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MARK 6:14-29
Series:  The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Eighteen

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 17, 2018

Let me read for us the passage we’re focusing on this morning - from Mark 6.  Then, we’ll go back and make some observations.  The passage is on the screen so you can follow along as I read for us. The second observation we need to make is Herod’s Fear.


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.”  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 an took his body and laid it in a tomb.


Walking together through Mark 6:14-29 there are three observations that are helpful for us to focus on.


First is Herod’s Family


Who is King Herod?  Where did he come from?  What’s up with Herod?


There were a number of different Herods who were rulers in Israel.  All of whom were descended from Herod the Great.  All of whom became rulers because they were either part of that dynasty or because they were appointed to the position.  Meaning that they weren’t from the line of David but they were rulers because the Roman Government said they were rulers.  Think lots of politics, power struggles, and not a whole lot of love coming up from the people.


And all of them were opposed to the gospel and God’s working in Israel.  These were really nasty immoral dudes.


Herod the Great had dreams of being the Emperor of Israel - kind of like a mini-Caesar of the east.  He had delusions of grandeur.  He took on a number of massive building projects.  The most famous was the reconstruction and expansion of the Temple.  Ultimately buildings that were monuments to Herod and his delusions of grandeur.  Herod the Great was about Herod the Great.


Give the size of his ego - Herod the Great didn’t react well to anyone he thought threatened his being king.  Which is why Herod the Great is the king we read about who slaughtered all the male boys - age 2 and younger - in and around Bethlehem when Jesus was born.


Herod the Great even had two of his own sons killed - Alexander and Aristobulus - when he thought they were plotting against him.


Caesar Augustus is supposed to have said, “I’d rather be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son!”


We need to be seeing here that this is one really messed up family.  If we’re ever tempted to think our family is dysfunctional just think about Herod and that might be encouraging.


When Herod the Great died around 4 BC his wealth and lands were divided up into four parts between his sons.  Who were just as nasty and evil and messed up as their dad. 


Looking at the map - two areas of how all that got divided up are important for us to latch on to.  The purple area was given to Herod Antipas - which is the Herod here in Mark 6.


You’ll see that Herod Antipas’ territory includes Perea on the east side of the Jordan River - which is where John the Baptist was baptizing - which is one reason why Herod Antipas ties into John.


And the other area under his control is Galilee - which a reason why he connects with Jesus and Jesus’ ministry.  Later on it’s Herod Antipas that’s the ruler Jesus is sent to during His trial and eventual crucifixion.


The other area we need to be aware of is just to the south and east of the Sea of Galilee which was the territory given to Philip.  Who was another son of Herod the Great - by another one of Herod’s wives.  So Philip and Herod Antipas are half brothers.  Same wonderful dad - different mothers.  And we need to know that it was Philip who’d married Herodias.


So Herodias is Herod Antipas’ sister-in-law.  Together?

The second observation we need to make is Herod's Fear

Mark tells us that Jesus has got people talking - especially in Galilee - which is Herod Antipas’ territory.  People are talking about the miracles - the healings and the exorcisms and the resurrections and maybe even Jesus’ authority over nature.  What is clearly supernatural - beyond the day-to-day “people can do this sort of thing” - kind of things that Jesus is doing.


The people around Herod Antipas are speculating about all that.  Some said that Jesus is John the Baptist come back from the dead.  Some people speculated that Jesus is really Elijah - which is a speculation tied into Old Testament prophecy being fulfilled - the dawning of a new working of God amongst His people.  Some said Jesus was a great prophet like the prophets of the past - maybe returned from the dead.


Social media being what it was back then - the speculation about Jesus gets back to the palace.  Back to Herod. 


Mark records that when Herod hears the speculation about Jesus that Antipas immediately assumes that it’s John the Baptist back from the dead.  Maybe to claim vengeance against Herod.  Herod who’d had John beheaded.


That assumption - “John’s back” gives us huge insights into what’s driving Herod at the heart level.


First:  Herod had ticked off Rome.  Which was never a good thing.

We know from history that Herod Antipas had married the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabatea.  Which was a political marriage linking the two kingdoms.  An alliance that had the blessing of Rome.  Then Herod dumped the daughter of King Aretas IV - sent her into exile and married the wife of his half brother Philip - Herod Antipas married Herodias. 


What Herod did violated an important treaty and created political problems with Rome.


The map with the territories that we looked at - with all the carefully arranged and married for alliances and territories - Herod Antipas lacking in political sense and driven by lust is messing with all that - rocking the boat.  Herod is making things messy for Rome.  So Herod had ticked off Rome. 


Second:  Herod had ticked off the people.


Matthew records that even John’s political and religious enemies wouldn’t touch him for fear of the people and the potential of angering God.  At the time Herod has John arrested, John is probably one of the most revered man in Israel.  (Matthew 14:5; 21:26)


Third:  Herod had ticked off God.


What Herod Antipas did - marrying his brother’s wife - that violated Levitical Law - God’s law - Jewish Law.  (Leviticus 18:16; 20:21)


Mark tells us that John the Baptist called out Herod.  Not about the politics or the treaties - which John didn’t care about.  But John called out Herod because Herod was suppose to be the ruler of the Jews.


 Meaning he’s suppose to lead by example - encouraging the people to follow God - to live by faithful obedience to God.  John called out Herod because in marrying his brother’s sister Herod had shown a shameless disrespect for God.


So if John really is back from the dead - which is a God thing - then chances are probably pretty good that Herod had ticked off God.

Fourth:  It’s important for us to see that John - with all that John was saying about Herodias’ marriage to Antipas - John had ticked off Herodias - who has a grudge.


“Grudge” is kind of weak translation into English.  It lacks the depth of emotion of the Greek.  The word in Greek describes an ongoing internal festering rage that Herodias can’t let go of.


Which some of us just might be able to relate to.  Just saying.


Somebody does something to us or we really don’t want to deal with something in our lives that somebody’s pointed out.  And we can begin this internal dialogue that centers on how we’ve been wronged and what we’d like to say to that person - and we can carry on that way getting more and more worked up about it - thinking we’re right and this other person is living proof that someone can live without a brain.


Internal festering rage.  Herodias - confronted by John - rather than repenting of her sin - she goes on with this grudge against John that’s eating her up and she just wants John arrested and dead.  Anger that’s probably been leveled against Herod - more than once.


Because if Herodias isn’t happy then nobody’s happy.  And if John’s back then life with Herodias ain’t going to be good.


Fifth:  We need to be aware of Herod’s relationship with John.


In verse 20 - Mark tells us that Herod “feared John.”  Fear like in respect.  Meaning he “respected” John and knew that John was a righteous and holy man.  So Herod liked listening to him.


Meaning Herod probably saw in John a character and a devotion to God that he didn’t have - that attracted him - that he longed for but just wasn’t willing to go there with God himself.


Herod kept John alive as kind of like a good luck charm.  Herod hanging on to John like a connection to something good in the midst of what was really really bad. 


Deep down Herod is man out of control trying to grab on to control of something - anything - to gain some measure of security - significance - and self-worth.  Not that any of us would ever feel that way.


And he’s living in fear.  Bound by his fear.  Not that any of us have ever been there.


So Herod Antipas - being the spineless immoral fearful man that he was - Herod punted.  Fearing Rome - fearing the people - fearing Herodias - Herod bowing to his wife’s wishes - he has John arrested - locked up in a dungeon near his palace.  And yet respecting John Herod keeps John languishing in prison for 2 long years.


Which brings us to our third observation.  Herod’s Sin.  The sin behind the fear.


The Machaerus was the easternmost of Herod’s renovated fortresses - located in Antipas’ territory of Perea.  Today it’s a set of ruins and a tourist trap.


It was built on a naturally defensible position on a rocky hilltop - east of the Jordan River - high above the Dead Sea.  It served as a first line of defense - and warning - against invaders from the east.


To Herod Antipas it was more than just a fortress.


Antipas had followed in his father’s footsteps - using building projects for his own glory and to impress Rome and others.  He’d renovated the fortress into a lavish palace - which is where this party takes place.  The picture at the top is an artist representation of what the hall probably looked like.


Also like his grandfather - Herod Antipas had an appetite for women - seemingly for other men’s wives.  But unlike his father Herod the Great - Herod Antipas was lacking in intelligence, self-discipline, and political sense.

Which he tried to make up for by throwing lavish and lascivious parties for the leading citizens and government officials and the military that he ruled over in Galilee and Perea - trying to impress them and gain their ongoing loyalty.


Which is what Mark inserts here - in verse 21 - as a flashback to how Herod Antipas killed the man who was probably the most revered man in Israel. 


Herodias - stewing in her grudge - Herodias - found her opportunity at Antipas’ birthday bash.  Another one of Antipas’ infamous lavish and lascivious parties.  The kind of party where alcohol flowed freely and the morals flowed loosely.


The kind of party that women only attended if they were serving or part of the entertainment.  The entertainment meaning dancers who were more like sophisticated courtesans - something between a prostitute and a concubine - for wealthy well placed clientele.   Point being that their dancing promised sex.


As the crowd got more toasted and things got more out of hand wild - Herodias - seeing her opportunity - Herodias - knowing Antipas’ weaknesses and immoral appetites - sends in her daughter to dance in place of one of the courtesans.  Which tells us a ton about Herodias morals and mind set.  Not good.


What kind of mother would do that?  Use her daughter to for her own ends?  Putting her daughter on display to be lusted after?


From history we know that Herodias’ daughter was named Salome - who was Herodias’s daughter by Philip.  Herodias’ first husband who was… Herod’s Antipas’ brother.  Which meant that Herodias was the niece of both Philip and Antipas - which made Salome Herod Antipas’s blood relative and step-daughter.


Which - at this point - means it probably would be helpful to have a score card to follow the family tree.  But grab this:  What kind of father - even a step-father - would allow his daughter to be put on display like that?


It only gets worse.


Verse 22 - the word for “girl” means she’s a teenager - meaning marriage material.  Meaning she’s probably jaw dropping stunningly gorgeous and dressed to expose all that.


That she “pleased Herod and his guests” means that she knew what kind of performance to give.  Which says tons about Salome’s morals and mind set.


Verse 23 - Herod - toasted in the midst of this drunken orgy - caught up in unbridled lust - in a moment of foolish public boasting Herod says to Salome:  “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.”


“Up to half of my kingdom” of course isn’t possible.  But it does bind Herod to an oath that he must fulfill.  An oath that he’s made in front of all the leading citizens and government officials and the military leadership.  He cannot back out without loosing the respect of everyone he’s invited to impress and win the loyalty of all those people that he needs to like him.


Apparently Salome knew what she was suppose to do - sensuous dance -  but not why she was suppose to do it.  So she exits to ask Herodias what to request.  Herodias doesn’t hesitate.  She’s been waiting 2 long years for this opportunity.  Salome goes back in - unmoved by what she’s about to ask - and demands the head of John the Baptist.


And then - sweet thing that Salome is - she embellishes beyond what Herodias had asked for.  Salome demands John’s head on a platter - literally a large serving dish - delivered at once.


Just imagine that.  The noise and confusion.  The crude comments of the guests - enflamed with lust.  Stoned and stewed.  We can almost hear the silence as Salome responds to Antipas’ foolish offer.


Herod is trapped and Herod knows it.  Salome knew it.  Herodias knew it.  Everyone there knows it.  He’s caught between a rock and a hard place with no way out.  He has to put up or shut up.


Either he breaks his promise and looses face in front of all his drunken guests and gets Herodias even more ticked at him or he kills John.  Answer:  Kill John.


Verse 26 - Mark tells us that Herod was “exceedingly sorry” either because he didn’t want to kill John - his connection with anything good and stable - or because he’d been outwitted by his own drunken lust.


Let’s be clear.  Herod is “exceedingly sorry” for the promise he’s made because of the position he’s put himself in.  But he’s not “exceedingly sorry” enough to do the right thing.  He’s not “exceedingly sorry” about his sin - like he’s going to repent and turn towards God.  He’s only “exceedingly sorry” that he’d said what he’d said and that there was no way out of his awkward predicament.


He’s still bound by his fear and pride and vanity and concern for what others think of him.  Bottom line on his sin:  Herod is more concerned about how others see him than how God sees him.


Which we’re all guilty of when we put anyone or anything - even ourselves - in a place of greater importance in our lives than God.


In verse 27 we’re told that Antipas “immediately sent an executioner” to behead John and to bring back his head on a platter.


The word “executioner” is the Greek word “spekoulator” which is where we get our English word... “speculator.”


It’s a word the Greeks borrowed from the Romans that the Romans used for someone who was a member of the Roman Emperor’s bodyguard - someone who protected the Emperor and did the Emperor’s dirty work.


It’s a word that Mark’s readers would have understood.  The executioner would have been one of Herod’s bodyguards who did his dirty work just like one of Caesar’s own bodyguards.  Which he does and returns with blood filled platter which Salome gives to her mother.


Verse 29 tells us that John’s disciples requested his body for burial.  We don’t know if that included his head.  Which is gruesome to even think about.


It’s hard to imagine how gut wrenching that would have been for John’s disciples.  Maybe even infuriating.  After the drunken orgy - as disgusting as all that was - to have to go and claim the decapitated decaying body of their beloved teacher and friend.


Processing all that…  three takeaways:


Three lessons to be learned from Herod’s sin and failure.


First:  Delay is Deadly - The time to deal with our sin is now.


John the Baptist is the forerunner of the Messiah.  Born six months before Jesus by an act of divine intervention John is a living fulfillment of prophecy.  He’s the one that God uses to prepare the way for our Savior.  John called his nation to repentance - to turn from their sin and to turn to God - to embrace Jesus the Lamb of God.


Imagine the opportunity.  Most of us would cherish just 2 minutes with a guy like John.  What would that be like?  One-on-one with the greatest evangelist or Bible teacher of our day?

Herod had 2 years of John at his exclusive beckon call.  Two years of John speaking truth to Herod.  “It’s not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”  Two years of Herod not dealing with His sin.


Two years of being torn between his admiration for John and the self-serving sin that was fueling his fears. 


Herod is enjoying John - not because of his desire to repent and get right with God - Herod is enjoying listening to John because Herod is dabbling in righteousness - he’s attracted to it - but he’s also bound by his sin.


Herod Antipas was the sovereign ruler of Galilee and Perea.  He wielded more political and military power than anyone else in the region.  He answered to no one but Rome.  Yet his personal weaknesses - the undealt with issues and sin in his life had made him the puppet of his wife and a servant to the court.


He didn’t want John dead.  Herodias did.  He wanted to renege on the outrageous request of his step-daughter but his need for public acceptance forced his hand.


After 2 years of delay the decision was forced upon him.  The result was even more sin - the murder of John.


We see Herod Antipas later.  When Jesus is on trial - Jesus is brought before Antipas.  Jesus is at Antipas’ beckon call.


What would that be like?  Having face-to-face conversations with Jesus?  Being taught face-to-face by Jesus?

But Antipas - who’s never dealt with his sin - Antipas rather than repenting and seeking forgiveness - expressing the “exceedingly sorry” remorse that we see here - Antipas has sunk even deeper into sin.  His heart is even more hardened by sin.


He only wants to be amused by Jesus.  To see Jesus perform some sign - some miracle.  To be entertained.


Antipas asks Jesus questions.  But Jesus - knowing Antipas’ heart - Jesus never answers.  The time for that is past.  And Antipas’ true - hardened towards God - heart comes out and he mocks Jesus and treats Him with contempt.  (Luke 23:6-12)


Herod Antipas - having rejected the preaching of John - rejects the One that John had pointed to.


Hanging on to sin only leads us deeper into sin and farther away from God and what God graciously and lovingly wills for us.


Now is the time to deal with our sins.  There will never be a time when we’ll be “more ready.”  We may not be able to deal with them later. 


Delay is deadly.


The second lesson to be learned is that Sin Is Sin


Anyone know who this is?


Otto Adolf Eichmann.  Eichmann was one of the major organizers of the Jewish Holocaust.  He was responsible for facilitating and managing the logistics of the mass deportations of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps.  Eichmann made the process work that led to the extermination of millions of Jews. 


When Eichmann was captured in Argentina and taken to Israel and put on trial - Eichmann seemingly didn’t realize the enormity of his crimes.  He showed no remorse.


Eichmann said this:  “There is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders.  I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.”


Which was a defense heard over and over again at the Nuremberg trials - after World War II.  Are we hearing Eichmann?  “I’m not guilty.  I was only following orders.”


We can almost hear Herod reasoning this out.


“I had John killed because that’s just politics like dad did politics.  I had John killed because of what everyone would think of me.  I had John killed because it’s what Herodias wanted.  I had John killed because I was being a good dad to Salome.”


“Ultimately it was John’s fault for saying something in the first place.  Hey, at least I married Herodias.”


Whatever the excuse sin is still sin.  Our sin is our sin.


We can try to rationalize away our sin.  Say it isn’t all that bad.  Or we’ve got it under control.  Or that we’re not hurting anyone else.  Tell ourselves that it’s our own private struggle that God is dealing with us about.


Or we can delude ourselves into thinking that were actually dealing with our sin.  Like we’ve got the ability to do that.  Like if we’re praying more prayers or showing up at church or doing some other religious God thing or just working harder and being good then somehow we’re in process of dealing with our sin.


There are a number of people here who struggle with pornography or are affected by it - soft and hard core.  You can try.  But you cannot rationalize away or minimize the addiction and effects of porn.


Porn is an economic engine that is self-destructive behavior - that destroys marriages, enslaves women and men, fosters human trafficking, promotes the abduction of small children, and it is never an isolated personal private sin.


On the Welcome Table - next to the Sermon Notes - we’ve put a stack of a booklet entitled “Ten Keys To Breaking Pornography Addiction”.  Maybe you might want to pick a copy.  If you’re hesitant to pick up a copy for yourself you can pick up a copy for someone you know who might be helped by reading it. 


What is true for porn is also true for gluttony or for other addictions and sinful behaviors and attitudes that many of us struggle with.  That we’re tempted to rationalize away our bondage to.


God is honest with us - Jeremiah 7:9,10:  “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.  But I, God search the heart and examine the mind.  I get to the heart of the human.  I get to the root of things.  I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”  (Jeremiah 7:9,10 MSG)


We can’t trust our own hearts.  But we can trust God.  God Who cuts through our rationalizing and delaying and points out the obvious.


Sin is sin.  Period.  Sin is bondage.  Sin is always self-destructive.  Sin is always a disaster in process.


The only way to deal with sin is agree with God that that’s sin - and to repent - to reject it - to renounce it - and to throw ourselves on the grace and mercy of God and call upon Him to renew us and transform our lives.


The third lesson we can learn is that Sin Is Never Solo.  Sin is never exclusive - isolated.


Chuck Swindoll - in his commentary on this passage - Swindoll shares what someone sent him about what we’re seeing here:


Sin is like a spider weaving its web.  Beginning with a single filament, thread after thread is spun and interconnected until the filmy structure forms a sticky world of its own.

Herod’s web of foolish lusts and Herodias’s web of vengeful bitterness caught Salome in their sticky tangles.  At first, she knew nothing of the murderous plot.  She began to dance, and before long, she became culpable in a senseless, helter-skelter act of murder!


If only we would stop and consider how many innocent lives could be drawn into our own sinful webs.  Unfortunately, the webs we spin have a powerful self-deluding power that we ourselves become helpless to see. (1)


We’re not just hurting ourselves.  Sin is sin.  A sticky web that ensnares and binds all of us.





1. Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2:  Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016), page 166.


Series references:

Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).

Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2:  Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.