14: “King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known.” – Jesus, His life, His teaching, and His death have become known. Most had heard of it. What happens next, how one responds to the hearing, is the important part of the story.
14b-15: “Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead’…; but others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet.’” – When people first hear of Jesus they struggle with His identity. Attempts are made to pigeonhole or compartmentalize where He fits into their understanding and perspective of life.
17: “For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John…” – Mark takes a break in his story about Jesus to lay the foundation for what lay ahead. John stood up for truth and lost his life because of it. Now Jesus was entering the scene, again standing for truth against religious hypocrisy. His path would lead to a similar outcome.
18: “For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’” – Jewish law (Lev 18:16, 20:21) strictly forbade Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife. John, true to his message regarding the forgiveness of sins, stood before Herod pointing out his transgression.
20: “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man.” – Herod’s fear probably stemmed from the following and influence that John had developed through his ministry. Herod was fearful of what others might think or do.
23: “And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you…’” – Herod’s weaknesses of character are revealed.
25: “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” – Herodias, Herod’s wife, had taken his moment of weakness and had turned the situation into her favor. Whereas, Herod had only imprisoned John to silence his influence, the murderous Herodias had other plans. Her scheme gels and she forces Herod’s hand.
Points to Contemplate:
Where does Jesus fit into your life? Is He just a historical figure of the past, a prophet, or a teacher? Does His life provide you with more than a few simple stories to share with your children at Christmas and Easter? How familiar are you with all of His teachings? Do you grasp the truth in some of His lessons but become lost in how most of them apply to your life? Is He the God you pray to? Is He an element of every aspect of your life or do you categorized Him and contain Him to only your “religious” circles and conversations? In what ways are you like Herod in your attempts to filter your understanding of Jesus through your needs and circumstances?
What truths do you want to remain hidden in your life? To what extent do you go to hide from the truth? John stood in front of Herod and challenged Him to address an issue that Herod wanted to ignore. Who convicts you of your transgressions? Do you have someone in your life that stands before you, calling you to take inventory of your deeds and transgressions? When they do, what is your response? Are you loving or thankful? Or do you tend to “behead” them in some fashion, ignoring their plea and locking them out of your life? Do you recognize that one of the most important roles that the Holy Spirit performs in your life is to convict you, to draw to your attention to those areas of your life you would rather leave ignored? Could the Holy Spirit be using the people you have “beheaded” to do this?
Herod was afraid of John and did not want to do him any harm. And yet, his weakness in flesh caused him to make a promise that trapped him into an action he didn’t want to take. What promises do you tend to make in your life out of your weaknesses? Do these promises tend to trap you into situations that you should have avoided? In church life we frequently say yes to things that perhaps we shouldn’t have. How do we avoid over-extending ourselves simply because we are afraid to say no? What should have Herod done differently? Avoided the situation that exposed his weakness? Tempered his excitement and willingness to please? Perhaps, he should have stood strong when he found himself trapped? Do any of these insights provide you with guidance in your life? Does this story illustrate the importance of clearly understanding God’s plan for your life and sticking with the plan in all circumstances?
Our lessons this week celebrate God’s creation and the plans He has for our lives. Do you acknowledge that God has created all things, including you? Do you find hope and encouragement in the understanding that He has purpose and intent for your life? Do you earnestly seek God in all aspects of your life, searching for ways to fulfill your destiny as a child of God? Do you base your identity and purpose in your relationship with Jesus Christ? Do you stand up in defense and bear witness to God’s truth in the world?
Promises of the Gospel:
Unfortunately, there are many areas in our lives where we become like Herod. We have a tendency to sit on a throne of self-righteousness attempting to control our kingdoms in a manner that suits our needs. Our weaknesses create fear that dominates our actions and reactions to the situations we encounter. We do not want to be held accountable for our sins and transgressions and frequently lock those out of our life who bring them to our attention. We have heard of Christ and we know what He represents yet, there is still a tendency to limit His influence and to partition Him into only a few areas of our lives. Even though we know that God has a plan for our life we run willy-nilly into situations that entrap us and control us. We allow circumstances to control who we are and how we respond instead of relying on God’s guiding Spirit to lead, convict and grow us into the disciples He wants us to be. Herod stands as a model for who we tend to be instead of who God wants us to be.