As Jesus’ mission began after John’s imprisonment, the disciples’ mission begins after his death. The two events may appear to be unrelated to each other, but Mark deliberately links them together.
This story then clarifies matters for the Markan audience by distinguishing between the two men, while at the same time foreshadowing the sort of violent end that Jesus would also come to. 9:9–13, is in a sense the commentary on 6:14–29. Thus, we would do well not to see this as some colorful digression but rather as a story which sets forth the theme of martyrdom. The righteous often meet untimely ends in a dark and dangerous world.
This and 1:4–8 are the only accounts in Mark that are not about Jesus. Mark devoted much more space to the death of John the Baptist than he did to his ministry and more than any other Gospel. John’s death was significant to Mark as a preview of the death of Jesus. Just as John’s ministry has foreshadowed Jesus’, so does John’s death, for: Jesus, like John, will be executed by civil authorities; Herod, like Pilate later, hesitates to execute the person in question but then does so; Herodias, like the chief priests later, finally gets her way through scheming and pressure; the disciples come and bury John, like Joseph of Arimathea is to do for Jesus.
This tale then serves as an ominous warning about the fate of Jesus. The cross looms in the background from this point on in the narrative. 
Mark 6:14–15 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”
Mark is driving His central theme. Who is Jesus? What does His ministry mean? All along people are asking who then is this? Where does this authority come from? What does he have to do with us?
So, some of the possibilities are growing in the popular mind. Jesus begins His ministry at John’s arrest (Mark 1:14). Jesus’s disciples begin their ministry at John’s death. John’s ministry is giving way to Jesus’ ministry, is it because Jesus is John Resurrected?
There is also a tradition that Elijah, who did not die but was taken up into Heaven (2 Kings 2), would return to instigate the Messianic reign. Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. Jesus affirms that this Elijah character is John Himself. But there is also a tradition that is older which goes back to Moses. Deuteronomy 18:18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. Peter affirms in Acts 3 that Jesus is the greater prophet. But at this point in Marks account, who is Jesus? This has been a major plot point throughout the Gospel. Mark stated in 1:1 that Jesus is the Son of God.
We are approaching the moment the disciples make their decision at Mark 8:30. The center of this gospel account. Who is Jesus and what does His ministry mean? It is the decision everyone must make. We see that Herod Antipas is struggling to determine this as well. Antipas has a troubled conscience.
Antipas says that Jesus is John resurrected, John who “I murdered,” he admits. Antipas is superstitious. A double minded man. A man attracted to holiness and righteousness, but attracted even more to his own pleasures, his own reputation, his own interests. He is slave to his own passions and is easily manipulated by them. And that has dire consequences for everyone around him.
What happened? What did John do?
Mark 6:17–18 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
Let’s back up. Herod the great was king in Palestine under the Romans when Christ was born. Herod the great murdered all the babies to try to rid himself of the messiah, the true king of Israel born in Bethlehem. Herod had sons. He named most of them Herod and so it gets confusing. But Herod Antipas is the dolt we are discussing in this story.
George Foreman, the former heavy weight champion, has five sons and named them all George. Why? It is important to make modern connections to biblical stories to make the stories more human, give them flesh and bones. ‘Great,’ men are so full of themselves they give their own name to children as if it were a title.
Antipas had a brother named Herod Philip. Philip married his niece, the daughter of another brother in violation of Leviticus 18:13–14. Philip committed incest by marrying his niece Herodias. But Antipas thought she was quiet something and convinced her to divorce Philip and marry himself. Antipas divorced his wife and added adultery to incest in violation of Leviticus 18:16 and Leviticus 20:21.
Antipas desperately wanted to be king, but the cruelty of his grandfather Herod the Great so disturbed the Romans that they took the title away from the family. The romans stripped the Herods of the title king and made four brothers joint rulers, called a tetrarchy. So, Antipas is a tetrarch, not a king. The royal title had been denied to Antipas by Augustus. Goaded by the ambitious Herodias, it was Antipas’ second request for the title of “king” which officially led to his dismissal and exile by Caligula in A.D. 39.
Incest, adultery, infamy, intrigue. As the story progresses we see the fruit of this lawless and self-indulgent lifestyle. The rich and powerful certainly feast, but they feast on wickedness and death.
Mark 6:19–20 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
Antipas’ self-justification for arresting an innocent man and caving to the whims of his wife is to claim that He is arresting John to keep him safe. Antipas is a weak double-minded man. He knows that John is a righteous man and listens to his preaching with perplexed pleasure. Sitting under good preaching isn’t righteousness though. Antipas is an abdicating, orgasm-chasing, spiritual eunuch.
The whole story is full of echoes from 1st kings where we read of wayward Israel and the influence of the archetypal character known as a Jezebel. John is typologically Elijah, the herald of the messiah and Antipas, the false king, is a new Ahab.
To Antipas, John is more of a curiosity than a man to be obeyed or imitated. Antipas is double-minded and in the wake of his abdication, all hell breaks loose. This is a type, a mirror for you to look upon and judge yourself.
Revelation 2:18–29 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Antipas thinks he is secure because of good works – he is rebuilding the temple of God, he is keeping John “safe,” and he listens to John preach and is “troubled,” by what he hears. But He isn’t repentant. He isn’t altered, he is self-justifying and remains an idol-worshiping, fornicating abdicator. He is seduced through his own passions, submitting to the whims of a modern-day Jezebel who outmaneuvers and destroys him. Many men in the church are the same.
Men submit to their passions and corrupt women for their own sensuality wavering in double minded inaction, while all hell breaks loose around them. Antipas is more interested in pretense and pleasure than piety.
Jesus meets women like Herodias and what is His response? The woman at the well who had been with many men? Jesus doesn’t recruit her into His following to remain as she is for His own pleasure. Does Jesus take a crack at her? No. He confronts her sin and calls her to a higher way; the way of virtue. He is the man that has been missing her whole life and He calls her to follow Him. That is the response to meeting a woman like Herodias. Confrontation and a call to follow Jesus.
Or try John 8. The men want to stone the woman for prostitution. Where’s her dad? Her brothers? How did she end up a prostitute? How do they know she’s a prostitute? They have to have two witnesses to stone someone and my guess in this group there are probably more than that. Jesus steps in and stops the cycle. He defends and protects her. Jesus is the only one qualified to throw stones and He doesn’t. He turns the tables on the hypocritical men who blame her for the sexual immorality of the community. Jesus calls her to repentance and a better way.
Antipas meets a whore and marries her.
Modern men meet her on the internet and turn the screen away from where anyone can see. Modern men put her on the silver screen, I mean Kate Winslet and Halley Barry are such excellent acting talents, right? I mean look at the way they take their clothes off in every movie they are in. Nudity in art was sophisticated, gratuitous sex makes the Netflix shows so gritty and real for the same reason.
Where are the godly men? The men who turn down the opportunity to exploit the failure of the other men, men who objectify women, women who go on to weaponize and monetize their sexuality?
Who teaches them to be this way? Men. Who benefits from it? Men. Who suffers from it? Everyone. Like Harvey Weinstein, Antipas’ casting couch becomes the death bed of numerous careers.
Antipas wants a feminist; a liberated woman. A woman freed from the confines of familial boundaries, financial boundaries, marital boundaries, moral boundaries, judicial boundaries and boundaries of childbearing and childrearing – that kind of woman is down for anything and everything.
And what does Antipas unleash on the world? A woman who knows how to weaponize sexuality with cunning to get what she wants; the murder of a virtuous man, the last man who was going to tell her what the boundaries are. She doesn’t want John’s law on her body.
Jezebels are gonna Jezebel. But behind every Jezebel is a weak, pandering, limp-wristed sensual little man.
See, the reality for women is that they suffer from the fall. In Genesis 3:16, Eve is told that her desire will be for her husband. The term rendered “desire,” occurs only three times in the OT, the other two instances being Genesis 4:7 and S.O.S. 7:10.
In Genesis 4:7 God tells Cain that sin’s desire is contrary to him and sin’s desire is to rule over him. Sin’s desire is contrary to Cain’s and sin desires to rule Him. Sin wants to determine his actions, not follow his lead. The use of this word in both cases suggests that Eve’s desire for her husband is a desire to determine his actions, and the man’s ruling over woman will be a rejection and suppression of her god given influence.
Men willingly submit to women and allow them to rule over them by their flesh. It’s one of the easiest leverage points for fallen women who struggle with the desire to rule over their men. This is weaponized and monetized sexuality.
Herodias’ sexuality had been weaponized her whole life. She knows how to control men. With her flesh. It’s that easy. She can control men by their flesh using her flesh. She learned it from the cradle.
Strip tease as a conspiracy to commit murder is a rare Sinn our circles, but the principle is the same; control men by their flesh using your flesh. The failure of husbands to love their wives properly leaves them seeking attention. A little more neckline, a little more flesh to draw the eyes. Distract men from their wives and you have a little ego boosting victory. You might even get that compliment you desperately desire, by being more desirable than is appropriate. A compliment isn’t a sign of immorality by any means, but we all know what I am talking about; the shock of flesh that turns heads and hearts toward you at the expense of the other women and virtue itself. But that isn’t the chief sexual sin amongst women in our circles, I think. There is another ditch.
Which is weaponized sexuality that doesn’t give too much but gives too little. Showing too much flesh to the wrong men is one sin, showing too little to the right man is the other. There are a lot of reasons to be apart for a time and men are often bone headed fools when it comes to this, which only exasperates the problem. But a man can be turned into a puppet just as easily through deprivation from the right source, as he can be with getting too much from the wrong source. Only the good boy gets his treat if he pleases wifey just so or turning him into a frustrated unguarded fool serves a Jezebel’s overall purposes for control, either way its sin.
1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
How often, married folks, do you consider even the natural separations as times of prayer? Business trips, postpartum, the natural way of things?
We are toying around with a powerful influence.
Men, separation is natural at times. Lead well. Keep it as short as possible but know that God is providing it for your maturity and the maturity of your marriage. Use it as a time for prayer, God knows you need more of that.
Ladies, separations must be intentional and by agreement. If you can’t agree or if he is an idiot, address that and if you can’t, get help. Don’t weaponize it or monetize it. It is meant to be a safeguard against the temptations of the devil. It is a treasure to be bestowed on the worthy spouse whom God has made for you. Don’t believe the lies of secular culture and don’t let the failure of men confuse you. It is a gift from God for one man, as a means of blessing him, not controlling him.
Mark 6:21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee.
While Herodias had been restrained from executing her wrath upon John for a period of time, an appropriate occasion presents itself when Herod celebrated his birthday with a banquet for the leading courtiers and men of his province.
Mark 6:22–25 For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
Stag birthday parties were common to the Herodians,5 and Herodias knew what to expect: a drinking crowd that would become increasingly sensual and nasty as the evening progressed, and increasingly demanding of “male entertainments.”
The “great men” are the inner circle of the tetrarch’s government. The leading men of Galilee are presumably Herod’s courtiers, men of substance who possessed both the leisure and inclination to accompany him to his palace whenever Antipas was resident there.
From what we can tell, the evening was well along and the crowd was sufficiently lubricated when Herodias made her move, using her teenage daughter Salome.6 Herodias is 40, and much like our own day, the standard of beauty isn’t an aging wife well loved, with a gaggle of kids. It’s a barely legal young woman.
“For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests” (v. 22). Normally this dance was performed by one of the hetarai, the professional court prostitutes, but Herodias put forth her own daughter; a well-bred member of a dispossessed royal family, whose sensuous, voluptuous dance, unheard of among women of rank – was outrageous even for the house of Herod.
The young woman pleased Herod and his guests. Pleased, the tipsy tetrarch shouts out, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you” (v. 22). Then he promised her with an oath, consciously wording it just as the king of Persia did to Queen Esther (Esther 5:3): “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom” (Mark 6:23). You can imagine the cheers from the men: “All right, Herod. Yeah!” What would she ask for? Marriage? A pair of matched stallions? A pearled dress from Rome? The trap was perfectly sprung.
Herod was carried away with himself and promised Herodias’s daughter any present she should name, up to half his kingdom. A strange promise from a man who did not possess a kingdom.  Herodias had not fully revealed her intention. She had merely instructed her daughter to perform in such a manner as to win Antipas’ approval.
Young Salome doesn’t know what to ask for. She is a wealthy, landed, high-bred woman. She is a pawn.
When Salome asked what she should claim for herself, Herodias responded with a bluntness and promptness which betrays calculation—the head of John the Baptist. Herodias had waited for this moment. Now that it had come she found it satisfying. Her request in no way shocked Salome, who hastened back at once to Herod to demand the head of John adding her own grim detail “on a platter.” An expression of black humor inspired by the banquet still in progress. What kind of education is this young woman receiving?
“And the king was exceedingly sorry” (v. 26). He was in genuine grief. This word was used only one other time in the New Testament, to describe Jesus’ pain in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:34). For a moment at least, Herod’s conscience was mightily torn! On the one hand, John was a good man and had done Herod much good; Herodias had deceived him. But then again, what would his friends think? His pride was greater than any virtue. He was willing to murder to save face. How often in our own hearts to we do the same? How often does our pride drive us further into sin in obstinate rebellion to God and His law?
Although he revered and protected John, Antipas became the first leader of the Jewish people to kill a prophet since King Jehoiakim (Jer 26:21–23). Not long after the events described in this passage, Emperor Gaius took away Antipas’s title and gave the territory he had ruled to Agrippa, Herodias’s brother (Bruce 1972:249).
The judgement of God cannot be avoided.
It was Herod’s infatuation with Herodias that had led him into an incestual and adulterous relationship. Then to imprison John: and so even devotion to spouses can you lead astray. Such is the human distortion of values that his courtiers saw Herod’s rash promise to a dancing-girl as generosity, and his compliance with a wrong demand as faithfulness to his word. Even the obedience of a daughter to her mother becomes in this case a sin: and so, outside Christ, even ‘natural’ virtues can become distorted into vices. The kingdom of God demands a deeper loyalty, overriding the closest of earthly ties (10:29).
The largely peasant population of Galilee did not have the political connections or aspirations of the Herods. In their own way and on their own terms the people of Galilee faced issues like the ones Herod confronted—loyalty to family and indecision. Jesus had traveled throughout Galilee preaching the gospel and performing miracles. His preaching had created enormous tensions with the two fundamental institutions of Jewish life: the synagogue and the family. The situation had become increasingly polarized, as each new manifestation of the gospel accentuated the differences. When Jesus sent the Twelve out to preach, he created a moment of crisis.
The Twelve were going from village to village like shepherds seeking lost sheep. Would the folk of Galilee become part of the new people of God? Would they cling tenaciously to what is comfortable? Or would they put off deciding what to do, living a double minded life? Mark observes that Herod liked to listen to John. The Greek text says more literally that Herod heard John gladly, a translation which points back to the collection of parables in Mark 4.
In the parable of the soils, the seed that falls on rocky ground represents those who hear the word, receive it gladly, but have no root (4:16–17). One parable from that collection is particularly relevant at this point: With the measure you use, it will be measured out to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him (4:24–25).
These words describe precisely what happened to Herod. He listened to John with considerable interest, but interest was not enough. He needed to act, but because he would not make a decision about John’s words, he became someone else’s pawn and killed the man he had tried to protect.
God is patient and gives us a lifetime to embrace the good news but hearing God’s word and hesitating carries a great risk. The longer we delay in repenting, the more there is for us to repent of. The more we hear without acting, the easier it is to deceive ourselves. As time passes while we limp between two opinions, the more likely it is that we will do things we really do not want to do.
The more you train your wife to control your flesh with her flesh, ruling over you, the more you submit to jezebels – the less your few good works amount to anything. The longer you persist between two desires, the more dangerous it becomes. The more you are an example of a man who can’t control himself and loves pleasure more than piety and the more you seek a banquet of pleasure, the faster the feast of death comes to your world. The more you separate yourselves from one another and let the gift of sex and marital intimacy become a god, a weapon, a means of manipulation – the faster you decline in morality.
And remember the standard, not of Hollywood, but of Christ. That in the confines of your heart and mind you are an adulterer and murderer. How long will you remain between the decision of life and death.
Pleasure or piety. Jesus or self?
Men, when you love Jesus more than yourself. Ladies, when you love Jesus more than yourself – all his gifts directed toward His glory, the more you find out what true freedom and joy is. At His right hand are pleasures, true pleasures, forever more. Come, repent, do not linger. Obey, submit, die and rise in Christ. Amen.
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