Temptation and Worship | Mark 6:21–23, 26, 29
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.” … 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. … 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Herodias unsuccessfully plotted to murder John the Baptist until this point because her husband had him arrested. On this strategic night, she finally persuades Herod to follow through with her plan. Herod knew it would be wrong, but he sinned nonetheless because of two reasons.
Herod fell to his temptations. Lust was obviously a problem for Herod, for he stole his brother’s wife. Herodias knew this and paraded her daughter in a way no mother should. Still, Herod knew this was his daughter-in-law, and at least as a leader, should have kept himself in check. Yet, filled with lust, he not only promised her his favor (v. 22), he fervently swore it to her (v. 23).
Herod feared men. Gathered are the key political, military, and social figures of the region. They all witness this pleasing dance and hear Herod gush vows to this lovely young woman. That should not matter when it comes to questions of right and wrong, but Herod felt that his oaths in front of these men were irreversible. He made a fool of himself over a pretty face and felt that turning her down would make him a bigger fool.
All of this comes down to what Herod really worshipped—himself. Herod loved his station in life more than the life of God’s prophet. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” First Corinthians 6:13b says, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Herod became a picture of someone interested in the truth, who felt guilty for his sin, but who ultimately worshipped himself.