Mark 6:14-29 (ESV)
14 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.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 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. 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. But she could not, 20 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. 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. 22 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.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 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.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him 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 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Many people heard of Jesus and the supernatural works he did. Even Herod Antipas I, the ruler of Galilee and the son of Herod the Great, heard about Jesus. Despite the rejection Jesus received from those in his hometown, his reputation continued to grow. Now, Herod Antipas I was married when he fell in love with his half-niece Herodias, who happened to be married to Herod’s half-brother, Philip. Herodias and Philip had a daughter named Salome. Herod Antipas I and Herodias were determined to be together, so Herodias divorced Philip and Herod divorced his wife. Herod and Herodias then married each other. Wow, what a mess! Rightfully, John the Baptist came along and denounced this relationship. He told Herod that his marriage to Herodias was unlawful and wrong, and as a result, Herodias was furious. She wanted John dead for speaking against her. So on one occasion, when Salome, the daughter of Herodias, danced before Herod and his guests, he was so pleased and pompous that he offered her whatever she wanted, up to “half of his kingdom,” as a reward. She quickly consulted with her mother, who told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod did as Salome wished and ordered John be beheaded. John’s head was given to Salome on a platter, and Salome presented it to her mother, Herodias.
Herod knew that John was a man of God, and he and Herodias were both tormented by John’s message and teaching. Herod’s guilty conscience continued to plague him, even after John’s death. In his paranoia, Herod believed that John rose from the dead and worked through Jesus (v. 14). Often, those who reject God feel that if they could only rid themselves of the followers of Jesus, then the conviction of the Holy Spirit would leave too. But that’s never the case. God’s Spirit continues to testify to human hearts, convicting them concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. If you are standing up for Jesus today and being rejected, don’t grow weary. May we be emboldened by the courage of John to speak the truth in love, and trust the Spirit of God to have his way with whomever he chooses. Like John the Baptist, don’t fear what men can do. Instead, be faithful to proclaim the gospel to a lost world.