Category Archives: sin

Mark 6:14-29 – What Herod heard

Discussion question:

Have you ever wondered how different life would be as a king or queen? OR Do you think Queen Elizabeth watches Neighbours?

Read Mark 6:14-29

Context

This story of the death of John the baptist is included in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). It appears in Mark right in the middle of the mission that the disciples are sent on. Jesus sent his Twelve Disciples off on mission in Mark 6:6-13 and Mark records their return from mission in Mark 6:30. While they are spreading the news about the kingdom of God, calling people to repent and believe, healing and casting out demons, we are given this account of John the Baptist. On the ground, the disciples are spreading the news of the kingdom, but in the earthly kingdom of Herod, we see sin with no repentance and a mishearing of who Jesus is.

Observation

Structure

  • 14-16 What Herod heard and concluded about Jesus
  • 17-20 What Herod heard from John
  • 21-29 What Herod heard from his step-daughter/niece!

14-16 What Herod heard and concluded about Jesus

“King Herod heard about this…” This is referring to the mission that the disciples were on. The commotion in the streets caused by the disciples preaching a message of repentance had reached the ears of Herod. We are brought from the real street-talk of the kingdom of God into the house of an earthly king. See Luke 3:1 for a scope of the rulers of the day. Herod was the tetrarch over Galilee. It lists four men ruling different regions under the higher reign of Tiberius Caesar. One of the four was Herod’s brother Philip.

“Some were saying… John… Elijah… A prophet…” Jesus’ name was not in question but what was his position or identity. His name was well known but what about his calling or importance? Malachie 4:5 will help understand why Elijah is listed and why the disciples repeat this rumour in Chapter 8. Ironically, it is John the Baptist who is the Elijah figure predicted to come as he was one of the prophets like the Old Testament prophets whose primary message was to call Israel to repent and return to the LORD. A prophet like Elijah would come and prepare the way for the LORD. This was John the Baptist (Mark 9:12-13). As readers of this story, we are meant to realise how wrong they all are – that they misunderstood Elijah and rejected his call to repent – how then will they understand who Jesus is?

“But when Herod heard this, he said…” Herod’s conclusion is that Elijah has somehow come back from the dead with even greater powers than he had before.

17-20 What Herod heard from John

“For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested…” We are taken back in time to understand Herod’s experience with John. What follows is a story of lust and sexual immorality; of a call to repent and a man who doesn’t disagree but unwilling to repent.

“…Herod feared John… when Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.” This is the profile of someone who is unable to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Many people responded to John’s ministry of repentance and repented. Herod revered John as a holy man but what he spoke about puzzled him.

21-29 What Herod heard from his step-daughter/niece!

“Finally the opportune time came.” This refers to Herodias’ dilemma in Verse 19. She had a grudge against John. He was a nuisance to whatever her ambitions were. The size of this grudge comes out further when we hear how it is released.

“…the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.” You can imagine alcohol and festivities and the passion of the moment and pride and the want to impress the rulers that have been invited to the party. This is not a PG rated party. Herod is swept up in the moment and promises his niece anything up to half the kingdom. Wow!

“She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” Herodias must have had quite the influence over her daughter. The offer has already been suggested: half the kingdom! Why not take that offer?

“The head of John the Baptist.” The grudge is strong. Her hate of John focuses her attention and dismisses all other possibilities. 

“On hearing this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.” The story is complete with the outside world hearing what has taken place inside the governor’s house. This earthly ruler behaves so unimpressively. His kingdom offers nothing but selfish ambition. He is more concerned with saving face than with righteousness and justice.

Suggested questions for running this study.

Q1. Look up Luke 3:1 to hear who is listed as important in Jesus’ day. A tetrarch is a sub-ruler. By telling us the story about Herod and John, what contrast is Mark giving us to consider?

Q2. What had Herod heard about? What conclusions were being made about Jesus from Herod’s palace? What were they getting right and what were they getting wrong?

Q3. What issues did John the Baptist have with Herod and what does the bible teach about these things?

Q4. Given all we know from this story, how would you describe the kingdom of Herod?

Q5. Why do you think Mark (and Matthew and Luke) includes this story in the gospel?

Meaning

There is a scene change in the gospel of Mark. While the disciples spread the good news of the kingdom of God, we are taken to an earthly ruler who has no backbone or care for righteous living. He hears the talk about Jesus and is filled with fear. We hear the word of what went on inside his home and are filled with disgust. He had the prophet who God sent to point people to Jesus right in his house – imprisoned – but he killed him, letting lust and pride rule. Herod heard about Jesus but did not hear about the kingdom of God. Herod heard from John but did not understand. He heard from his family and submitted to sin.

Application

Challenge#1 Human government and us

Romans 13 and 1 Timothy 2 teach us to pray for our governments and have respect for their authority. It does not follow that we are to agree with their conduct or decisions. This can be a complicated area of discussion but isn’t it possible to live as citizens of this world but love the kingdom of God because it is so much better? People in this world will often disappoint us. The greatest people in the kingdom of God are those who live for Christ and give him the highest respect. John the Baptist spoke the truth to the ruler and faced the consequences for it.

Challenge#2 Lust, envy, hate and pride

These things are to be put to death in us. The fruit of the spirit feeds none of these things. Romans 8 teaches us to give energy to the Spirit and not to the desires and passions of the flesh. Sin is destructive and the Spirit gives life. When the outworkings of the flesh appear, turn back to God and repent. 

Challenge#3 The kingdom of God is not in palaces

While we read about the mayhem in the court of Herod, the real kingdom growth was happening in the villages. The news of this world will revolve around what is happening in politics and sport. Very little attention is given to people turning back to God. This emphasis will be turned on its head one day when everyone sees Jesus as King and that everything that we thought was great in this world is nothing compared to him.

Commandment #10 – Do not covet

Opening Question

Name 3 things that you already have and are thankful for.

Exodus 20:17

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

In the beginning (5 mins)

Once again we turn our minds to Genesis 1-3 and consider what is there that speaks to covetousness. What do we see is our focus in life?

Genesis 1:31-2:1 – God made everything very good. It was complete and full of life.

Genesis 2:7-9, 15-18 – God continued to bring everything into being. He made man from the earth and gave him everything to enjoy. He was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The big idea here is that mankind did not create, establish or struggle for existence and plenty. God created and gave generously.

Genesis 3:6 – they took and ate after they looked and considered how good it looked. They wanted what was not theirs to take and what they did not need.

*God created all things to be dependent on him and to live in harmony with his order and will. Life is not defined by objects but by relationships, especially to God and his will

The command to Israel (5 mins)

What is listed as things to potentially covet in the 10th commandment?

House, wife (or husband), slave (or Jim’s lawnmowing service), ox or donkey (or VW Tiguan), or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Israel’s history (10 mins)

Read Psalm 49. What is the conviction of this Psalmist? See also Ecclesiastes 2:1-11.

Wealth may look appealing but it will not defeat the grave. Note verse 16 tells us not to be in awe of the rich and verse 18 warns us against being seen by others as successful. You can’t take it with you. What is most valuable, according to this Psalm is understanding.

The Gospel (10 mins)

Jesus warned against giving our hearts to riches on earth that are stolen and fade in Matthew 6. He did so also in Luke 12. Read the following and discuss how easy it is to be living like the rich fool (12:20) and pagans (12:30)!

  • Luke 12:13-21
  • Luke 12:22-34

The command is to not covet. What is the cause of coveting according to Verse 32? 

Fear. Jesus said, ‘do not worry’ in the Matthew 6 account. 

What do we replace coveting (or fear) with according to Luke 12:28,31,32?

God has already given us the kingdom. We already have everything we will ever need. For today, we will need to exercise our faith and trust him. In this life, we may see others with more and apparently easier lives (a lie) but our hope is not for heaven right now. We have a Father who loves us, a Lord who gave his life for us and a kingdom prepared for us and promised. 

Christian Living (15 mins)

We know that God created life and everything in it. We know that turning to Christ is about receiving a kingdom that can never perish spoil or fade. And we know that our greatest test is to put our trust in God (faith) and live for the kingdom. 

The New Testament throws reason after reason to stop hoping that this world will deliver and turn our hearts to God who has promised us everything we need. Either read through the following three passages and turn them to prayer or focus on 1 Timothy 6:6-12a.

Ephesians 1:3-10 lists out how much we have received in Christ!

1 Peter 1:3-9 reminds us that we have been given new life into a living hope through the resurrection. The time of struggling is only or this world and is there to mature us as we learn to lean on God and love him more and more.

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-12a and turn it into prayer. Being the final week on the 10 commandments, it might be appropriate to consider how we need to repent and turn back to God and live our lives for him.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life.

Commandment #9 – Do Not Lie

Opening Question

What are some ways that we can break the 9th commandment?

This question deliberately gets to the application because, in some ways, it is not hard to read this commandment and brainstorm ways of lying – we are very good at it! The study takes us from the lies of the Serpent in the garden to the lies of the religious leaders at the courtroom on Good Friday. We need to confront the idea that deception is the key ingredient of sin. The study ends being directed to confess that we are sinners that need saving. Having this question at the start of the study enables things like gossiping and cheating to be laid out on the table straight up.

Exodus 20:16

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.”

In the beginning (5 mins)

Compare Genesis 2:16 with Genesis 3:1-4. What can you make of the first interrogation recorded in the bible? See also John 8:44.

The serpent twists the emphasis of God’s message: from “eat freely except one tree” – to – “you cannot eat freely!”

Eve adds to God’s message by saying that they cannot even touch it.

Both are giving a false account of what was said by God. A twist and an addition or alteration. The differences are subtle but made a huge impact on the future of mankind!

The command to Israel (5 mins)

The command has been summarised in the heading as “do not lie” but this may cloud the importance of this order. Read and discuss the following references. What is at stake when this law is ignored?

Exodus 20:16

Exodus 23:1-8

The wellbeing of others, especially the weak, are at stake. Unlawful suffering and injustice is at the heart of this command. Cheating, self gain, gossip, injustice and stealing through lies are all in view here. Who wants to live in a world where we cannot trust one another? Well, this is our reality.

NB: your group may pick up where our study is headed when seeing this passage. If the injustice to Jesus comes up, let it flow. Better to allow your group to see things for themselves than to squash inspiration for the sake of the leader’s agenda!

Israel’s history (10 mins)

Jeremiah laments and weeps over his country because their lying tongues have turned them away from God. Read Jeremiah 8:4-12 and Jeremiah 9:1-9. How much like our own society does this sound? Where does it challenge us?

  • Jeremiah 8:4-12
    • The attack here is a national one. Israel are charging away from God and ‘they cling to deceit.’ They are lying to themselves as if they are doing what is right. God wants repentance. They do not call the people to repent but declare that all is well. Their lying means no salvation.
  • Jeremiah 9:1-9
    • The attention here is at the ground level. No one in the land can be trusted. Each of them speaks deceit. Israel is the land of deception. In their deceit they refuse to acknowledge Yahweh. Sound like home?

The Gospel (10 mins)

Read through these references in John’s gospel to hear the gospel account through the theme of truth.

  • John 1:14,17; 4:23-24; 7:18; 8:32, 44-46; 14:6, 17; 16:13; 17:17; 18:37-38; 19:35

We can also look at three accounts in Mark’s gospel to see how much people will embrace a lie and reject the truth.

  • Mark 7:14-23
    • The problem of this world is not the things that we do but why we do them. The problem is our hearts that are deceived and live for ourselves rather than for God. Deception is fundamental to sin because we deceive ourselves about what makes us right.
  • Mark 12:13-17
    • The scheme of the Pharisees and Herodians was to ‘catch [Jesus] in his words. They identified that Jesus is a man of integrity and is not swayed by people. Jesus sees that their flattery is a trick – they come to him showing respect but they hide their intentions. “But Jesus knew their hypocrisy”. Jesus’ response was effectively to be transparent and give to whomever is owed. Don’t appear to live for God but really be living for yourself.
  • Mark 14:53-65
    • The people loved lies greater than truth. The truth offended them. They accepted anything as true as long as they got what they wanted: Jesus crucified.

Christian Living (15 mins)

Commandment number 9 is simple: do not lie. But the truth of the matter is that this world loves to lie – to live the lie and even kill for the lie. The epistles challenge us to stop lying to one another. We can focus on the symptoms of a lying attitude such as cheating, stealing, gossip and slander, hypocrisy and such. Or we could read 1 John 1:5-10 and be encouraged to put off all falsehood at its core and live as saved sinners.

1 John 1:5-10

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.