Mark 6:14-29

A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds

June 14, 2012

 

In this session we will focus on two men who could not have been more different.

--born into the humble home of aging Jewish priest...

--reared as a Nazirite, never taking a fermented drink, touching a dead body, or cutting his hair...

--from earliest days of his life was dedicated to God and constantly grew in his knowledge of and commitment to God...

--as adult lived alone in desert communing with God...as result developed keen sense of morality and righteousness...

--had courage to stand by his convictions even though resulted in his death...

--born into the most powerful family of all Palestine...

--grew up living life of luxury as member of royal family...no pleasure denied to him...

--had no religious convictions whatsoever...what religious practices did observe were for purpose of advancing political career...

--spent adult life surrounded by corrupt people...had no sense of absolute right and wrong...

--didn't have courage even to stand up to his evil wife and corrupt step-daughter...

I’m referring to John the Baptist and Herod Antipas, two men who are forever bound together in history.  Mark tells their story in Mark 6:14-29.

 

Before we read these verses, it is important to understand to whom Mark is referring with the title “King Herod” in verse 14.  Actually, a number of different “Herods” are mentioned in the Bible.  Various members of the Herod family ruled in the area of ancient Palestine for approximately 100 years.

  • Herod the Great ruled as King of Judea from 37 – 4 B.C.  He is the one who rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem.  It was under his reign that Jesus was born.  In an attempt to destroy the newborn king, Herod ordered the slaughter of babies in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:16-18).  He was a very ruthless man who even killed members of his own family if he thought they were his political rivals.  It was said that it was better to be Herod’s dog than his son!  When Herod the Great died in 4 B.C., his kingdom was divided between three of his sons:
    • Herod the Ethnarch (the word means ruler of a people) also known as Archeleus (see Matthew 2:22).  He ruled over Judea, Samaria, and Idumea from 4 BC – 6 AD.  He was an incompetent leader liked by virtually no-one.  The Romans replaced him with a governor.
    • Herod the Tetrarch (the word means ruler of a fourth part) also known as Herod Antipas.  He was the one referred to in this passage who had John the Baptist arrested and eventually beheaded (see Mark 6:14-29).  He ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC – 39 AD.  He was also the Herod before whom Jesus was taken in Jerusalem prior to the crucifixion.
    • Herod Philip was tetrarch over the northern areas of Palestine.  He was the one who founded Caesarea Philippi at the base of Mt. Hermon where Jesus and the disciples spent some time (see Matthew 16:13).
  • Herod the King, also known as Herod Agrippa I, is the Herod in Acts 12.  He was the grandson of Herod the Great.  His father was Aristobulus and his mother was of a royal Jewish line.  Herod the Great had Aristobulus murdered in 7 BC.  When that occurred, young Agrippa was taken to Rome to get him away from his evil grandfather.  While in Rome he became friends with Caligula who became Emperor in 37 AD.  Since Agrippa helped Caligula become Emperor, the Emperor rewarded him with the title of “king.”  Over a period of years, he become ruler over roughly the same area his grandfather, Herod the Great, had ruled.  He died in 44 AD, so we know the events in Acts 12 took place in that year.
  • Herod Agrippa II was the son of Herod the King.  He was the ruler before whom the Apostle Paul appeared in Acts 25 and 26.

 

With that background in mind, we are going to work through Mark 6:14-29 and then make several quick points of application of this event to our lives.

 

Verse 14-15 – These verses tells us that the preaching and miraculous works of the disciples of Jesus (cf. vv.12-13), as well as the teaching and works of Jesus, caused Jesus to “become well known.”  His fame even caught the attention of Herod Antipas.  In an attempt to explain how this simple Galilean and His followers could be doing such amazing things, three theories were put forth:

·         Some said He was “John the Baptist" risen from the dead.  As we will see in a moment, by this time Herod Antipas had beheaded John the Baptist.

·         Others said He was “Elijah.”  Malachi 3:1 and 4:5 indicates that God would send one like Elijah to be the forerunner of the Messiah.  While it was John the Baptist who actually filled that role, but apparently some people viewed Jesus as a forerunner to another to come.

·         Others said He was “like one of the prophets of old.”  This shows the people sensed a new authority in His teaching that had not been in Israel for hundreds of years, since Malachi. It also reflects the Mosaic Messianic prophecy of Deut. 18:15ff about the coming of a prophet like Moses.[1]

 

Verse 16 – Herod, who was plagued with a guilty conscience over the role he played in the death of John the Baptist, believed the theory that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead.

 

Verses 17-29 take us back in time to explain why Herod reacted as He did to Jesus.

 

      Verses 17-18 - Mark explained (gar, for) that Herod himself had ordered John to be put in prison. According to Josephus, this prison was at the fortress-palace of Machaerus near the northeastern shore of the Dead Sea (The Antiquities of the Jews 18. 5. 2). Herod did this because of Herodias, an ambitious woman who was his second wife. Herod had first married a daughter of the Arabian king, Aretas IV. Then he became enamored with his half-niece Herodias (daughter of his half-brother, Aristobulus) who was married to Herod’s half-brother (brother means half-brother) Philip (her half-uncle; cf. Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 18. 5. 1-2). They had a daughter, Salome. Herod divorced his wife in order to marry Herodias who had divorced Philip (not the Philip of Luke 3:1). John had repeatedly denounced this marriage as unlawful (cf. Lev. 18:16; 20:21).[2]

 

      Verses 19-20 - John’s bold rebuke infuriated Herodias who nursed a grudge against him (lit., “had it in for him”). Not satisfied with John’s imprisonment, she wanted to kill him, but her plans were thwarted because Herod feared John (had a superstitious dread of him), whom he knew was a righteous and holy man. So he protected John from Herodias’ murderous intentions by keeping him in prison—a shrewd compromise.[3]  The verb tenses in this verse indicate that Herodias kept bringing up the subject of John the Baptist’s death to Herod and Herod kept resisting her by keeping John in prison.

 

            “Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man…” – Herod recognized that John was not like most other people.  His message and life-style made that abundantly clear.  Also, John had become very popular with the people.  This story reveals that Herod’s life was marked by fear.  He was afraid of John, Herodias, and His guests.  Unfortunately, Herod had no fear of God!

 

            “when he heard him … was very perplexed … but used to enjoy listening” – Shows the great conflict in Herod.  He was drawn to the truth but at the same time rejected the truth.

 

Verses 21-29 explain the events that led to the death of John the Baptist.

 

            Verse 21 – On his birthday, Herod gave a banquet and invited three groups of people:

·         “his lords” – Civil authorities or government officials

·         “military commanders” – The word is chiliarchs which means commander of a thousand troops

·         “leading men of Galilee” – Wealthy and influential citizens

 

Verses 22-23

      “daughter of Herodias” – The word indicates she was a young woman of marriageable age, probably in her mid-teens.  Josephus, the Jewish historian, says her name was Salome.

 

      “danced” - It was not common for woman of her social status to dance at this type of gathering. These sensual dances were usually done by prostitutes or professional dancers.[4]

 

      “swore to her” – This was an oath, made in front of many witnesses, that was irrevocable.

 

      “up to half my kingdom” - Actually Herod had no “kingdom” to give  He used a proverbial saying for generosity which Salome knew was not to be taken literally.[5]

 

Verses 24-29 – Herodias saw her opportunity and took advantage of it to extract her revenge on John.  She was incensed that John had damaged her reputation.  Ironically, her vindictiveness toward John insured that her evil deeds would be known forever!

 

Applications:

 

God's people should stand consistently and courageously against evil in all forms and all places

1.      Many Christians have bought into idea alright have ideals and standards and morals as long as don't attempt to impose our standards on someone else...you've heard that philosophy..."You do your thing and I'll do mine and everything will be fine!"... and if you challenge or question the actions of anyone else that means you're insensitive, mean-spirited, and uncaring...

2.                  Submit not a Christian philosophy...if early Christians and those who have followed through the centuries had opted be silent face obvious evil, Christianity would have had virtually impact on world history...an essential part of mission of God's people in world is speaking out for things that are right and against things that are wrong...and reason many people in world cannot accept that is because they do not want to believe that there is such a thing as absolute right and wrong...it's much more convenient to speak of right and wrong in terms of what I want and do not want instead of in terms of God's absolutes...

3.                  John the Baptist didn't buy into that kind of philosophy...he knew that some things are right and some things are wrong in eyes of God...and he wasn't afraid to say that...

 

There is a price to be paid for standing against evil

1.   John's outspokenness about sin Herod cost him his personal freedom and ultimately his life…

2.  Now when news John's death leaked out, no doubt some people thought, "Well that serves him right..should have known better that denounce someone as powerful as Herod"…Matthew Henry says: "Perhaps some of John's friends would blame him as indiscreet in reproving Herod, and tell him that he had better be silent than provoke Herod...But away with that kind of discretion that would hinder men from doing their duty as ministers or as friends..."

 

1    .For God's people to suffer for doing right and speaking out for right nothing new...pattern throughout Christian history...ask‑‑

·         Deithrich Bonhoeffer, the preacher executed in Nazi Germany because loyalty to Christ...

·         William Booth, the founder of Salvation Army, who was beaten and by street gangs in London…

·         John Knox, the Scottish preacher, who spent two years in galleys French ship for his part in Protestant Reformation…

·         Paul who suffered abuse in city after city for pro‑claiming gospel…

·         Jesus who was crucified just because told truth about God and God's plan for world…

2.   Yes, price be paid for speaking out and if God's people not willing pay price, Herod's of this world will forever go unchecked...

3.   Realize in our culture not likely suffer physical abuse as result opposing evil...probably won't get your head chopped off as did John the Baptist...but other kinds abuse probably will suffer...some label you as naive...accuse living in past claiming stuck in Victorian era...say you're anti‑intellectual or narrow minded or uncultured...call hypocrite and charlatan...

4.   But if constantly worried about pleasing or being accepted by the world, will never have anything of value to say to the world...

 

There is a price to be paid for failing to confront evil

1.   In Herod see price for remaining silent in face of evil...death of John Baptist not actually Herod's idea...was Herodias encouraged Salome make gruesome request of John's head on platter...Herod could have intervened, but sat by and let evil run its course...

2.   As result, paid terrible price...was plagued by guilt and fear...when Jesus came preaching in Galilee same message of repentance and Kingdom of God John preached, Herod's guilty conscience cause him conclude John had risen from dead...look at verse 16...can almost hear the panic in Herod's voice..."But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, 'John, whom I beheaded, has risen!'"...

3.   Price Herod paid for his failure confront evil was being immobilized by guilt and fear when could have been most powerful man in all Galilee...

4.   Lesson in that for God's people...surest way lose power and influence in world is compromise and/or be silent and become like world...I John 2:15 warns, "..Do not love the world or the things in the world.."..and James warns "..Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself and enemy of God."...

 



[1] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (74). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[2] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Mk 6:17–18). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[3] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Mk 6:19–20). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (75). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[5] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Mk 6:21–23). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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