Mark 6:14-29 Lust, Power, and A Guilty Conscience

14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying,[b] “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

15 Others said, “He is Elijah.”

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”

17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled[c]; yet he liked to listen to him.

21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of[d] Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”

24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.

25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Lust, Power, and a Guilty Conscience

News of a new King in his region would have been mocking to Herod.  This is not Herod the Great, who hunted down Jesus as a baby.  This Herod is one of his descendents.  He had taken his brother’s wife and had also been denied the title of King by Rome.  He was a puppet without honour, carving out a name for himself that always fell short of his ambitions.  Ultimately the Romans removed this Herod from power because he stockpiled weapons.  The power behind the throne was Herodias.  She comes across as a sleazy manipulator.  A woman who would even use her own daughter to titillate her lover into doing her will.  I am reminded of the Philistine Delilah, or the Syro-Phoenecian Jezebel:  women who used sex to manage weak men.  Herod had a conscience, and he found John intriguing, but he did not have the courage or the moral strength to choose John’s message of repentance.

I think many of us have had our senses deadened like Herod.  Pornography and other substitutes for a healthy sex life are enslaving men.  Frequently when I talk to Moody students, I find that they are ashamed of themselves because of their private passions and their self-medication.  Women who control through sex are also missing out on a life of peace and tranquility.  Often these days, a girl will only be aware that she feels better when she is noticed.  She is noticed when she wears revealing clothes and heavy make-up.  She is not noticed as quickly when she is at peace with the world, dedicates her life to service, or develops strength in herself.  However, in the long run a godly man and woman will experience a more satisfying life and have more affect on those around them.

As a man, I fear that I could be like Herod, a man riddled with guilt who hears ghosts in the wind as it blows through his curtains in the night.  A man who also would lose himself in fantasy and dreams of what could be, without spending time building into the reality that God has placed around him. 

Herod is damned.  He is damned because he is weak.  He is in a codependent relationship where his powerful position allows his lover to work out her powerful ambitions.  Because he is unwilling to face his own weakness, he is manipulated and miserable.  I see ‘strong’ women frequently in the media who dominate men.  In fact, I think that many men today do not know what being a man is.  There is difficulty in finding a man who is different from a woman, yet works with women well as a team.  Men in some comedies, like Keeping Up Appearances, are mocked for being manipulated by their wives.  In fact, in that particular show, the pettiness of private ambitions is what drives the humour.  To watch it can be funny, to live it is tragic. 

Perhaps the way back is to face our fears of failure, insignificance, or rejection.  We find all these needs are met when we understand how to cultivate a dependent relationship with God.  From that position of security, we do not need to control in order to reach our goals.  Our ultimate goal is union with Christ, it is not personal power.  When we are united with Christ the anxiety and insecurity melt away – it was hard for John to face his death, but upon death he was released into peace.  It was harder for Herod to come to peace with John’s death.  After John had died Herod was living a life of torment which his own death would not cease.

Prayer

Jesus, I pray that you would continue to be the source of my satisfaction.  I pray that I would not look to the past and romanticize it in ways that draw me away from the present.  It is hard to live a life of acceptance.  My location geographically is from you, help me not to push too hard toward a life in Grayslake.  My location romantically is from you.  Help me to cultivate an interdependent relationship of mutual respect.  My location emotionally is from you.  Help me to see the opportunities for growth that you place in my path. 

Help me not to misidentify you or misrepresent you, as Herod did, because of my fears or my anxieties.  My vision of you and the life you want is less poor than it was, so I pray that you would continue to clarify my vision until the day when I see you face to face.

Questions

  • Of what did Herod become aware?
  • Why did he interpret the news the way he did?
  • How are powerful men and women represented in this passage?
  • What lifestyle is associated with power in the 21st century?
  • How are you manipulated or do you manipulate others?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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