SERMON: The Sinful Results of Ignoring God | Mark 6:14–19

The Sinful Results of Ignoring God | Mark 6:14–29
Shaun Marksbury | Quacco Baptist Church
Sunday Evening Service | 13 August, 2017

We’re seeing what ignoring the Word of God allows in a person’s sin nature.  Herod’s sin led to irrationality and fault (vv. 14–16), inconsistency of faith (vv. 17–20), enticements of flesh (vv. 21–25), and iniquity and futility (vv. 26–29).



I.               Introduction

This is the only section in Mark that does not focus on Jesus Christ.  You will remember that John the Baptist is the forerunner to Christ, and commentaries point out here that John is also a type of Christ.  John preached repentance, like Christ.  And like Christ, John the Baptist faces persecution and death for it.  That’s because this story about Herod is about sin. 

We are looking backward, but not necessarily that far backward.  Herod’s shift in focus to Christ happens because John the Baptist is executed.  So, we don’t know how close to a chronological order of events this might be.  What we see is an ugly, twisted account.  We see incest, adultery, lewd behavior, and murder.

So, this evening, we’re seeing what ignoring the Word of God allows in a person’s sin nature.  Herod’s sin led to irrationality and fault (vv. 14–16), inconsistency of faith (vv. 17–20), enticements of flesh (vv. 21–25), and iniquity and futility (vv. 26–29). 

II.            Herod’s Sin Led to Irrationality and Fault (vv. 14–16)

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 divvied his kingdom among four people.  It appointed a tetrarch over Galilee and Perea, Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great and Malthace, a Samaritan. 

The Herods held their power tenaciously, having no reason to believe God would protect their positions.  Herod the Great even killed two of his own sons and eventually disinherited another we read about here, Herod Phillip.  When we consider Herod Antipas, though he was tetrarch, we see that he wanted to be a king like his father (and Mark here calls him king, somewhat tongue-in-cheek).  As one commentary notes, “Antipas’s ambition to secure for himself the official title of ‘king’ resulted in his downfall under Caligula” (Hiebert, The Gospel of Mark, 162).

Herod Antipas now hears about Jesus, possibly through the disciples who are out preaching (6:7–13).  Herod’s Galilean residence was in Tiberias, and we don’t have an account saying that Jesus had visited this city.  It may simply be that Herod wasn’t paying attention to Jesus since his attention was still on John the Baptist, but now he hears, and trembles.

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).  He knew that John worked no signs.  But he still struggled, and we see this in a more literal translation of v. 16—“John, whom I myself beheaded, he has been raised.” He is troubled with guilt and fear in this confession. 

Jesus perplexed Herod (Lk 9:7).  They both preached repentance, and he couldn’t shake the image of John somehow haunting him.  As Matthew Henry said, “Those who most wilfully disbelieve the truth, are commonly most credulous of errors and fancies.”[1]

Sin and guilt causes us to imagine false scenarios.  This is one reason why some people in the church become convinced that someone is out to get them when there’s actually considerable evidence to the contrary.  They live with unforgiveness, fear, control issues, or some other state of iniquity that clouds their perception. 

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).

III.         Herod’s Sin Led to Inconsistency of Faith (vv. 17–20)

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.

Herod Antipas’s house was a nest of sin.  In Josephus’s Antiquities, we read that Herod arrested John to avoid political trouble (18.2), but we see here that there was more to it than that.  As one study Bible says, “According to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, Herodias was a granddaughter of Herod the Great. Her first husband (Philip) and second husband (Antipas, who is called Herod in this text) were both sons of Herod the Great by different mothers, making them her uncles as well as her spouses (Josephus, Antiquities 18.109–10, 136).”[2]  So, this was an incestuous marriage.

To add another wrinkle to this, Herod Antipas was already married to the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabataen Arabia.  Once she saw how the adulterous Antipas was betraying her, she fled back to her father.  That later sparked warfare and a defeat for Antipas.

John the Baptist had every right to call this out as a prophet.  John repeatedly pointed to Scripture, which forbade taking a brother’s wife to oneself.  Perhaps he cited Leviticus 18:16—“You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness;” perhaps he cited Leviticus 20:21—“If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.”  The repentance he preached undoubtedly called on Herod to give Herodias back to Philip.  Perhaps John did this publicly on a few occasions, but v. 18 says that he spoke to Herod, meaning that he also preached face-to-face.  That sparked two responses within Herod’s house.

An embittered Herodias sought to kill God’s messenger.  We could read v. 19 to mean that she “had it in for him,[3] and the imperfect indicates that she held this murderous grudge for a while.  It seems that she wanted to remain where she was; Herod the Great had disinherited his son Philip, so Philip was living in Rome with Herodias as a private citizen (Hiebert, 165).  It appears that Herodias was happy to be stolen from her husband by an ambitious king, and she wasn’t happy that John dares question her morality and shame her.  That some guy from the desert would come spouting Bible verses about sin threatened her spiritual and social status, and she wanted to silence him permanently.

A concerned Herod sought to keep God’s messenger.  Herodias was a true Jezebel, focused on her own well-being above all, but Herod was more like Ahaz.  He was inconsistent.  Herod feared John and protected him from Herodias.  He knew John was “a righteous and holy man” (v. 20).  Even though John filled him with uncertainty, he “heard him gladly.”

Don’t be deceived: the second response is no better than the first.  While God’s message might cause you great emotion—fear, confusion, gladness—that doesn’t mean it has penetrated your heart.  In Herod’s case, he never repented of his illicit marriage, and we’ll see in the following verses that he allowed Herodias to get her way.  Genuine faith will produce good works; otherwise, it’s a false or dead faith (Js 2:14–26).

Know that being close to church and the Bible won’t help in the Day of Judgment.  If you are in an unlawful relationship, end it now for the sake of your soul.  Repent (turn from your sin to God) and believe that His gospel message will save you.

IV.         Herod’s Sin Led to Enticements of Flesh (vv. 21–25)

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.”

Herod throws a feast for his birthday and invited all the key political, military, and social leaders under him.  Alcohol is a factor, and Herodias sees an opportunity to finally take John the Baptist’s life.  So, she conspires with her daughter to circumvent his protection of John.  Consider that for a moment: she makes her child as much a child of hell as she is.

Herodias led her daughter into debauchery.  Her name is Salome, Herodias’s daughter with Herod Philip, now Herod Antipas’s daughter-in-law.  Salome didn’t come with a ballet performance, as this wasn’t the kind of dancing in which respectable women engaged.  Queen Vashti refused to allow herself to be ogled in a similar situation (Est 1:11–12), but Herodias doesn’t seem to have qualms with her daughter’s striptease at this drunken feast. 

Herodias led her daughter to murder.  The best possible spin on this is that Salome doesn’t hold personal animosity toward John the Baptist and that her mother forces her.  However, she’s complicit in the crime because of her mother, and there’s no indication that Salome wasn’t influenced to share her mother’s hatred.  Indeed, the words “immediately with haste” in v. 25 emphasize “the eager haste with which the murder was pushed.”[4]  She adopted her mother’s murderous frame of mind and understood that she had to get back before Herod sobered himself.  Even though she didn’t wield the executioner’s axe, because of her mother, she also bears the responsibility of John’s murder.

Sinful parents lead their children astray in many ways, tempting them to sin.  Though the resultant consequences may linger like the violence in David’s household (cf. 2 Sm 12:10), the Lord thankfully forgives parental transgressions.  God can grant you repentance and change your heart, and He can do the same for your children.  Until the Lord changes them, consider Ephesians 6:4—parents must not provoke children but “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Even so, we want to consider Herod’s sin.  The oaths he gives also reflect the Book of Esther, where King Ahasuerus promised Esther the same (Est 5:3, 6).  Mark writes highlighting the irony of the situation—Herod wasn’t a “king” because he had no “kingdom.”  Moreover, his debauched marriage and womanizing opened him to the kind of heinous sin no man—king or otherwise—should fall.  It’s clear that both Herod and Herodias loved their station in life, and those temptations opened him to what comes next. 

V.            Herod’s Sin Led to Iniquity and Futility (vv. 26–29)

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.

One thing is clear: Herod did not want to kill John the Baptist.  No matter how depraved a person allows himself to be, he always comforts himself with that certain line he would never cross.  Nonetheless, a life devoted to sin will take people places they never wanted to go, and Herod’s resistance to crossing the line of iniquity proved futile for 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.

VI.         Final Thoughts

So, here are some of the results of unchecked sin in a person’s life.  Actually, since this account begins after the fact, we could change the order of the points.  Herod’s sin lead to his inconsistency of faith and really, more sin.  His sin led to further enticements of the flesh.  As sin festered in his heart and life, Herod’s sin led to more iniquity and, eventually, futility.  Finally, since it remained unconfessed and unrepentant, his sin led to irrationality and personal fault.   Really, only one of Herod’s acts of sin would have done all of this, but this is the result of the sin nature when it’s allowed to fester within our souls.

Herod was sorry that he had to murder John the Baptist, but understand that this is not true repentance.  In 2 Corinthians 7:10, we read, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”  None of the good feelings he had toward John meant that Herod became a Christian, and his regret over John was the same as anyone would feel when they are caught doing something wrong.  It didn’t lead him to true repentance before a holy God.

[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1789.
[2] John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Mk 6:17.
[3] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Mk 6:19.
[4] Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), 194.

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