Summary: Are you like Herod - haunted by your sins but you don't catch on that your hope is in Jesus?
No doubt I now grew very pale; --but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased --and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound --much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath --and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly --more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men --but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed --I raved --I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder --louder --louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! --no, no! They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! --they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now --again! --hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!
"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his hideous heart!"
“The Tell-tale Heart,” Edgar Allen Poe
Yet here’s a spot.
Out, damned spot! out, I say! – One: two: why, then ‘tis time to do’t. – Hell is murky! – Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? – Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him.
The Thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now? – What, will these hands ne’er be clean? – No more o’ that, my lord, no more o’ that: you mar all with this starting.
Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!
Wash your hand, put on your nightgown; look not so pale. – I tell you yet again, Banquo’s buried; he cannot come out on’s grave.
Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Act V, Scene I, William Shakespeare
There is nothing like guilt to haunt a person. Guilt haunts the major character in our passage – Herod.
Our previous passage related the mission trip of Jesus’ disciples. They had been sent throughout the area of Galilee preaching, casting out demons, and healing, all in Jesus’ name. Jesus’ fame grows even greater and now arouses the attention of Herod: 14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known.
Speculation about Jesus, of course, runs rampant, and Mark gives us some of the alternatives people were proposing.
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.”
John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That seems an odd choice. First of all, John and Jesus were contemporaries. Indeed, they were cousins and surely no more than two years apart, piecing together Matthew’s and Luke’s birth narratives. But though you and I know that, not everyone else at that time did. According to 1:14, Jesus does not begin his ministry in Galilee until after John is imprisoned. As far as many people are concerned, Jesus appears out of nowhere after John’s death, or at least after he disappears. Remember also that there is no news media or modern communications systems. News travels by hearsay for the common people.
Taking this into account, why would they believe that Jesus was John raised from the dead? Resurrections were not common occurrences, especially for men beheaded. Again, not everyone would have known that John was beheaded or at least known for sure. More than likely, the authorities did not send out a public announcement. But this rising from the dead – how do they come up with that? It rises out of Jewish hopes of a new age to come.
All along, the Jews have hoped for the Messiah to come who would redeem Israel from her enemies and establish God’s kingdom in peace and prosperity. But it is in the period of about 200 B.C. to 100 A.D. that their hopes were especially intensified. This period is noted for a particular category of writings called “apocalyptic.” These writings spurred the hope of many Jews in a Messiah who would come in great power to usher in God’s kingdom. The writings were not cohesive; they did not always agree and there were many conflicting ideas about the Messiah and what the times would be like when he came. But they generally agreed that his coming would be preceded and accompanied with miraculous signs. What greater sign is there than a resurrection, especially a resurrection, because the final age included the resurrection of the righteous? John rising from the dead would signify that he is either the Messiah or the one who prepares the coming of the Messiah.