Summary: This sermon illustrates that though a messenger may die, his message, if it is Scriptural lives on and continues to make an impact.
The Death of John
Text: Mark 6:14-29
Introduction: We opened Mark 6 with the Lord Jesus returning to Nazareth where His mission was met with rejection. We are told that turning from that town He, “went round about the villages, teaching.” You have heard it said that one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure; this was certainly true of Jesus’ ministry. The teaching that Nazareth rejected was welcomed and accepted in other parts, and so the Lord commissioned His disciples to travel in twos throughout the area preaching repentance casting out devils and healing the sick. You can read about that in verses 7-13.
Jesus fame continued to spread. So much so that He was grabbing the attention of those in high office, in particular Herod Antipas.
Herod was suffering from a guilty conscience. You see he had done something truly awful, even by his low standards; he had put to death John the Baptist, a man he both admired and feared. Now hearing about Jesus Herod believes that perhaps John had come back from the dead to haunt him. At this point Mark tells the story of John’s death.
I. Herod’s Mistreatment of John - vss 17-20
A. Notice as we open this account that Herod had cast John into prison.
1. The prophet has been arrested, bound and imprisoned, and why? Because he dared challenge the wicked lifestyle of those in high society who ruled over the province of Galilee and Perea, and in particular the shameful behaviour of Herod and his wife Herodias.
2. Herodias was Herod’s second wife, originally he had married the daughter of Aretas the king of Arabia, but when he met Herodias who was his half niece, and wife of his half brother Philip, he seduced her, and divorced his first wife, as she did her husband and they married each other.
3. Now the O.T law is very specific in its condemnation of such behaviour -
a. “Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.” (Leviticus 18:16).
b. “And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.” (Leviticus 20:21).
4. John preached the law - not as a means of grace, but as a measure of God’s holiness, and so whilst the rest of Herod’s domain gossiped about the goings on at the palace John went one step further, he stood on the palace steps, Scriptures in hand and outright condemned the marriage of Herod and his wife as sinful.
C. Now John’s preaching of the law created a deep resentment in the heart of Herodias.
1. She didn’t care for this very embarrassing public rebuke, she had no love for John and despised the way in which he dragged her name into the public arena under God’s condemnation.
2. Verse 19 says she, “had a quarrel against him.”
a. Lit: “She had it in for him.”
(i) It has often been said that the faithful preaching of the Word of God will make a person mad or make them get right.
(ii) Herodias responded to John’s preaching with anger.
3. Such was this woman’s hatred of John that, she “would have killed him; but she could not.” (Mark 6:19).
D. She could not because her husband would not consent to it.
1. You see Herod, for all his faults, had a certain respect for John.
2. In part this was politically motivated for John was popular with the people, but it was also partly because Herod had a superstitious fear of John - vs 20
3. As a compromise to his wife’s demands Herod had John imprisoned, but Herod himself had a love/hate relationship with the prophet.
a. He would send for John from time to time, and John would preach to him, and Herod heard him, and the A.V. says, “He did many things and heard him gladly.”
b. How strange that Herod would make minor corrections in his life, yet would not consent to John’s release in order to please his wife.
c. There is nothing more pitiful than a man who relinquishes the rule of his life and home to the woman in his life.
(i) This was the sin of Adam, Samson, Solomon, & Ahab and the sin of Herod also.
(ii) Though Herod had given an inch to Herodias in taking away John’s liberty, the woman would ultimately take a mile in taking away his life.
II. Herod’s Martyrdom of John - vss 21- 29
A. We may break this passage into four bite size portions to grasp all that is going on.
B. Consider Herod’s Party.
1. See Mark 6:21
2. This is one of the reasons the J.W’s do not celebrate birthdays - they make the point that the only two men who are mentioned in scripture celebrating a birthday are Pharaoh and Herod, both of whom were pagans, and both of whom commanded executions in celebration.