GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 16
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2010|
|Herod Antipas heard the gospel; he knew of Jesus; but chose to ignore the message of the gospel.|
The Downward Spiral of a Crooked and Sinful Leader
The title of the message this morning is this: The Downward Spiral of a Crooked and Sinful Leader. My prayer this morning is this, is that you will never forget the five lessons from the collision between John the Baptist and Herod Antipas in order for you and I to stand up for truth in this world in which we live. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Mark 6:14. If you remember, just a few moments earlier, Jesus sends the disciples out on a mission. He gathers the 12 and then he deploys them out into the world. Notice verse 14 embedded within that story.
“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.’ But others said, ‘He is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’ 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 [there it is], because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 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. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. [Notice this] And the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.’ And he vowed to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.’ And she went out and said to her mother, ‘For what should I ask?’ And she said, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’ 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.’ And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.”
Let me give you the first point of the text, as we see it in the text. Write this down. Herod refused to repent. And notice what it says in the text: “And when he heard of Jesus.” Up to this point, as we studied last week, Jesus performed all the ministry. He did all the miracles. He taught all the lessons. He did all the teaching. But then there’s a shift in the text. Last week I showed you what happened. Jesus calls the disciples to himself, then he deploys them out to do ministry for him. It’s one thing to do all the ministry yourself. It’s more effective to give the ministry away. Jesus had 12 men now going into the region and telling about the works of God and doing the works of God. And when Herod hears this, he comes unglued. See, it was an uneasy reminder for Herod because of the death of John the Baptist. He had killed John the Baptist as it says in the text and he thought he had stopped the mission. And he thought he had stopped the message. But when he heard of the Lord Jesus Christ, it brought back memories from the past.
Now, there are three popular views of who Jesus was at this time. What were the three popular views that people were saying about Jesus, do you know? Some thought he was—it’s in the text—John the Baptist. Some thought he was Elijah. And some thought he was one of the prophets. Remember when Jesus brings his disciples to Caesarea Philippi and he says, “Who do you say that I am?” What do they say? John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets. But we know he’s more than that. See, what Herod’s asking is this: How does Jesus do what he’s doing? Where does he get his power from? And what Herod does is he realizes that Jesus has divine power. And so he thought it was probably John the Baptist from the dead. He thought it was probably Elijah that had come back from the dead.
Let me make a point here for you. Your view of the Lord Jesus Christ determines everything. Right? I mean, you may say, “Well, Jesus is a good man. Jesus may even be descended from God. Jesus may even have divine power.” But that in and of itself will not bring you to faith in God. In fact, I would submit to you that may be a deadly danger for you. Because to know Jesus and to not know his true identity could actually lead you away from the Lord.
What’s interesting is Herod actually had more faith in Jesus than his own family did. Because, you remember a few moments earlier, Jesus’ family comes out and sees him and they don’t say that he’s of God. They say he’s out of his what? Mind. “Is that Jesus our brother? He’s out of his mind!” At least Herod says, “Well, he’s got to be of God.”
But notice the emphatic word there. The key to that phrase is this: Herod says, “It is I who killed him.” Herod’s language is emphatic here. He said, “It is I who beheaded him,” verse 16. And notice what he’s saying. He’s saying, “I did it.” It gives the idea that he said the phrase over and over. “It’s I who killed John. I’m the one who beheaded him. I’m the one who did it.” It’s almost like he’s dealing with the grief and the guilt from the past that he’s trying to remind people that he was the one who ordered the death of John.
You know, when sin arises in our life, when somebody points out sin in your life, you have two options. What are the two options when you’re confronted with sin? You either repent or you rebel. You can either turn to the Lord and repent when somebody confronts you with sin, or you get confronted with sin. You can turn to the Lord and ask for forgiveness and repent. Or you can do like some do and brush it under the rug and act like it didn’t happen, right?
That’s exactly probably what Herod did. He thought he that could put the death of John aside, maybe sweep it under the rug and no one will think about it. See the problem Herod had was pride. See, Herod realized that he was the king. And what was the message of the disciples? Repent and believe in the what? The kingdom of God. What was John the Baptist’s message? Repent. The kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus’ message: repent and believe, for the kingdom of God is at hand. What’s the problem with Herod the king? He’s the king. And he has a problem. There’s only one kingdom in the world. It’s MY kingdom. God’s kingdom and his pride did not coincide. And I want to submit to you to ask yourself the question. Have you rejected the truth? Have you refused to repent? When you’re confronted with sin, have you refused to repent like Herod did?
Secondly, notice what he did. Not only did he refuse to repent, he rejected the truth. Look at verse 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.”
That’s the key phrase there. She, Herodias, was the daughter of Aristobulus, who was actually the son of Herod the Great, and the niece of Herod Antipas. Did you hear that? Herodias was from the son of Herod the Great and the niece of Herod Antipas. Every son that Herod had bore the name of Herod. And probably what happened is this. Herodias married Herod Philip. We don’t know exactly for sure, but we can deduce she married Herod Philip. Herodias met Herod on a road trip one time. The two of them fell in love in an adulterous affair, and Herod persuaded Herodias to divorce. We learn all this from the historian Josephus. He persuaded Herodias to divorce her husband, which was his brother, and then marry him. Herod divorces his wife, they marry one another, and they come into this adulterous affair. Because of that, Herod has a choice now. He can stay with his wife and deny the facts of John that are preaching against him, or he can go back to his first wife.
Well, we know he doesn’t go back to his first wife. Friends, I don’t know if you watch soap operas, but this is the first episode of The Young and the Restless. I mean, this is a soap opera here at its best. And what John does is pretty amazing. Look at verse 18: “For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death.”
See, John’s condemnation was based on the Old Testament. Turn to Leviticus 18. Let me show it to you. Leviticus 18:1: “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.” Basically you shall not have any kind of sexual intimacy with your brother’s wife. Go to Leviticus 20:21: “If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness.”
And he’s calling out Herod and he’s saying, “Listen, every time you’re with this woman you’re in sin.” And he’s calling him out. He probably preached about it. He probably talked about it. And Herodias didn’t like it. Herodias said, “Let’s just kill John.” But notice what happens in the text. Go back to Mark. Herod couldn’t kill John for he “feared John [he revered him], 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.”
The historian Josephus gives insight into the prison that John was in. Herod put him into the palace prison of the Machaerus, which was on the mountain of the Dead Sea. And what happened was Herod built this magnificent palace and underneath the palace there were these dungeons with prison cells. And so Herod could go down into the prison of his own house and converse with John the Baptist. And it says that he talked with John. As fearful as Herod was of John, he listened to him.
Notice what it says in the text. He was greatly perplexed by John. When he heard John preach and teach, it puzzled him. That word perplexed is an interesting word. It’s the word that means puzzled. It’s actually the word that means not knowing how to proceed. And so every time John spoke to Herod, Herod examined his own life. He said, “Wow, these things make sense me.” It caused him to think. He heard the truth of God.
But the problem was he only heard the truth—get this—he didn’t heed the truth. See, John was entertainment to Herod. It wasn’t convicting of his sin. He was amused by John. He enjoyed hearing John but it didn’t cause him to repent. You know, it’s one thing to hear the truth. It’s another thing to receive the truth. You know, its one thing to hear the message preached every week when you come into church. It’s a whole ‘nother thing to apply the message to your life when you leave church. It’s one thing to hear that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. Get this. It’s a whole ‘nother thing to make Jesus Lord of your own life. And that’s Herod’s problem. He heard the message only but he didn’t actually heed the words of the message.
Let me ask you, when you’re confronted with sin, do you repent when you realize your sin or do you blame it on someone else? That’s not me! That’s someone else who needs to repent. “John’s not talking about me,” Herod said, “That’s for someone else.” Do you repent? Do you recognize the truth or do you refuse the truth. I wonder how you act when you witness sin. John was not ashamed to stand up for truth and to talk about it. What do you do when you see someone in sin? Do you conform to it? Do you condone it? Are you convicted by it? Or do you condemn it? Herod refused to repent.
Thirdly, he remained in his sin. He refused the truth. He rejected to repent. He remained in sin. Herodias saw her chance, verse 21. Finally the opportune moment came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. See, this was a stag party. He invited all the men of the region, all the men in the military, all of his men and all the leading figures of Galilee, probably Jewish people would have been invited to this as well. They’re all there and they’re single. And because you have a bunch of men in a room demanding nasty, stingy entertainment for men, it can get out of hand. Especially when alcohol is flowing as it did at those parties. And so they demanded entertainment. And normally they would have a prostitute or a group of prostitutes dance before them. But on this day it was a different occasion. Herodias saw a moment to strike and so she gets her daughter, Salome. She whispers in her ear, “You’re going to go and be my pawn to carry out my plan.”
Look at verse 22: “when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod [Underline that word. That’s the key word.] “…she pleased Herod and his [dinner] guests.”
That word please is a seductive and sick pleasure. It’s the word that means to incline to do something, to be content with or to soften one’s heart in order to do something that you will. That’s what happened. See, normally there was an erotic, seductive dance by the prostitutes that would come in. But Salome is put up by her mother to go perform this dance for the men. And it says it pleased them.
Herod gets so excited look what he does next. He’s overwhelmed. He says, “Ask anything of you, that you want of me and I’ll give it to you. I’ll give you everything up to half my kingdom.” Now this is arrogance at its best. This is braggadocios on the part of Herod. He doesn’t own anything. See, the problem with Herod is everything that he has is from Rome. At any moment he could be exiled. At any moment he could be ousted. He doesn’t own anything. But here he is in his prideful, arrogant self. “You ask anything you want of this kingdom and I’ll give it to you.” He binds himself to an oath of something that he doesn’t have. His pride gets in the way.
What is the girl going to ask for? Expensive jewelry? An elaborate wardrobe? An exotic animal maybe? No. Look what happens. She went out and asked her mother, “Mom, what should I ask for?” Then the mom said, “The head of John the Baptist.” You talk about cutthroat—no pun intended—and at once the girl hurried into the king with the request. “I want you to give you to give me his head right now.” She not only wanted him dead, but in a sadistic voice—can you hear this teenage girl asking—“I want his head on a platter.”
Notice the fourth thing in the text we see, the fourth truth. Herod feared man more than he feared God. And this is the point of the text. Herod feared man more than he feared God. Look what it says. The king was very sorrowful. That word sorrowful is an intense word. It’s only used one other time in the New Testament and it’s used when Jesus—watch this, church—when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane on his face before the Father and he’s pleading with God, “Is there any other way that this can happen?” It says he is sorrowful to the point of death. Herod is deeply sorrowful.
Because of his pride, he has to follow through with this oath. He has determined his fate. He has no other choice. The request has been made. And so he sends an executioner to John’s prison. John, unbeknownst to him, this guy comes in with a sword. Right in the cell he beheads him, puts it on a platter and brings it to this young teenage girl in front of all the party that day. Can you picture it? John Broadus says this is what happened: When the dish was brought out with the bleeding head on it, no doubt she took it daintily in her hands lest a drop of blood should stain her gala dress and tripped away to her mother as if bearing some choice food from the king that day.
It was not uncommon to bring the head of someone to the king’s table. It was not uncommon to bring someone who was slain to the person who ordered it as proof of the command that was obeyed. For example, when the head of Cicero was brought to Fulvia, the wife of Marc Antony, she spat on it and, drawing out the tongue that had so eloquently opposed her, she pierced it with her hairpin with much ridicule. See, the fear of man or, in this case, the fear of woman got the best of Herod. Herod allowed the pressure of the people to cause him to make a decision.
See, the fact of the matter is this: there are many in here doing the same thing. There are many of you who cower in the face of pressure. I don’t know if you cower when you’re doing the right thing from a fiancé or a friend. Maybe you cower from your co-workers or your employees. Maybe you cower in the face of friends from the world. Some decide to do always what’s the best for popular opinion. Politicians sometimes never make the right choice because of the constituents. They choose for him what to do. Business owners try to keep up with corporate America, right? The pressures of this world. High school students want to be cool. College students fit into peer pressure. Many of us sadly, as believers, live not based on what our own conscience says to do, not based on what the Word of God says to do. We live because of the pressures of the world. Is someone or something causing you not to do what the Lord wants you to do? Is there someone in your life that’s causing you to fear man? Or should you be fearing God? Let me ask you, do you fear man or do you fear the Lord?
At the end of this, John’s disciples do one thing. It’s just a one sentence ending. Verse 29: “When [John’s] disciples [key word there; that’s John’s disciples] heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.” Why is the death of John the Baptist embedded between the mission of Christ? Because, if you remember a few verses earlier, it says that Jesus sent the disciples out on a mission. But we never hear the end of the mission until now. Look at verse 30. One sentence after the story of the death of John, it says in verse 30: “The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’”
What the gospel is trying to show us is an interesting example and lesson on discipleship here. If you’ve noticed, the text of the sending of the disciples and the returning of the disciples sandwich the death of John the Baptist. In forming like two brackets, it shows us an interesting concept of discipleship. You know what Jesus is trying to show us here? He’s showing us that martyrdom and the ministry go together. He’s showing us that discipleship and death go together. He’s saying not only does the death of John the Baptist pre-figure me, it’s going to pre-figure you. And if you are called to follow me, you can expect to experience the same. That’s why he says in a few verses later, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself [what?] pick up his cross daily,” you know what pick up your cross means? Die. Spiritual, physical death. You could be dead for the movement of Christ, “and follow me.”
Friends, the Christian life; we’re not guaranteed that we will live for the cause of Christ. In fact, Paul said it this way to young Timothy, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will [will, will] suffer persecution.” What does that mean? That means if you’re following the Lord Jesus Christ, talking about the gospel, preaching the good news to people, you will experience persecution. To the church at Philippi, Paul says it this way, “For it has been granted to you for the sake of Christ to not only believe in him but to also suffer for him.” Did you see what he said there? It has been granted to you. It has been given to you as a gift to not only believe on the Lord but to suffer for Christ’s sake.
You know what Jesus is showing his disciples? What happened to John the Baptist will happen to you. You know what Jesus is showing us really? That you guys should never fear man over God, that you should never fear what this world can do to you. Listen to what he says in Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men [this is what he’s saying here: Don’t fear men], I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will [not acknowledge. I will] deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
Brother Tim always told me ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing. Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing. You know, when you follow Jesus it’s lonely, it’s hard, and it’s costly. When you stand up for the gospel, expect to be persecuted. When you stand up for righteousness in your workplace, expect—listen, I would say when you stand up for righteousness and you’re not being persecuted, I would wonder. In fact, I would even say if you’re not being persecuted in your life right now, I would even question whether you’re standing up for righteousness. Ouch. Pastor, you’re talking to me? Well that’s what the Bible says. When you stand up for what is right, you will be expect to be persecuted. You will expect to be punished by the world.
What about you? Do you fear man more than God? Do you feel the pressure of the world more than God? How do I know if I’m standing up for righteousness? Ask your wife. Ask your husband. Ask your kids. Ask your parents. Am I standing up for what’s right in this world? Am I doing what God wants me to do? Why do you think Jesus says in Matthew 7, “Enter by the narrow gate.” It’s narrow and few find it but it leads to life. Don’t enter by the wide gate that leads to destruction and everyone finds it. You go by the narrow gate. Herod feared man more than he feared God.
But here’s the final point of this passage and it comes from another text. The question is, did Herod actually choose Christ? And the final point is this: Herod resists; Herod resists the opportunity for salvation. Go to Matthew 14. Matthew 14 is an abbreviated version of this account of the death of John the Baptist. Notice what it says in verse 12. Matthew gives us an interesting detail here. After the disciples took the body of John and buried it, what do they do? They went and told Jesus. Look what happens next. What does Jesus do next? Look at verse 13: “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.”
The death of John had caused the Son of God to withdraw into a place of isolation. It had burdened Jesus so much that he went into seclusion. You have to imagine. Jesus at this moment is wrestling with the fact that the cross is coming. His ensuing death is approaching. Now, you’re probably asking is Jesus scared of Herod Antipas? Absolutely not. He is contemplating future events. But there will come a day when Jesus Christ and Herod Antipas will come face to face. Let me show it to you. Luke 23:8. The one and only meeting with Christ. Notice how it turns out. This is the last mention of Herod in scripture.
It’s moments before the crucifixion and Pilate, trying to wash his hands of Jesus, sends him to Herod because it’s his jurisdiction. He says, “I want you to look at this man. I want you to determine if he’s innocent or guilty.” Look at verse 8: “When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked [Jesus]. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent [probably the saddest verse in Herod’s life] him back to Pilate.”
See, Herod meets Jesus for the first time and he’s not interested in repenting of his sins. He wants to be amused by Jesus. “Jesus, perform some act for me. Do some tricks in front of me. I want to be entertained by you.” And when Jesus doesn’t respond, it shows us that Herod is not convicted over sin. Herod has rejected the truth. He hasn’t repented of what he’s done. And we see in the text that Herod did not think much of Jesus; but, more importantly, Jesus did not think much of Herod. Probably the saddest verse in the Bible. What a shame. Herod had an opportunity to turn to Christ and he missed it.
Now you’re probably wondering why is that happening? Go back to Mark 6 and let me show you something pretty interesting. In the first part of the section, verses 14-20, this section is almost bookended by the words hear. Look at it in verse 14: “Herod heard [underline that] of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. And notice verse 20, almost at the end of it: “When he heard him [underline that] he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.”
Is it any wonder that the theme of the soil and the soul reemerges here? Remember the parable of the sower and the seed? It says he goes out and sows, and the parable is bookended by the word hearing. Now we know hearing doesn’t just mean listening. In the Bible, hearing means what? Obeying. Not just hearing and listening but obeying, putting into action. And so is it any wonder this section is bookended with the words hear. It reminds us of the soil, of the sowers and the seed.
And I want to submit that Herodias and Herod are two of the soils that we just learned about lived out. Herodias is a picture of the hard path. Remember the first soil as the man goes out to sow the seed, it falls on the hard path because the path is hard, the seed doesn’t go in. Herodias’ heart is so hardened to sin that she doesn’t even want to even hear the message. And, therefore, she is an unbeliever. Then we go to Herod on the other hand, and Herod is an example of the seed sown among the thorns. What were the thorns, Jesus said? It was the world. It was the pleasure of the world. It was the money of the world. It was the material things of the world. And so as the seed goes down into the heart, it doesn’t grow because the pleasures of the world choke it out.
Maybe you can identify with one of these individuals. You know, it shows us that it’s possible that you can be lost in your sins, that you can hear the word of God and reject the Son of God and reject the means for redemption. It shows us that you and I can abandon the very means to come to Christ.
If you’re an unbeliever, I want to ask you this morning to choose Christ. Now if you’re a believer in here and you’re saying, “Pastor, I know the Lord Jesus Christ,” I want to challenge you to not only hear the word but to heed the word. See, Herod heard the word but he did not heed the words of God and, therefore, he remained as an unbeliever.
Friends, let me ask you. Have you given in to the pressures of the world? Have you given in to the pressures of society? If so, I want to ask you this morning to repent and to come back to the Lord.