Chapter 23

A very sad interlude
Mark 6:14-29 (NASB)

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14 And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.” 15 But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!” 17 For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death and could not do so; 20 for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him. 21 And a strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee; 22 and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” 23 And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And immediately she came in haste before the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me right away the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 And when his disciples heard about this, they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb.

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Mark 6:14-29
The staggering reputation of John the Baptist

King Herod hears what Jesus and His disciples are doing. Rumours circulate about who Jesus is—perhaps Elijah or another prophet? Herod thinks Jesus is a resurrected John the Baptist. That cannot be, but it shows John’s amazing impact on the wicked king. What a reputation!

Herod had beheaded John when asked by Herodias’ daughter. Her daughter pleased Herod and his guests by dancing at Herod’s birthday feast One can imagine what kind of dancing they applauded as alcohol flowed. Herod rashly promised to give her up to half his kingdom. Herodias, his immoral mistress and brother’s wife, made her request John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Herod, too proud to withdraw his promise before his guests, complied despite feeling very sorry. How weak!

Herodias hated John the Baptist because he told Herod, It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife. John’s brave faithfulness to God’s word and standards cost him his life. His example reminds Christians to obey God without compromise,  even when threatened by evil. It reminds us that following Jesus can be very costly. Many others have been killed by putting God first. We need God’s help and strength to follow Christ, and His special grace to face opposition, if it comes.

Mark 6:29
But where is John the Baptist now?

John’s disciples loyally came to collect his body to bury it. Viewed from eternity, all Christians’ sufferings are light compared with the weight of glory and blessing ahead in Christ.[1] John’s death simply promoted him into Paradise sooner than expected! Paul, writes later to the Philippian Christians that to be with Christ – is very much better.[2]

All life’s gains and losses reduce in importance when considered in the light of eternity. Death makes a millionaire no richer than a bankrupt. A deceased property tycoon is no better off than a beggar dying while sleeping on the street. The world’s most popular man has no advantage in death over an unknown hermit. Kings and queens in sumptuous palaces and murderers serving life sentences are on level ground in death.

Without a personal trust in Christ—which alone gives us eternal life[3] instead of our deserved eternal judgement—life is short and rudderless. Knowing Christ as Saviour changes that. With past sins forgiven, our present life is purposeful as we live for Christ in His strength. Our eternal future is secure in Jesus.

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[1]   .  2 Corinthians 4:17.
[2]   .  Philippians 1:23.
[3]   .  Acts 4:12.

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Questions on Chapter 23
Mark 6:14-29 A very sad interlude.

A. What about John the Baptist impresses you most?   Mark 6:18-20    John 1:19-36

B. What must we expect at times if we insist on applying God’s truth rather than on pleasing men?   Mark 6:17-19, 27     2 Timothy 3:12

C. Consider the weaknesses of King Herod?  Do you have any of those weaknesses?  If so, how can God help you overcome them?   Mark 6:20   2 Timothy 4:3   Mark 6:22-23   1 John 2:16   Ecclesiastes 5:2   Mark 6:26   Proverbs 29:25   1 John 1:17   James 1:5