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

A REVERSAL OF FORTUNES

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I recently read through Spurgeon’s Catechism and was meditating on question sixteen: “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?” The answer is not good. “The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery?”

The fall (Genesis 3) eluded to is that time in which Adam and Eve, our first parents, disobeyed God’s ONE command; the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Adam, being our representative, sinned, we fell with him: “By one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). 

Because of that choice to violate God’s command, all of mankind lives in a state of guilt, lacking any righteousness, and sadly, the corruption of our whole nature. That is why Solomon, hundreds of years later, cried out, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Futile or meaningless).” Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and in his writing, we recognize that he clearly perceives the evil all around him, as well as the results of it on mankind and creation.

Does this mean that we should live our few breaths in this life in despair? Absolutely not! Isaiah the prophet writes of a time when there will be a new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65:17-19). A time when sin and its corruptions will be remembered no more! In John’s gospel, he wrote about mankind’s one pathway to escape the bondage of sin, its misery, and the wrath that follows, and that pathway that person is God’s only begotten Son, Jesus (John 3:16)!

God revealed His plan of salvation to us by way of the Prophets and Apostles. He told us that Jesus had to die on a cruel cross as our substitute (representative). Shed His blood as an atonement for sin, once for all (Hebrews 10:10), and rise from the grave victorious over sin, death, and hell. He said that we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, trust in His redemptive work only, and that such a faith is accompanied by repentance (Acts 20:21).

Our current state may be one of sin and misery, but that is only the first part of the story. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep”. . . “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ, all shall be made alive”. . . “But each in his order: Christ the firstfruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22,-23).

The curse will be removed! Christ HAS broken our bondage to sin, and we will be with our savior throughout all eternity, not as enemies, but as His beloved children

LIGHTS IN THE WORLD

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Phil. 2:12-18

NOT SO BRIEF A RECAP:

Paul has written this letter to a group of believers in Philippi whom he loves dearly. There is a fond affection from them, for him, as well. These believers participated in gospel work with Paul from day one (1:5). He says they are “partakers of grace’ with him (1:7). He calls them “brethren,” a term of endearment (1:12). “My beloved” another such term (2:12). He mentions there “proud confidence” in him (1:25). One cannot miss what he says about these folks in (4:1). He uses the terms “dearly beloved” twice, “brethren,” “longed for,” “my joy and crown (to Paul they were both a reward and a blessing).

From the first day, he says in 1:5, reflecting on his second missionary tour and first act on European soil, which we read about in (Acts 16: 12-40), they shared his interests, made his suffering their own, twice sent him money at Thessalonica (4:16), once at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:9) and now again at Rome (4:18). We read of their love for him (1:9), and that love was reciprocated in full measure (1:7,8).

We also took notice that “There was a pronounced lack of any doctrinal exhortation in this epistle because there was no doctrinal deviation. These folks had not gone astray in terms of theology. So, they didn’t need to be corrected. No immorality in the congregation is confronted in the epistle. So, what we saw, generally speaking, was that this is a quality group of people. They were a devoted, consistent, doctrinally true church.

But, despite all of that, there was hanging over that church a troubling cloud, and that cloud was dripping drops of disunity, discord, and conflict, within their fellowship, and Paul is greatly grieved over that.

This is what is burdening Paul; unity and the lack of it in this otherwise GOOD church. Let me remind you that Paul frames the letter with that issue in mind. For example, in the first chapter, he speaks of it, verse 27, when he says, “I want you to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In chapter 4, the last chapter, he speaks of it in verses 1 and 2 when he says, “stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. And I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”

So, in chapter 1, we see an urging toward one mind and one heart. In chapter 4, another urging toward one mind and one heart, And then in the middle is this second chapter, and the opening verses also deal with the issue of unity in the church. This is a plea for unity.

The following verses that we will be looking at follow the flow of the theme of unity begun in 1:27. The plea, based on the results of salvation in their own lives (2:1), the various elements involved in it, and the excellent example of Jesus for our atonement (Vv 5-11).

1. Obedience

2. Reverence

3. Self-less-ness

4. Sacrifice

5. Put sinners above Himself

6. Exaltation

We should take notice that these verses (12-18) begin with “so then,” or “wherefore.” In other words, Paul is saying, because of all that was just said, do this or conduct yourself in a particular manner. After verse 5, which is in the imperative or a command, Paul spoke in the indicative, relating facts or truths. But the facts or truths are to have repercussions in the Christian life. And that is what he is expressing in verses 12-16.

So, let’s jump in! 

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to [a]desire and to work for His good pleasure.

FOCUS ONE:

Working out our salvation 

Paul begins by mentioning their obedience in spiritual things, not just when he was present but even MORE SO in his absence. In 1:5, he says their obedient,

faithful participation in the gospel from the very beginning. In 4:15, he mentions their obedience and faithfulness in supporting his ministry from day one while no other churches did!

This is a very commendable thing, obedience, isn’t it? As parents, we appreciate and praise God for such obedience in our children, don’t we? What a joy it is to our hearts to know that our children do what they are supposed to, EVEN when we are not there to oversee them. It is good they obey when we are there, but so much more pleasing when they follow our wishes when we are not. Amen.

So, with that strong accolade mentioned, Paul now exhorts them to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (vs. 12).”

Let me be clear. Paul does not mean that they have to work for salvation – Eph. 2:8-9. These people were already saved – Phil. 1:1. We see in verses 12 and 13 that there are two parts to this appeal, and we need to hold them in proper balance, or we can easily be deceived in our thinking on what sanctification is and how God uses it in our lives as Christians. In verse 12, we hear about our part, and then in verse 13, we read about God’s part.

So, this word, work in v. 12, means to bring to full completion, and along with the following verse, it also means that God gives us the energy to do His will. (We do not and cannot do it alone!) Paul is evident on that!

Our-part

Paul says, “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.” Many Christians are busy trying to “work” out everyone else’s salvation. It’s that ole speck and log issue Jesus told the people about on the Mount back in Matthew 7:1-5. Christian, we cannot work out anybody else’s salvation—–BUT we must, according to the inspired word of God—work out OUR SALVATION!

At first glance, this doesn’t sound quite right. Let’s look at what Paul is saying a little more closely:

“…First, let’s take the phrase “your own salvation.” What a great possession! The only reason salvation is mine is because it was His first! He planned it! He purposed it! He pursued it! He paid it! And He pressed it upon my heart! Salvation became mine, and it became yours when we placed our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This salvation, when received, one writer says: “buries the past, changes the present and insures the future! What a great salvation we have in Jesus!”

Friends, we don’t work “for” our salvation, or “toward” it, or even “at” it, but we are to work “out” our salvation. Remember, Paul is writing to the Christian community, and he uses the plural pronoun for “you,” meaning he is addressing the entire church. This means that we are to live out what we know to be true.

Since we are saved, we must behave as believers, as “citizens of Heaven (3:20).”

The word “work” means to “work fully to the point of finishing the job.” The Romans used it for “working a mine” ultimately, getting out every piece of valuable stone. Likewise, we are to mine the depths of our rich redemption that was granted us by His grace.

God deposited a wealth of blessings into our lives; Paul mentioned some in verse 1(in his appeal), now we must go down deep to experience and enjoy what we’ve been given.

Charles Spurgeon explains it this way: “To will and to do, He gives the whole ability. It is by the grace of God which inclines the will to that which is good: and then enables us to perform it, and to act according to our principles. ‘You have wrought all our works in us,’ Isa. 26:12. Of His good pleasure, as there is no strength in us, so there is no merit in us. As we cannot act without God’s grace, so we cannot claim it, nor pretend to deserve it. God’s good will to us is the cause of His good work IN us…”

Application?

You and I cannot do righteous works without the aid of the Righteous one.

We have no strength, no will for holiness without God’s grace.

What you and I accomplish along these lines is solely in accordance with the kind intention of His will working within us.

We are to live out daily in our lives what we know to be true as God has revealed to us in His Holy Word, and He graciously provides the desire, will, and results!

FOCUS TWO:

Added to this warning is a qualifier, “with fear and trembling.”

The phrase “fear and trembling” helps us see that we must never take our faith lightly. One commentator says of this: “Fear” describes fright or terror and reverential awe. We must have such a reverence and respect for God that we will be afraid to sin, coupled with a strong desire to please Him.” That’s what Exodus 20:20 states: “The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Friend, If you find yourself sinning all the time and not being bothered by it, it could be because you have lost your fear of God. The word “trembling” means “to quake with fear.” Isaiah 66:2 tells us that God wants us to have this kind of attitude when we approach Him: “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Psalm 2:11 brings both fear and trembling together: “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.”

We can revere God and rejoice in Him, “Believers should have a serious dread of sin and a yearning for what is right before God.”

After all, think about it for a moment. The Philippian believers, just like believers today, do not know, and cannot possibly know, all the sacrifices required of them in doing God’s will.

God’s will for the Philippians involved conflict (1:30), For Jesus, death (2:8), For Paul, imprisonment and possible martyrdom (2:17), for Timothy, costly sacrificial service (v. 20), and Epaphroditus, physical illness, near unto death (v.27).

When we contemplate our lostness, our deep depravity, and our inability to save ourselves, we can’t help but tremble at the thought of getting what we deserve.” We must get serious about our salvation, and as God’s redeemed, we must live responsibly and obediently for Christ.

So, Christian, are you living for and serving the Lord each day in fear and trembling? Or, have you noticed that those elements to your daily walk of faith have diminished or disappeared altogether?