we’re okay, that we’re not that bad. We’ll fix it later; it’ll take care of itself over time. None of us think that we could destroy our lives in the way Herod did.
None of us think we’re capable of such destructive things. We look at our lives and think we’re doing okay. We let the momentary reality of our life convince and deceive us into not obeying. We think we have more time to get around to obeying later.
That’s what Herod thought too.
Herod liked to hear the word of God. He just never actually obeyed it, because the cost was too high. Obeying God’s word meant the loss of his sexual freedom and the approval of those men.
The cost was too high for him.
Eventually his heart grew cold toward God. The desire he had to change for Him was gone.
A couple years later, Jesus Himself stood before Herod. God in the flesh was right in front of his face. Herod wanted nothing to do with Him.
When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9 So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. Luke 23:8-11 (ESV)
Herod said no to obedience a long time ago. Those moments of conviction were just an after thought. All that was left was a man who just wanted to be entertained. All he wanted was too see Jesus do some signs, to entertain him.
The most terrifying thing is that Jesus was in front of him and He didn’t say a word to Herod. He stood there quietly and let Herod mock him. Jesus just let him sit in his cold heart, condemned toward God.
None of us have the control over our hearts or our minds like we think we do. None of us can steer our hearts whenever we want. We don’t have that power.
If you’re convicted, don’t say you’ll get to it later. Later may never come. It may show up, but you’ll be so hard toward God you won’t know how to act toward Him.
Later may come and Jesus will be standing right in front of your face and you won’t even care. You’ll just mock Him and revile Him.
Whenever we feel a moment of conviction, where God is teaching us something, we must act. We can’t refuse God’s grace in that moment, because there’s no guarantee it will come again.
Many of us have heard this story and think it’s tragic, because of the death of John the Baptist. However, that is a story of triumph.
The tragedy is not that John lost his life and Herod kept his.
The tragedy is that Herod chose temporary joy over eternal joy. He chose the approval of some men over the approval of God.
The tragedy for us is not that we get killed in a prison somewhere for sharing the gospel, like John. That would be a triumph.
The tragedy for us is enjoying all the pleasures of this world so much that we say we’ll get to God later. Then end up missing out on God.
John was faithful to the end.
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:39 (ESV)
John trusted and said he would let go and let God have reign over everything.
Every single one of us will either be like Herod or like John. The command from God is to be like John. Don’t just hear what God has said, but do what He’s said.