MAIN TEXT: MARK 6:14-29
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptisthas been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.”But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”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. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 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.
But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 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.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 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.” And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
A key verse in the Gospel of Mark, showing the intent of Mark in writing this account of the life of Jesus for a Roman audience is found in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus came to offer his life for ours. He gave of himself, so that we could experience true life.
Our section for today looks squarely at the result of sin in this good world that God created. It shows how sin corrupts our thinking and hinders our judgment. It reveals to us that sin’s devastating effects ultimately lead to death, because that is the paycheck sin offers us (Romans 6:23).
Conversely, this passage in Mark shows us clearly that just as sin destroys, God’s power to redeem stands in stark contrast with sin’s trajectory. Our minds are clouded by sin and the brokenness of the world, but God is restoring our minds daily (Romans 12:2) so that we don’t seek to fall in step with the patterns we inherit from the corrupted order of the broken world.
If we gaze back into the inception moments of how sin came to mankind, what we see is a simple but destructive lie that was planted into the mind and heart of man. This lie was simply, “Your way is better than God’s.” Adam and Eve both decided to put their confidence in this lie and act on their decision. They rebelled against God. And until God does a work in our hearts, we are in a state of rebellion as well.
We sometimes think that we can follow our hearts, but we forget that our hearts are deceitfully wicked and sick (Jeremiah 17:9). We can’t trust our hearts to lead us, but rather, we must lead our hearts. This is the work that God does in us–he changes our desires to match His. He changes us from the inside, going to the root of the problem–our corrupted, wayward, deceitful, sick heart.
We also see the result of sin on others in this story. Herod’s choice to marry his niece (and brother’s wife) does not go unnoticed, but rather John the Baptist sternly confronts and condemns his actions and calls him to repentance. Herod, believing that his sin can be contained, takes John and puts him in prison–partially to protect him from his wife, Herodias. He thinks that he can contain the sin he has allowed to grow in his life. He is deceived by his heart, because his heart, like ours is desperately sick.
Sin makes the voice of truth sound like an enemy
The seduction of sin says that God’s way is not the best way, there is an alternative plan that will lead to greater happiness and greater fulfillment. This was the lie that Herod and Herodias believed. In a visit to Rome, Herod and Herodias met one another and fell in love with one another. Herodias was Herod’s niece and was married to Herod’s brother, making her not only his niece, but also his brother’s wife. Nevertheless, they chose to purpose this way thinking that it would lead to greater fulfillment in their lives.
Sin will corrupt and distort those things in our life that we designed to be life-giving and God-honoring. We were designed to live in relation to God, man and creation. When we chose to go our own way, all three of these aspects of relationship were negatively altered.
The restoring work that Jesus accomplished on the cross puts us back into right relationship with God, man and creation. We are able to relate properly to all three of these pieces of our relational world. We can worship God truly. We can love man rightly. We can steward creation wholly. Jesus reconciles the broken relationships in our life and calls us as well to be reconcilers (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
Our enemy is put back into proper perspective when we see that God’s work of restoration makes it possible for us to not fear the truth, but live our lives in light of the truth. We are sinners, who have been saved by the Perfect One. You and I have no reason to boast in ourselves.
Sin mutes the voice of the vulnerable
One of the other tragedies of this story is one of exploitation. Herodias sinful passion for the death of John the Baptist and Herod’s sinful desire to accommodate the lustful passion of his friends caused them to thrust this young teenager girl (Herodias’ own daughter!) into the spotlight to seductively dance for the pleasure of these drunken men. Sin destroys innocence. Sin makes the weak more powerless and vulnerable more in jeopardy.
We are reminded of the innocence that was lost in that first moment of sin, when Eve took the fruit in garden and ate, and Adam with her. Their eyes were open. Their innocence was lost. Their purity was tarnished. Even though they were naked, they now felt naked and shame covered them.
God’s work of redeeming meets our shame head on. In Christ, we are declared righteous. In Christ, we have a covering. We are fully justified through Christ. This justification makes us right before God. Additionally, since we have been justified to God, we are being made into a people who seek justice for the weak and vulnerable (Isaiah 1:16-17). This comes from our conviction that we were once weak, powerless, vulnerable, until Jesus rescued us from this darkness.
In Mark, we have seen Jesus heal and restore several people, showing the restoration that God will ultimately bring to this world. We see this through the following examples: the leper cleansed (Mark 1:40-45), the paralytic walking and forgiven (Mark 2:1-12), the man with the withered hand restored (Mark 3:1-6) and the man with the legion of demons freed (Mark 5:1-20)–just to name a few. This is a mark of God’s Kingdom, the weak and vulnerable cared for and restored to God’s design and order.
Sin robs communities of their life-giving voice
The culmination of Herod’s sin comes to a head when we see the life of John the Baptist is taken. Sin had blinded Herod to the reality that his sin could not remain hidden. The more he tried to contain the negative effects of his sin, the more explosive and destructive the effects of his sin became.
In the face of persecution and difficulty John shows us that as Christ-followers, we will receive opposition to our mission. We will not go through this life unscathed. Persecution will mark us as God’s People, as it has from the beginning. This was part and parcel to John’s calling as a prophet who prepared the way for Jesus.
The interesting viewpoint we are given shows us that even though John’s life was taken, the prophetic voice of God that marked John’s ministry remained in the mind of Herod. Herod could not clear his thinking from the rebuke of John, which was ultimately the rebuke of God on his life. Herod could not run from God, and his sin would find him out.
In Christ, God has fully and finally spoken his word over the powers of sin and death. When Jesus cried out “It is finished!” the work of redemption that was promised at the very beginning of mankind (Genesis 3:15) was was perfected and sealed once and for all (Hebrews 10:14). Jesus said that he came to preach the gospel of God, saying “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
When you are sent out on mission, you will come face to face with the effects of sin in this world. As Christ-followers, we must realize that as the Kingdom of God advances, it will advance into territory dominated by sin. You can expect this road to be difficult, painful and may even for some of us, lead to our death. Regardless, we know that this is our work in this life, to live to advance His Kingdom by exalting King Jesus, loving one another and serving our world.
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 6:14-29
What reactions have you seen in today’s world that could be characterized as fear of Christianity?
Is there any person or leader you fear more than God? Are you tempted to protect your own reputation rather than honoring God?
How would you explain to a non-Christian why bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people? How would you explain it in a Sunday School class?