A STRATEGIC DAY

Mark 6:14-30

BRIEF INTRO:

So far in our study of chapter six, we have witnessed Jesus being rejected in His hometown mainly because He was too familiar! He then “summoned” the twelve and sent them out in pairs, with authority over the unclean spirits (vv. 7-13). It appears from Luke and Mark’s accounts (Luke 9:6) that their ministry was very productive and successful. So much, so that news of it reached the highest levels of government (v.14).

In the following sixteen verses, we will learn how King Herod and the people reacted to what these men were doing and how all of it affected Herod as this news was brought to his attention.

14 And King Herod heard about it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.” 15 But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard about it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!”

FOCUS ONE: “And King Herod heard of it” (v. 14).

This is Herod Antipas, who was named to the throne of Herod the Great after his father died around 4 B.C. He ruled over Galilee and Perea. Two of his other brothers, Philip and Archelaus, ruled different areas as Herod the Great divided His dominion into three regions.

What did he hear? It seems clear that Herod “heard” about two things:

  1. The powerful ministry of the twelve
  2. Who the people thought Jesus was

With all that was accomplished through the twelve (casting out demons, healings, and their authoritative preaching and teaching), it is no wonder that word about them spread rapidly among the people. Keep in mind that they did all of this, all of it, in Jesus’ name!

There were various opinions as to who Jesus was:

1. John the Baptist risen from the dead

2. Elijah

3. A prophet like one of the prophets of old (v. 15)

Observe the sad fact that His countrymen could not OR would not believe anything significant concerning Him, BUT others were willing to accept anything rather than the truth (v.15).

But when Herod heard of it, his conscience kicked into gear, and fear began to arise because of what he had done to John the Baptist on account of his wife, Herodias.

Herod had divorced his first wife and then taken his brother’s wife, Herodias. Herodias was Antipas’ niece, making this union all the more incestuous and messy. This even caused a war with his first wife’s father.

17 For Herod himself had sent men and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip 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 held a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death, and could not do so; 20 for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he had been protecting him. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; and yet he [a]used to enjoy listening to him.

FOCUS TWO: Herod’s backstory (vv. 17-20)

This back story is not only about Herod; Mark fills in on what happened to John the Baptist after his arrest (v.17). We begin to witness the pangs of a guilty conscience in verse sixteen. The fact that “He kept saying” heightens his guilty sense of beheading John the Baptist.

So, what led up to John’s death? John confronted the king regarding his incestuous and adulterous relationship with Herodias, Herod’s niece, the daughter of his half-brother Aristobulus, who was married to his half-brother Philip. Herod had divorced his wife to marry Herodias, who had divorced Philip. Such a thing was unlawful.

The mosaic law prohibited a man from marrying his brother’s wife (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21). Except when the brother died without leaving any children (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Mark 12:19).

Because John was brave enough and bold enough to call Herod out on this, Herodias wanted John put to death (v. 19) but could not do so. This longstanding grudge eventually leads to John’s demise.

She could not have John killed at that time because Herod was “afraid” of John (v. 20)! Herod was afraid of John because he knew that he was “a righteous and holy man,” so he kept him safe from Herodias! He would often listen to John gladly. Herod’s interactions with John often left him with great internal conflict, “a moral struggle between his lust for Herodias and the prodding of his guilty conscience.”

21 An opportune day came when Herod, on his birthday, held a banquet for his nobles and military commanders, and the leading people of Galilee; 22 and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and [a]his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 Immediately she came in a hurry 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 although the king was very sorry, because of his oaths and [b]his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And 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 about this, they came and carried away his body, and laid it in a tomb.

FOCUS THREE: Herod’s foolish oath (vv. 21-29)

“A strategic day,” these words lead off this next section of Mark’s account. Strategic for whom? Certainly not for John, who dies on this day. Not for Herod, struggling with such a great fear of this “holy and righteous man.” Only for one person is this a strategic day, Herodias (vv.19, 24).

This particular day is Herod’s birthday. A day in which there would be much celebration, feasting, and entertainment for the king. A banquet was held in honor of Herod with many Lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee present.

At some point in the celebration, the daughter of Herodias dances before them. Keep in mind that the attendees all appear to be male. “The Greek verb (ὀρχέομαι) {or-kheh’-om-ahee} to dance, has connotations of arousing, satisfying sexual interest.” The dance “pleased Herod and his dinner guests (v. 22).

I wonder if Herodias had something to do with her daughter dancing before these men rather than a simple coincidence! We are not told the specifics of how and what led to her entry, only that she “came in and danced.” I can see her entrance as a planned event that precipitates her mother’s murderous intentions (v.22).

Because Herod is “pleased” at the dancing, he makes a foolish oath to Herodias’s daughter playing right into her wicked, scheming hands. Sadly, we witness Herod act on impulse rather than logic.

The moment of great anticipation arrives for Herodias (v.24). Without any hesitation, she sends her daughter back out asking for the head of John the Baptist on a platter! Her daughter shares with her the oath Herod has made.

Herod had unwittingly placed himself in a precarious situation. Herod was sorry for his foolishness, but he could not get out of his oath or look foolish in front of his dinner guests who witnessed it, So he did not refuse her!

One has to wonder what Herodias did; how she reacted when John’s head was brought to her on a platter. She finally has her greatest desire! Herod sent the executioner to the cell, and John was beheaded in prison (v. 27).

John’s disciples heard about what transpired, so they claimed John’s body and buried him in a tomb (v. 29). They couldn’t fathom the body of their beloved teacher being neglected.

We learn a lot from this backstory. We see topics of adultery, conscience, guilt, murder, oath making and keeping, truth, boldness, and law. Themes of law and order. Righteousness and unrighteousness, the fear of man versus fear of God, etc. BUT we also learn some essential things about Herod and John!

What do we learn about Herod?

  1. Herod was a king who couldn’t control himself (vv.17,22)
  2. Herod was a protector that couldn’t watch over the righteous (v.26)
  3. Herod was a guilt-ridden man who couldn’t identify his savior (v. 16)

What do we learn about John the Baptist?

  1. John was a prophet that stood for righteousness (v. 17)
  2. John was a bold messenger (v. 18)
  3. John was beheaded at the command of Herod (v. 27)

In this historical account, we see the depth and horror of the total depravity of man vividly. The corruption that floods the hearts of sinners is on display, and we witness its utter corruption and ruin.

AND we also learn something more about Jesus:

Matthew 14:1-13

13 “Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself;.”

Jesus was a compassionate man! He felt the pain that we feel at injustice and wickedness. He loved others as we do. He cared for others as we do. He needed time alone as we do.

“Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).


Such amazing grace, such an amazing savior! GOSPEL

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