Read Mark 6:14-29
Remember John the Baptist, the guy in the wilderness who kicked off the book of Mark? Some thought him crazy, yet many were drawn to him and his message of repentance. The thing about John was that he didn’t curb his message so as not to offend – he spoke God’s truth whether people liked it or not. And some quite simply did not like it. Herodias was one such woman who didn’t like the message John was speaking, probably due to the fact that he was directly attacking her and her marriage. Herodias was married to King Herod, but was also married to Herod’s brother, Philip. John thought it was important to point out to Herod that it was a bad thing to be with his brother’s wife.
Herodias wasn’t a big fan of John and convinced her husband to arrest John in a desperate attempt to make him be quiet. In fact, Herodias wanted John dead but Herod wasn’t quite willing. Sure, he didn’t like what John was saying about his wife, but he did like listening to John. Not only did he enjoy listening to John, but he also feared him. There was no doubt in Herod’s mind that John was a Holy and righteous man and he therefore attempted to protect him from the outrage of his wife.
Yet Herod underestimated his wife’s anger. During Herod’s birthday celebrations Herodias saw her opportunity to silence John once and for all. In a moment of foolishness after witnessing what was no doubt a beautiful dance by his daughter, Herod declares to his daughter in front of all his guests, “Ask of anything and I shall give it to you, even up to half my kingdom.” With such a question, the daughter turns to her mum for advice, and in a moment of triumph Herodias tells her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist.
Faced with the prospect of immense embarrassment for failing to keep his word in front of all his guests, Herod has no option but to do as she asks. And in a moment of tragedy the head of John the Baptist was served to a young girl on a platter.
I admire John the Baptist, not so much for his diet (locusts and wild honey doesn’t really work for me) but his willingness to speak God’s truth whatever the consequences. Sitting in prison surely there was the temptation to soften his word. I’m not saying he should have said what they were doing was ok, but maybe he could have focused on different sins, sins that the man who had the power to put his head on a platter wasn’t committing. Maybe he should have just talked about God’s love more – didn’t he hear that it’s God job to judge not ours – and yet here he is appearing to judge.
See that’s the point – the gospel that we are commanded to preach is a gospel of repentance. Repentance means to do a u-turn or to turn back to God. Instead of doing what we think is right, it’s about making God King in every part of our life. We don’t come to Jesus because we think He is going to make our life shinier – no we come to Jesus only after we realise that we have done the wrong thing. It is only possible to accept Jesus as Saviour if we first accept the fact that we need Jesus. In modern culture we don’t really like to think that we have done the wrong thing or that we are God’s enemies. We like to focus on the positives and tell people how wonderful they are and that they would be even more wonderful if they accepted Jesus. We focus on God’s love and forget about his holiness.
God is Holy and because he is Holy we must also be Holy. Yet by our own strength and our own admission if we are honest (and we must be honest) we are not Holy. It is only through Jesus that we are made Holy. Yet when we only tell people of Jesus’ love and forget to tell them that they need Jesus, then we are simply selling them short. The truth is not everyone will accept this happily – there are plenty of Herodias’s in this world, but we have not been called to please people but to serve our Holy God.
- What stood out for you in today’s story? Do you have any questions?
- Have you accepted that you need Jesus?
- At Rivers we say that the Kingdom of God is wherever the King gets whatever he wants. Does the King get what he wants in your life?
- In what areas of your life are you trying to be in charge instead of letting Jesus be in charge? What needs to change? Who could you ask to help you?
- Take time to listen for God’s promptings this week as you spend time in prayer, reading God’s word (the bible) and observing the world around you.