Summary: This passage in Mark is one of great tragedy. It has been suggested there were actually two deaths revealed - the death of John the Baptist and the death of Herod's conscience.
A Tragic Death
Mark 6: 14-29
Our text today deals with the horrific and tragic death of John the Baptist. Mark discussed the character of John and the tragic reason for his untimely death. The text actually deals with John’s death in retrospect, sometime after it had happened.
John’s untimely death is not the only tragedy revealed in the text. In fact, several commentaries present the fact that John’s wasn’t the only death that day – Herod’s conscience also died that day. Herod was confronted with an abundance of truth, and this appears to be the moment when his conscience was seared, never again being sensitive to the Spirit of God.
While this text reveals a tragic event in time, it also reveals valuable lessons for everyone today. We will discuss the devastating effects of sin and the tragedy of neglecting the Lord. I hope our hearts are fixed on the Lord, with a committed desire to serve Him. As we discuss the lessons in the text, I want to consider: A Tragic Death.
I. The Incarceration of John (17-20) – These verses deal with the arrest and imprisonment of John. Though them we discover:
A. The Reason (17-18) – For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her.  For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife. While we don’t have a lot of detail about John’s life and ministry, we do have enough to know he was very bold in his preaching and committed to the ways of God. Herod had taken his brother’s wife and married her. According to historical accounts, Herod and his wife had visited Philip and Herodias in Rome. While there an adulterous relationship began, leading to Herod and Herodias leaving their spouses for each other. Being the man he was, John challenged Herod regarding his adultery, proclaiming it was unlawful for him to have Herodias. This angered Herod and he cast John in prison.
Unfortunately this attitude and resentment toward biblical preaching has remained since Jesus’ time. He was accused, arrested, and crucified because of His preaching and proclamation of His deity. Paul was imprisoned and beheaded for preaching the Gospel. The world resents biblical preaching because it confronts sin, revealing our depravity and need for salvation.
B. The Restraint (19) – Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not. While Mark typically moves at a quicker pace than the other gospels, revealing less detail, he does offer a bit more insight to John’s tragic death. While Herod was not pleased with John’s boldness and condemnation, he had not yet given the order to have him executed. Matthew and Luke reveal that he feared an uprising of the Jews due to the popularity of John among them. We will discover that although Herod was angry with John, he held an undeniable interest in him. It appears that although Herod refused to admit his sin, he knew John had spoken truth. Herodias wanted John dead, but at this moment he was secure in Herod’s jail.