Summary: We are all under pressure - from family, from friends, from work. Herodias' plot to kill John the Baptist is all about such pressure & saving face in the presence of those who you think are important - sure God is the only one who really matters.

People Pressure Mark 6:14-29

Pressure, pressure and more pressure…. Pressure from family, pressure from friends, pressure from work.. pressure

O for Peace, peace perfect peace in this dark world of sin.

Do you ever feel like you are in a pressure cooker, or that you are being pulled and pushed in every direction?

We all have to live with pressure, but people-pressure can be the most difficult to deal with.

It is by far more difficult than pressure from our circumstances or schedules, or even our responsibilities – we can control and prioritise these.

I suppose we feel compelled to respond to people-pressure. After all, people are expecting us to do something….. How do you respond?

Do you allow yourself to be manipulated by the pressures of other people's expectations and demands?

Are you able, in the midst of that pressure, to think clearly and make the right decisions?

Is your action based on what you believe is the will of God, or do you simply react to those around you?

Today’s gospel is a sad commentary of how we can become so entangled in the web of human relationships and people-pressure that we ultimately decide to do even what we don't want to do!

We don’t want to lose face, even if we have made stupid promises.

Herod Antipas had taken unlawfully and married Herodias, the wife of Herod's brother, Philip.

We see, in Herodias, a pressure-pusher who is someone who seeks to have her own way by whatever means are necessary.

Here is a manipulator. Here is someone who acts out of her own personal ambition and pride.

Herodias set up Herod.

• She decided to give him a birthday banquet.

• She made the guest list out and invited just the right people.

• She used her daughter to dance before Herod and his guests.

• She was devious and manipulated Herod to get her own way.

Just as Herodias was a pressure-pusher, to a certain degree, we can become pressure-pushers as well.

How do you go about trying to influence people? What methods do you use to try to get your own will?

• Do you ever withhold affection until someone has done what you want?

• Do you ever use power or the fear of retaliation or rejection to keep people in line?

• Do you ever use smooth talk to press and push using an incessant repetition of your desire, even after you know they have heard you?

• Do you seek to manipulate and set people up to make your point or straighten them out?

In Salome, Herodias’ daughter we see someone who is a pressure-pawn. It doesn't seem that Salome had any problem with John the Baptist.

• She was simply a willing pawn in her mother's chess game.

• She was someone her mother could use.

• She became a ploy, skilfully executed as her mother worked out her devious schemes.

We can all be used by someone else in their attempt to put pressure on someone else.

We need to be on our guard against this and we must be careful never to do someone else's bidding as a conduit for their influence to be felt.

And then we have Herod's friends, the guests at the party – by saying nothing they spoke volumes - they are the pressure-perpetuators.

While all this was going on, they just sat there and when Herod made his foolish promise to Salome, no one spoke out to make him question what the implications of his foolishness would produce.

When the head of John the Baptist was asked for, again no one spoke out or questioned the terrible act that was about to occur.

They were silent. But in their silence, they perpetuated the pressure Herod felt; and in fact, they participated in the evil and cruel act that followed.

• Do we keep silent when we see others manipulated and pressurised?

• Do we just sit and watch, to see how they will handle it, or what they will do?

• Do we, in doing so, add to the pressure they feel? Or do we speak up and give them the freedom to be the unique people God has created them to be?

• Do we let people know that they don't have to please us, that our friendship or love or commitment is not based on their agreeing with us?

• Do we let people know that they don't have to live their lives asking themselves the question, "What will they think of me?

The person we need to please is God.

The question we need to have before us at all times is not "What will they think of me?" but "What will God think of me?"

There is pressure everywhere. There is pressure from situations and circumstances, pressure from people, and even pressure we put on ourselves.

How do we respond to it? … We can respond like Herod we can be manipulated by it to the point where we are forced to make decisions contrary to what we know to be right.

Or we can refuse to yield to it and seek the will of God instead.

Here is the key to withstanding the pressures which come upon us and it is found in the life of Jesus, how did He respond? ..

He knew what it was to endure the pressures of people.

There were many who wanted Jesus to jump through their little hoops, to perform for them, to say the right things in the right way.

There were the Sadducees who wanted Him to stay out of politics.

There were the Pharisees who wanted Him to respect all the traditions of their denomination.

There were the Zealots who wanted Him to overthrow Rome and set up a kingdom here on earth.

But Jesus responded to none of these pressures, rather, He simply sought the will of His Father in heaven and did it.

Instead of reacting, He acted.

He never did anything because of the pressure of the people.

Jesus never worried about what people thought.

Jesus knew His mission was to do the Father's will. That was His first and only priority.

As it should be ours!