14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 Others said, “He is Elijah.” And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.” 16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” “The head of John the Baptist,” she answered. 25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother.
29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
1. The gospels force us to face the question, Who is Jesus? We cannot remain undecided. Or rather, indecision is itself an answer. In verses 14-16, Mark highlights again the identity confusion surrounding Jesus. Is he Elijah? A prophet? Herod even thinks Jesus might be John raised from the dead. Our biggest evangelistic tool might not be brilliant exegesis or snazzy apologetics, but this one question: Who is Jesus to you? We must help others honestly face this question.
- What are your nursing in your heart? Herodias nursed a grudge. She watered the seed of bitterness until its vine strangled life—John’s life, literally, and hers, spiritually. Whatever we water, grows. If we nurse the fruit of the Spirit and feed on God’s Word, his character grows within us. But if we feed the life-strangling passions of jealousy, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness, our hearts become consumed to the point of death.
- Whom do you fear? God or man? Herod respected John as a godly man. More so, Herod was moved—convicted—by John’s message. And yet, Herod’s fear of man—what others thought of him—was greater. He was manipulated by Herodias, and made a rash vow. Still, he could have broken that vow. He could have repented and chosen right over wrong. Does this remind you of anyone in the Old Testament, another man whose vow cost him an innocent life? Judges 11 tells the story of Jephthah, the warrior leader of Israel, who was so desperate to defeat the Ammonites that he attempted to bargain with God, saying, “If you give me this victory, I will sacrifice the first thing out of my house when I return home.” After his victory, he returned home. And who came out first? His only child, a daughter. What is so terribly sad is that he felt he needed to follow through with his vow and sacrifice her. He shoved Yahweh into the same category as the Baals of the Ammonites, believing he had no choice but to do as he vowed or else risk the wrath of God. He didn’t truly know that Yahweh, the God of Israel, desired mercy, not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6), desired the sacrifice of a humble and broken spirit over the sacrifice of flesh and blood. Jephthah could have repented. Herod could have repented. What about us? Do we truly know the heart of God?