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Anything But Truth

SUFFERING KING: THE BOOK OF MARK:
Anything But Truth: Mark 6:14-29
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday May 31, 2020

We’ve said of this Gospel of Mark’s that it is a utility gospel. Why do we say that and what do we mean. I like this 3rd definition of Utility “functional rather than attractive”. This draws out what I mean – it’s not a frills gospel, it is not like Luke’s which works for painstaking accuracy, nor John to show Jesus as “the Christ”, Matthew desiring the we would see Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s kingdom – Mark in a utilitarian way desires that we see that the Kingdom of God is at hand as such we should repent and believe.

His gospel text, has in aim, a gospel mission – that our reaction to seeing this would be our salvation, it is utilitarian – it aims to function not be attractive. See Mark in his own words,

Mark 1:15 (ESV)
15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

If this is his aim, is today’s story strange?

Why would Mark highlight this?

In Mark’s gospel only two passages AREN’T about Jesus. The first was found in Mark 1:2-8 and now in Mark 6:14-29. So not only is this story important enough to be in his utility gospel, in one of the two stories not about Jesus.

A few interesting points as we jump in. John is the last of the OT prophets ushering in this new time period. In fact, John is called the forerunner of Jesus. He came before Jesus in life pronouncing His life – similarly he was the forerunner of His death as well, reluctant powerful leader turned him over to death; and for what, the charges are unclear.

Today we’ll see that hiding the word in our hearts transforms our minds – fear of man is a trap, and Godly living is according to God’s word

Spoiler alert: Mark will ask us by the end of our study today: “did the word of God cause in me repentance to life or simply the sorrow of death”

Mark 6:14–29 (ESV)
The Death of John the Baptist
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.”

What did Herod hear of? Mark 6:13 “And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them” and lots more about Jesus works – how did he explain and understand it – … it’s weird, stick with me. Herod here exposes that he believes what Luke presented about him too (see Luke 9:7-9) that is this, that he Herod, had John killed (the whole head on a platter, I imagine was impactful). Mark tells us what Herod decided based on the question he had in Luke 9:7-9 and that is this, John was killed, then resurrected and explains Jesus mighty works – Jesus Herod believes is John resurrected.

Mark 6:13(ESV)
13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.

Luke 9:7-9 (ESV)
Herod Is Perplexed by Jesus
7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead,
8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen.
9 Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him.

Note this too, based on what we see in Luke 9:7-8 there are lots of theories floating around about Jesus that Herod was kicking around. None being the he was the Messiah – but that he could be a prophet, Elijah, or John resurrected. Have you ever read Mark’s gospel where Jesus asks His Disciples “who do people say that I am” in Mark 8:27 – do you remember what they said:

Mark 8:27-28 (ESV)
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”
There you go – Herod picked his conclusion from the options.

Why are they grasping at these 3 conclusions, the Jewish mind wouldn’t accept that Jesus was the Messiah that His works demonstrated he was, therefore these were the options… the unbelieving mind think like a pagan. Anything but the Biblical truth, even when it’s plainly silly, is better than truth.

There cannot have been a creator that made the entire universe to suit his will, that created people to procreate and animals and plants in perfect self healing harmony to sustain life, who gives gravity and atmosphere in the perfect proportions, who distances us from the sun so that we neither freeze nor bake, who tilts the earth so that on it’s consistent rotation around the sun would have seasons to give times of rest from summer (unless you’re in Florida) and similarly from winter, unless you’re in Alaska everything is un-pausingly perfectly created to sustain life – yet we call it happenstance.

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.

This whole scene is weird, like Springier in the wild with no bouncers to step in and control the situation. Don’t miss the statement of verse 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.”

We’ll come back to that:

Herod was not truly a King meaning singular ruler, rather he was a king as the greeks would have used the term, where there can be many – he was a tetrarch shared ruler of territory under his father. 1/4th of Herod the Greats turf was under him. Pops died and he requested the title King from Agustus and got shot down. Later his wife would encourage him to make the ask again, have to aim high right, but that would get him dethroned and exiled. Herodias wasn’t good for him.

Herodias was the daughter of one of Herod’s sons. First she married her uncle Herod (or Philip) so when we read in Matthew 14:3 “For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife” we understand the relationship(s) Herod the Great had two sons named Philip just as he had to named Antipas, this was the mixed up group of powerful leaders we’re seeing in this story who have John locked up. Herodias the daughter of Herods own half-brother so his niece of sorts was his half-brother Phillips’s wife so his sister-in-law-neice – Josephus, a first century historian, mapped out all this madness in “Antiquities”.

Matthew 14:3(ESV)
3 For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife,

Herod feels that there is something special about John – and keeps him safe. Verse 20 says – he was perplexed, kept him safe and heard him gladly….

See this is what Pagan thinking does, it can cloud you such that you’d ignore someone right in front of you with the words of life; was was John’s message – it was the same as Mark’s gospel message, it was utility, it didn’t apologize, and it was never soft – repent of your sins and believe.

John elected to take on Pagan thinking – like they did in Jesus’ hometown – when confronted with the facts they opted for a lie.

“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.”

Herod threw rager parties, they became known as an expression for an “excessive festival” Josephus even wrote about them. So there they are, eating sleeping eating repeating – dancing to the flicker of the lights, just dancing… civil leaders from the kings leadership, military officers, and land holders – this was a big deal guest list – Herod is likely kicked back drunk and pulls out a promise with beer muscles, it’s not only the promise in front of these powerful people but it’s a vow for up to half of his kingdom, the “king” had one too many wine slushies, but there it is, he said it… JUST like the King said to Esther. Maybe he’d just read it that morning?

Esther 5:3 (ESV)
3 And the king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.”

And Just like any episode of Springer without the bouncers, it escalated from there.

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.”

Here is what’s happening that we cannot see clearly, so I’ll help – she uses what’s called the middle voice – it is business language. Like when you’re talking business you go from familiar speech to technical business language. Have you ever read a contract, after I feel like my eyes have crossed – words like “notwithstanding” and “Indemnification” and “remedy” come out. When Herodias’ daughter come in she asks in the middle voice against his oath, that the’d have John’s head on a platter.

That’s it – they set him up, in the most vulnerable part of him – his pride. Here he’ll turn to Biblical counsel or find his own way guided by his heart.

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.

I want us to see the weight of this on Herod so that we can understand the weight of sinful pagan pressure. This word used for his exceeding sorrow is only used one other time, it’s by Mark and it is where Mark 14:34 Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane saying “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death”… Mark ties John to Jesus – entry to exit because he desires us to see that repentance is key!

Mark 14:34(ESV)
34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.”

Pagan views lead to evil works. What would scripture speak to this:

Proverbs 29:25 says

25  The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

Isaiah 2:22
22  Stop regarding man
in whose nostrils is breath,
for of what account is he?

Jeremiah 17:5 (ESV)
5  Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.

What do we have additionally as NT believers?

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Galatians 1:10 (ESV)
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

This is why we Psalm 119:11 (ESV)
11  I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.

The world and people of it will have no shortage of advice fo you. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram has made everyone a profound philosopher. Telling you what you should think, making profound statements of truth for which there is no backing.

Scripture anchors us: Romans 12:2 says:

Romans 12:2 (ESV)
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

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.

And so it was, the forerunner lead in life and death – ousted for no reason, murdered and leaving behind a legacy of Godly living.

Almost always the accounts in mark’s gospel are shorter than the other gospel writers accounts. But the utility, functional rather than attractive, gospel writer went into detail about John’s imprisonment and beheading.

How does this story FUNCTION to point us to the gospel?

The gospel that desires we see Jesus as all powerful Lord dwells even on the beheading of Jesus own forerunner. Why?

Marks demonstrates to us that outworking of evil, pagan views, are evil works – the views never feel pagan the works never feel evil. Hiding the word in our hearts transforms our minds – fear of man is a trap, and Godly living is according to God’s word!

The dwelling of an often sparse on details utility gospel, on John’s beheading by a sorrowful like only Jesus in the garden man who took worldly counsel over the godly he was both perplexed by and “Glad to hear” Mark 6:20 should cause us to ask, did the word of God cause in me repentance to life or simply the sorrow of death?

Mark 6:20(ESV)
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.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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