Devotional #17 (1/21/13). John the Baptist is murdered.
Intro: Last week we saw Jesus’s hometown not want any healing and the disciples getting sent out to bless others and practice what Jesus taught them. This week we have the story of how John the Baptist died which seems out of place here. But Mark puts it here because we need to know it to understand verses 14-16 and because it is important. Remember Mark is telling an action-packed story so he keeps the reader’s attention instead of writing in the exact order they happened.
This Week’s Reading: Mark 6:14-29.
vv. 14-16. “King” Herod Antipas was scared of Jesus because he thought maybe Jesus would kill him and take over as “king”. In verses 14 and 16 Herod says that he thinks Jesus is John the Baptist come back from the dead. As we’ll see this may have been because of the guilt of putting John to death.
vv. 17-18. Herod put John the Baptist in prison because Herod’s wife didn’t like John. Herod’s wife was named “Herodias” and was: 1. Married to his brother Herod Phillip I (Source 1) and 2. actually Herod’s niece from his brother Aristobulus (Source 2). John was very public and told Herod to his face that marrying your sister-in-law and incest were wrong and Herodias didn’t like that. So to make her happy Herod put John in prison.
vv. 19-20. Herodias really wanted to kill John the Baptist but Herod new John was a godly man so he wouldn’t allow it. It’s interesting that what John said bugged Herodias so much, isn’t it? Who was John? Just some dirty guy that lived in the desert and gave people bad news (i.e. that they needed to stop sinning and go back to God). So who cares what this weirdo thought? It probably bothered Herodias a little because she knew in her heart what she was doing was wrong, she was convicted by God. When we talk about being convicted by God we mean that God is gently telling us not to do something.
But I think it bothered her more because she thought she had power because of her family and being married to Herod but she couldn’t make John shut up! And she couldn’t stop her Hebrew “subjects” from looking at her and knowing she was living in sin. Aren’t we like that? Sometimes something will convict us of something we know we’re doing wrong and instead of stopping we just get angry. It can be difficult to be humble and confess to God and men that we’re wrong.
21-23. Now we see Herodias waited until Herod gave himself a birthday party. He told Herodias’ daughter that she had danced so well that he would give her anything she wanted up to half his “kingdom”. Herod actually wasn’t a king and didn’t have a kingdom. After the first Herod’s death (“Herod the Great”, who ruled 37-4B.C.*) the region was divided among his four sons**. The Herod here “was Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee”**. He is referenced as a “king” in vv. 22, 25, 26, etc. but this was because the Galileans called him that title**. So this may indicate disillusionment on Herod’s part or an attempt at boasting.
* MacArthur, p. 1394.
** MacArthur, p. 1419, notes under Mt. 14:1.
vv. 24-25. I can see Herodias’ daughter being very disappointed at this advice! Picture her running to her mom with many ideas and fantasies in her mind and then being told to kill some prisoner. Nevertheless we see in the next verse she does it and quickly.
vv. 26-29. Herod is sad to kill John but realizing he swore “oaths and because of those who sat with him” he “as a monarch, felt bound because oaths were considered sacred and unbreakable” (Source 3). What a stupid reason for a great man of God to die! But we know that God always has a plan. It wasn’t that Herodias won but instead John won…he got to go to heaven sooner. Jesus uses his cousin John’s death as an example later on and it was obvious that John had done his job, pointing to Jesus.
Conclusion: When we read stories like this we can be surprised that God doesn’t save someone who was a good person, like John. Couldn’t Jesus have saved John? Absolutely! Did He want to make John’s pain stop? Yes, Jesus did want that. But we have to understand Jesus didn’t come just to heal people from physical pain and death but He came to save people from spiritual death in hell. Christians will go through difficult things but God’s peace will comfort them perfectly. It is an incredible thing to look at death as the next step instead of the end. I would like to end this with a quote from A.W. Tozer in his awesome book, Knowledge of the Holy. He says, “Let man be convinced that nothing can harm him and instantly for him all fear goes out of the universe. The nervous reflex, the natural revulsion to physical pain may be felt sometimes, but the deep torment of fear is gone forever. God is love and God is sovereign. His love disposes Him to desire our everlasting welfare and His sovereignty enables Him to secure it. Nothing can hurt a good man (p. 99).
Source 2: MacArthur, p. 1471
Source 3: MacArthur, p. 1472