Summary: An examination of the arrest and martyrdom of John the Baptist, showing that a man may kill the messenger, but not his message.
The Preacher Who Lost His Head
Aim: To show how John’s fearless condemnation of Herod and his wife resulted in his death, yet his message lived on.
Text: Mark 6:14-29
Introduction: John the Baptist was, of course, the forerunner to Christ, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” He pointed men to the Saviour. It was from John’s lips that we receive that great text first boomed out from Jordan’s banks “ Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” His message was simple: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
John was a faithful prophet and preacher of the Word of God and yet he died an untimely and premature death, and why? Because his message upset the wife of Herod - and what was his message? “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:18). In other words he challenged the immoral behaviour of those who ruled the land, and the consequence was death.
He was an unpopular preacher - yet he was true to the Word of God. His faithfulness brought him into direct conflict with the governmemt of his day, and as a consequence he lost his life.
This evening we are going to examine three facts surrounding the life and death of John the Baptist.
1. Herod’s Mistreatment of John
2. Herod’s Murder of John
3. Herod’s Misgivings About John
I. Herod’s Mistreatment of John - vss 17-20
A. Verses 16-20 are a flashback.
1. The primary thrust of this passage is centred on the ministry of Christ, but in vss 14-16 we read that Herod considered Jesus to be John the Baptist reincarnated, which then causes Mark to focus upon John’s death.
2. It is an interesting account, for John fulfils a prophetic role insofar as he is the herald of the Christ, an office prophetically ascribed to Elijah.
3. Elijah you will recall ran into trouble with a king, Ahab, who was motivated by a wicked queen, Jezebel.
4. John the Baptist ran into trouble with a king, Herod Antipas, who was likewise motivated by a wicked wife, Herodias.
B. 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 hi first wife as she did her husband and they married each other.
1. 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).
2. John was an O.T. prophet he 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, Bible in hand and outright condemned the marriage of Herod and his wife as sinful.
3. That was not a popular theme.
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 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.”
b. It is interesting how some people will have it in for the man of God - and most often it is those whose lives have been touched by his preaching.
c. Instead of repenting of the wrong they resist the Spirit and seek to avenge themselves against God’s man.
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, ands John would preach to him, and Herod heard him ,and the A.V. says “He did many things and heard him gladly.”