Mark 6:14-29 14 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.” 17 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.
21 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.” 24 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.
These events took place after Jesus sent out the twelve disciples on a journey to the surrounding places with the message that people should repent. As then went Jesus Christ manifested the Kingdom of God in their presence apart from Himself (He enabled them to cast out demons and heal the sick even though Jesus was not physically present with them). As a result of the disciples’ actions word came to King Herod of this man named Jesus of Nazareth. King Herod was a figurehead king appointed by the Romans who ruled in parts of Israel at that time. (He was also called Herod Antipas.) He ruled over the regions of Galilee and Perea.
There is perhaps no better contrast to help you to understand this new kingdom that Jesus Christ was establishing (the Kingdom of God) than to look at the wicked life of King Herod. King Herod epitomizes the kingdom of this present world. He was married to the daughter of Aretas (the king of Arabia mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:32) but desired his brother Philip’s wife Herodias. He divorced his previous wife and married Herodias who was his niece and sister-in-law. John the Baptist had confronted Herod Antipas in his sin but he would not repent. He tried to silence John the Baptist by putting him in prison but did not kill him because he was afraid of the crowds who liked John. But his wife Herodias, who was not afraid of killing John the Baptist, tricks Herod Antipas by having her own daughter Salome seduce him through a provocative dance while he was drunk at a party. He grants her any request and it results in the death of John the Baptist. It would appear that evil had triumphed and yet later the king of Arabia attacked King Herod in battle for disowning his daughter. Herod Antipas was defeated but still remained under the protection of Rome. He eventually was forced to flee into exile as his nephew Herod Agrippa came against him and Agrippa was appointed by Rome to reign in Galilee and Perea in his place. A life of lustful desires and chaos led ultimately to despair and destruction.
Does this not describe the lives of all who live in the kingdom of this world? We convince ourselves that the way to glory is within our reach and yet if the unbeliever could see the end state of their lives apart from Jesus Christ it would be only despair and destruction. How many people really in the end are content and happy with the person that they have become? If you will not repent of your evil ways and corrupt nature and turn to Jesus there is no peace.
And yet what about John the Baptist? On the surface it looks like the end of his life was a failure. He died in prison and was beheaded. In spite of all this God was glorified in his life! This was the way to glory as he fulfilled the greatest role in the nation of Israel of all the Old Testament prophets. John the Baptist introduced Jesus Christ to the world and testified that He is indeed the savior of mankind! The manner of death was not a condemnation against the life that he lived but rather reveals that the kingdom of this world is always opposed to the Kingdom of God. No one wants to be told that they are by nature evil and that we must turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. Until we are willing to acknowledge this, there is no way that we can know the glory to be revealed in the Kingdom of God. For those who will not repent they will always come against the children of God.
And so as we come to understand the true way to glory in God’s Kingdom we must recognize that there is a cost. If we look to follow Jesus with all of our heart it will mean condemning the evil ways that the kingdom of this world promotes. To be in the Kingdom of God means opposing the kingdom of this world. It will mean suffering and hardship but it will all be worth it!
How much evil have you seen in your lifetime? How much have you been taught about the ways of wickedness just as Herodias taught her daughter Salome? Can you not see that they will only lead to despair and destruction? Repent of these evil teachings! Seek the ways of God! Turn to live a holy and righteous life under the authority and teaching of the Scriptures and you will be led into the way of glory in the Kingdom of God!
Herod Antipas lived in turmoil over the death of John the Baptist. He thought that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead. His sins haunted him and yet he still would not repent. His heart only became more hardened to the Gospel. It’s hard to even comprehend but this is the same man who was present in Jerusalem during Jesus’ crucifixion (Luke 23:6-12). Not only had he killed John the Baptist but he would treat Jesus with contempt and mock him, adorning him in a purple robe and having a crown of thorns put upon His head. Do you see how the world mocks Jesus Christ? Is this the true state of your own soul? Or are you indeed among those who love Him and will do anything for Him because of what He has done for you?
Pastor Murray Hack