THE DEATH OF JOHN THE BAPTIZER
THE DEATH OF JOHN THE BAPTIZER
Mark 6: 14-20
Here in this passage one of God’s greatest prophets dies…and as He always does…God uses this death to try and teach us some valuable lessons. Let’s learn.
As this passage begins, you will remember from the previous verses that Jesus has sent his disciples out to preach, and heal and to cast out demons.
- And word of their efforts has spread.
- In fact, in verse 14 the word has gotten back to the palace to King Herod.
- This would be Herod Antipas.
- There are a number of Herod’s mentioned in the scriptures but the one mentioned here is Herod Antipas…and he is the king of the region of Galilee and Perea.
Now as the word of what Christ and His disciples had been doing reaches the people they begin trying to reason as to who this Jesus was, and how these miracles were being done and so, in vs. 14 they say “John the Baptizer has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Christ.”
- Others were saying, “He is Elijah.”
- Others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”
But when Herod heard of what was taking place, he kept saying, “John whom I beheaded, has risen!”
- And I want you to notice there that it says that Herod “kept saying.”
- And notice the exclamation mark.
- It is as though Herod is haunted by this.
- Why? Why would Herod keep saying this?
Well, look at the next verse, vs. 17…God tells us why Herod was saying what he was saying.
“For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested, and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Now, let me explain the situation here between Herod and Herodias.
- Herod had a half brother named Phillip…and Phillip was married to Herodias.
- Antipas, the Herod found in this passage, was married to the daughter of an Arabian king from the east.
Anyway, Antipas and his wife go to Rome for some government business and they stay with his half brother Philip who is married to Herodias.
- And Antipas becomes attracted to Herodias and she becomes attracted to him, and they run off together while they are both still married to their mates.
Now the Law of Moses in Deut. 25 and Leviticus 20: 21 says quite clearly that you cannot marry your brother’s wife unless your brother has died and he has born no children by this woman.
- But, what does the Law of Moses have to do with Herod and Herodias?
Well the fact of the matter is, Herod is an Edomite….
- And Herodius was the grand daughter of a woman who was from the famous Macabees family of the Jews.
- Both Antipas and Herodias were of Jewish descent…and in fact, considered themselves Jews when it was politically convenient.
- But, when it came to their personal way of life…especially their marriage…well, they gave no attention to the Law of Moses.
But that is not new.
- It was not new then and it is not new today for those who are supposed to be God’s people to ignore the clear word of God.
- But the difference is that when this took place there was a prophet in the land.
- And when there is a prophet in the land violations of the word of God don’t go unnoticed.
- So John must speak about this situation.
Now, notice in verse 18 the text says, speaking of John, that, “He had been saying.”
- Apparently John had been having an audience with Herod…and a lot of preachers, when they are in the presence of someone who is this powerful, would simply skirt the issue.
- Or they might denounce sin in a general unspecified way so that no one gets up set.
But John didn’t do any of that.
- John is a prophet so John stands before Herod and he says, “My text for my sermon today is Leviticus 18: 16, “It is unlawful for you to have your brothers wife.”
- The next time he came back he would say, “My text for today is Leviticus 18: 16, “It is unlawful for you to have your brothers wife.”
- Then the next time he’d come back and say, “My texst for today is Leviticus 18:16, It is not lawful for you to have your brothers wife.”
- Now that is courage!
- And Herod doesn’t like it.
- So he decides to arrest John.
But then he does something interesting.
- He doesn’t execute John…he puts John in prison.
- And the reason he doesn’t execute John is because Herod was afraid of John.
- He is afraid of him because he knows that John is a righteous and holy man.
- But there is another reason why he doesn’t execute him. Look at the end of verse 20.
- John’s preaching “perplexed” Herod.
- It troubled Herod.
- And yet, it wasn’t always that way because the verse says that “Herod used to enjoy John’s preaching.”
- Apparently Herod liked what John said until John “stepped” on Herod’s toes…and that is when things changed.
But now Herodias on the other hand doesn’t like John at all.
- There is nothing about John that she likes.
- In fact, she holds a grudge against John.
- And, it is not enough for her that John is in prison, she wants John dead.
- So she takes it upon herself to get that done.
- Watch what she does. Look at verse 21.
In verse 21 it is birthday time.
- So Herod decides on his birthday to throw a party for himself and invite a lot of his wealthy, powerful friends to come.
- And this provided Herodias with the moment she wanted.
- What happens here is no coincidence…this is a planned event.
- Notice vs. 21 says, “…a strategic day came.”
- Herodias planned this all out.
She had thought through exactly how to manipulate her husband.
- Herodias has this little teenage girl and the fact that she would involve her own daughter in this plot implies her intense hatred for John and her own personal wickedness.
- She has her teenage daughter come in and dance for these men.
Now, let me explain what is going on here.
- The custom for the kind of party that Herod threw was that the men would get together and feast and drink and drink and drink until they were royally drunk.
- And after they were completely inebriated and out of control…and after all their vulgar inhibitions were no longer contained…the dancing girls would come in.
- And the dancing girls were usually professional prostitutes, hired to come in and cavort and display themselves in lewd and vulgar ways before these drunken men.
But this time is a little different.
- In verse 22 the NAS says “When the daughter of Herodias herself came in…”
- You see, there is an element of surprise in those words.
- Herodias sends in her own daughter.
- Herodias knows her man.
- She knows his bit for perversion and she has deviously plotted her way through it.
- And Herod responds just exactly like she knew he would.
She sends in her own daughter…Herod’s own stepdaughter.
- And she displays herself in a vulgar, crude way before these guests of Herod.
- And Herod is so vulgar that he is pleased by this sensual, disgusting display.
- And he says to the little girl, “Ask me for whatever you want you want and I will give it to you.”
So the little girl goes back to momma and says, “Momma, what should I do?”
- And momma says, “I want you to ask for the head of John the Baptist.”
- And she does…she comes back and she asks for John’s head.
But, I want you to notice something. Look in verse 25.
- When she comes back and asks for John’s head she tells Herod that she wants it “right away.” Or “right now.”
- That only adds to the fact that this whole thing has been planned out.
- When she says, “right now”, that shows that she is afraid that Herod’s mood might change…that he might sober up…and then he might not agree to this.
So, she takes advantage of his drunkenness.
- And not only that, she knows the power of peer pressure.
- She puts him on the spot in front of all of his guests.
- He has made a promise in front of all these guests and now she is going to hold him to it.
And, even though her request made Herod “very sorry”, after all, he knows that John is a righteous and holy man.
- He knows that that man down in that dungeon is a prophet of God.
But Herod has a fear that is even greater than his fear of John and that is his fear that those at his party will think him weak if he doesn’t keep his oath.
- So he immediately sends an executioner with orders to bring John’s head.
- And this great, grand man…this man that Jesus said was one of the greatest of all the prophets, meets his end because of some drunken fool’s rash vow.
So, Herod silences John once and for all.
- But the thing about it is Herod never silenced his conscience.
- So when the disciples go out and they do healings and miracles in Jesus name and Herod hears about it and people say, “I think it is Elijah, I think it is a prophet”, Herod says, “NO, I think it is John the Baptist. He has come back from the dead.”
- And the sting of his sin remained with him all of his days.
He kept his word that day…but he lost the kingdom of God and that is a high price to pay.
- And yet the real tragedy of that story is, it is played out everyday with a new name.
Before we leave the story today I would like for us to learn quickly four important lessons…from each of the main characters.
The first one is: “STEPPED ON TOES OR A LOST SOUL?”
- Remember in verse 20 that Herod “used to enjoy” John’s preaching until John started “stepping on Herod’s toes” in reference to Herod’s sin.
- And when John did that Herod decided it was time to “teach the preacher a lesson.”
A lot of people are that way today aren’t they?
- They like the preacher as long as he talks in generalities or as long as he is talking about someone else.
- But, when the preacher starts “stepping on their toes”…well, it is “time to teach the preacher a lesson.”
A preacher’s job…an elder’s job…a fellow Christians job is to tell you the truth…even when you may not like it.
- In this situation, spiritually, Herod was a dead man!
- Not only that, in his position of authority he was setting a bad example for those under his rule.
- Would John be doing Herod any favors by just ignoring this?
- And would John be doing the people any favors by sending a message to the people that they could do the same thing Herod did?
- Being eternally lost is a horrible thing and you do no one any good by just ignoring the sin and letting them ruin their lives and be lost eternally.
- It is funny, we don’t like a preacher who appeases everyone…and yet, at the same time, we sometimes don’t like a preacher who convicts us of sin.
- But it is much better to have your toes stepped on than to be lost eternally.
Now I want you to learn from Herod that CONVICTION AND CONVERSION are two different things.
- You know, Herod heard John’s preaching.
- And for a while he enjoyed the preaching.
- And Herod believed that John was a righteous and holy man.
- He was so convinced of it that “he was afraid of John.”
- And when he had John put to death he was “very sorry.”
- Herod in many ways was so close to the kingdom of God.
And yet, he is so far away.
He is so far away because all Herod could do when he heard the truth about his marriage was “be troubled by it.”
- And all he could do when he was faced with putting this righteous and holy man to death was “feel very sorry about it.”
- And feeling sorry and being distressed will not get you into the kingdom of God.
- Because Jesus never sent a disciple into the world with the message, “Be distressed, for the kingdom of God is hand.”
- Instead, He always said, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
Feeling bad and being distressed…and then going out and living like you want too will not get you into the kingdom of heaven.
- God has never said, “Feel kind of bad about your sin.”
- God says, “” “Get your life in line with the Word and change your ways so they line up with Mine.”
- You see, CONVICTION AND CONVERSION are two different things and only you know what you have done.
And then I want us to learn from Mark, the one telling this story, that SUCCESSFUL AND FAITHFUL are two different things.
Let me ask you this: Who would the world say was the most successful in this story?
- The world would say that Herod was the most successful.
- After all, he is king.
- And he has all these important people come.
- He has all this power.
- And he lives while John dies.
Let me ask you something.
- Do you measure success the same way?
- Does it mean you are successful when you throw big parties for yourself and all these important people want to come? Is that what makes a man successful.
- Does it mean you are successful because, when you want to drink and be vulgar a lot of people want to join you in your sin? Is that what makes you successful?
- Does it mean you are successful because you can say, “Ask me for anything you want because I can afford it.” Is that what makes you successful?
Mark is saying, “Look closely at the two men. Look closely at how you define success…and choose one to follow. ”
But keep this in mind. It is not up to the world to say what success is.
God is the one sitting on the throne and it is He who will make the final decision about who is successful.
- And God is more interested in you being FAITHFUL rather than SUCCESSFUL.
One more lesson from Mark.
- I think he is demonstrating WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A DISCIPLE.
Notice, where he puts this story?
- He puts this story of John’s death inside of the story of the mission of the disciples to go out and be representatives of Jesus Christ.
- And Mark’s point is: If you are going to be an ambassador of Jesus, if you are going to go from village to village and speak for Jesus, you better know that you are going to get the attention of the Herod’s of this world. ?
- And it means, like John, if you are going to speak for Jesus, you may have to lay down your life
I think Mark included this story in here so that he could say, “You choose the way of John and it might cost you your life. You choose the way of Herod and it will cost you your soul.”
The choice is yours.
The story of the death of John the Baptizer.
A man of great courage…and faith.
This morning, will you show great courage and faith by giving your life for Jesus too?
Will you die to yourself…and be baptized into Christ…to live for and possibly die for Him?
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023