The Irrationality of Guilt | Mark 6:14–17
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.”
King Herod I was appointed by Rome, so he wasn’t “born king of the Jews” (cf. Mt 2:2). After he died in 4 BC, Rome appointed one of his sons tetrarch over Galilee, “King” Herod Antipas. The Herods held their power tenaciously, having no reason to believe God would protect their position.
Moreover, Antipas, like the rest of us, was a sinner, only with power. As we’ll see in vv. 17–18, he’d stolen his brother’s wife for himself. He eventually executed John the Baptist (vv. 19–29). He was a man given over to his desires, and we see the guilt eating away at him as he hears about Jesus.
He hears that Jesus may be Elijah. Scripture prophesied that Elijah would come before the Messiah (Mal 4:5). Jesus worked miracles, and Elijah didn’t die (2 Kgs 2:11), so some thought He was Elijah. Jesus explained, however, that John the Baptist fulfilled that role (Mt 11:14; Lk 1:17). While this group of people were confused, they still saw Jesus as prophetic and a worker of wonders.
He hears that Jesus may be a prophet. Moses prophesied that a greater prophet would arise among the people (Dt 18:15). That insight into His messianic character affirms the heavenly wisdom with which He spoke. Hebrews 1:2 says that God the Father has spoken to us though His Son, the fulfillment of all prophetic ministry.
He hears that Jesus may be John raised again. While the other two explanations bore some rational explanation, this one didn’t. Herod had delivered John’s head over on a platter (even though he was perplexed and afraid of John, v. 20). When Jesus also perplexed him (Lk 9:7), he couldn’t shake the image of John somehow rising again to haunt him.
Guilt causes us to imagine false scenarios, but we needn’t live in that state. God says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). Trusting Scripture, you can then “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rm 12:2).