Reading the Word
Mark 6:14–29 (ESV)
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.
Parallel Texts: Matthew 14:1-12; Luke 9:7-9
Understanding and Applying the Word
John the Baptist had been thrown into prison by Herod. Evidently, John had made an issue of the fact that Herod had taken his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, as his own. Herodias wanted John dead, but Herod feared John because he was a prophet. However, an opportunity arose that allowed Herodias to get what she wanted. Herod was entertaining guests and had his daughter dance for them. She did such a great job that Herod promised her a reward: anything she asked for would be hers! So, at the suggestion of Herodias, Herod’s daughter asked for John the Baptist’s head. Rather than face humiliation and refuse the request, Herod had John beheaded. When Herod heard of the mighty works that Jesus was doing he began to think that John the Baptist had returned from the dead. Surely this upset him because he already feared John while he was still alive. If he had returned from the dead, it could not be good for Herod!
When we read this passage, we are reminded that preaching righteousness in a world entangled in sin can be dangerous. John the Baptist’s message was “repent, for the kingdom is at hand.” When he opposed Herod and Herodias for their sin, it got him thrown into prison and beheaded. As Christ’s representatives in the world today, we are commissioned to also call the world to repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ. We should not be surprised if the sinful world is resistant to the message of the gospel and if it hates us too.
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