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Mark 6:14-29 Death of John the Baptist

Posted by adventbiblestudy on January 8, 2013


Mark 6:14-29 NLTse Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because everyone was talking about him. Some were saying, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. That is why he can do such miracles.” (15) Others said, “He’s the prophet Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet like the other great prophets of the past.” (16) When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.” (17) For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. (18) John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” (19) So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, (20) for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him. (21) Herodias’ chance finally came on Herod’s birthday.He gave a party for his high government officials, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee. (22) Then his daughter, also named Herodias, came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod and his guests. “Ask me for anything you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you.” (23) He even vowed, “I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!” (24) She went out and asked her mother, “What should I ask for?” Her mother told her, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist!” (25) So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!” (26) Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn’t refuse her. (27) So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison, (28) brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother. (29) When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came to get his body and buried it in a tomb.

 

This is a most unusual story based on its location in Mark’s Gospel. It is written between Jesus sending out the twelve and their return. Once we examine the context we begin to understand its deeper meaning.

 

Nothing meant more to Herod than his power. To Herod knowledge is power. Herod gained power through knowledge, keeping it meant everything to him. He paid well to hear all the news about Jesus. Most of the reports were either exaggerated or missing information. Because Herod did not get out of the house very often he had no way of knowing. Relying only on reports he didn’t know if the new prophet was Elijah, one of the other prophets, or John the Baptist come back from the grave. But how?

 

Herod’s wife did not appreciate John after he told him he shouldn’t have married his brother’s wife. Since that day she began plotting John’s death. During that time she decided to plan a birthday party for her husband. Nothing pleased her more than planning a party. Setting the theme, arranging the food, decorations, guest lists and all the details no one appreciated. She wrote out the guest list as her mind wondered over the details and expectations of an endless stream of compliments. After going over details and handing down orders to servants preparing the party she went to see her husband. Walking into the study her joy quickly erupted into a rage when she found Herod talking to John. Nothing enraged her more than to see her husband with her enemy.

 

Once the day arrived guests from all over Galilee began to arrive. Princes, merchants, governors, city and religious officials arrived early knowing Herodias planned something special for every hour of the great event. As the party worn on, Herodias’ patience worn thin. Where were the compliments she had been dreaming about and hoping for? Not even a thank you from her husband. It seemed all her work was for nothing. People drank too much, spilled wine all over the place, dropped food wherever, knocked over furniture, and groped the servants. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

 

Herodias hesitated for a moment, considering if this rowdy crowd deserved to see her daughter dance. He saved her performance for the highlight of the evening. Since everything else failed, she wanted to save her daughter the embarrassment. Something changed her mind. She wasn’t sure why she did. Maybe her dance would save the entire event. Herodias sent her daughter out to dance before the king and guests.

 

Her daughter wore a dress no one would wear in public. The revealing dress showed off every feature of her young slender body. Not much was left to the imagination. In his drunken stupor Herod was filled with lust for his step daughter. The look on his face and body language did not go unnoticed by his wife. Once again rage engulfed her as she looked at Herod then her daughter.

 

As soon as the dance was finished the hall erupted in a resounding applause. The young girl thought it would never end. The response burned in Herodias’ heart as the cheers echoed in her ears. Trying to stand Herod felt light headed from the wine and slunk back into his chair. Clearing his throat as the applause quieted, Herod spoke up. “Ask me for anything you like, and I will give it to you.” He even vowed, “I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!” Giving away half his kingdom meant nothing to Herod in his drunken state. After all, raising taxes was already on the agenda. He had big plans to increase his riches far beyond expectations he had when taking office. His influence grew to a point few people would, or could question his decisions. Not even the Roman governor. The girl stood there for a moment trying to look innocent. She was drinking in all the attention she could. After a minute she gave her response. “I must ask my mother.” The girl knew better than attract all the attention to herself. If she cast a bit of it on her mother, she would remain in her favor. She knew what her mother was capable of.

 

She went out and asked her mother, “What should I ask for?” Her mother told her, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist!” So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!” The request shocked Herod as well as all the guests in the room. Herod looked around the room from face to face,.waiting for someone, anyone to speak up. Everyone held their peace, all waiting to see how the crafty Herod would worm his way out of this predicament. With no way out Herod gave the order to have John beheaded and present the head on a platter to the young girl.

 

It took some time. Everyone waited in silence to see the outcome. No one ate, drank, or spoke. The festive atmosphere turned sour by the gruesome site as a guard entered the hall with John’s severed head. The young girl took the platter and delivered it to her mother.

 

It was an emotional time for Jesus to hear about the death of His cousin John while His disciples were away. He had no one to turn to. John was Jesus’ forerunner, the one to carry the message announcing the new ministry soon to spread across the world. John’s sacrifice was a sign of things to come. It was best the disciples were away learning important lessons as the news spread across the region. Being away from Jesus forced them to discuss the matter among one another, to seek and answer on their own. It was an event designed to test and increase the loyalty and faith of each disciples.

 

Why has this story placed where it is in the Bible? What lessons are learned as we look at the sequence? As Herod gorged himself on lavish foods and wine, willing to give away half his kingdom at the expense of the common people, the disciples were learning lessons to help introduce a proper picture of Heaven when the time arrived for them to begin their ministries.

 

The death of John the Baptist shows the contrast between the lives of Jesus’ disciples and the lavish life style enjoyed by the powers of this world. The wealth and power of Galilee flocked to the extravagant party in Herod’s palace paid for by the sweat and sacrifice of people never expecting to see the inside of Herod’s court. The event showed not one Galation leader dared to stand up for justice. They stood speechless as an innocent man was sentenced to death. For what? From their view point, a silly, misguided pledge by a power hungry, drunken, foolish leader. Judges, doctors, merchants, and religious leaders watched the event escalate to murder without uttering a word. To what degree does this represent the world today?

 

Is the example set by the disciples seen in the same extreme as that of Herod and his collection of dignitaries? The disciples traveled two by two. Jesus sent them out with no money, food, or bag to carry anything extra. They had to rely on the hospitality of strangers. Many of them had little to share, but still took in the two strangers, sharing meager meals and accommodations. The disciples had nothing to offer in return but the authority Jesus gave them to heal, cast out demons, and stories about Him. As the disciples received the physical essentials of life, they freely gave the spiritual. What a drastic contract to Herod who gave the very best, but when one word of justice was required, nothing was offered in return.

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