The Ministry of Jesus and John the Baptist

Mark 6:14-29

14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “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 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.

 

  1. The Context of This Passage

Let’s begin with the strange context that creates a flashback within the story:

 

  1. God is at work mightily

Jesus has sent out the Disciples to minister to people and their impact is great enough that it attracts the attention of King Herod.

Discuss the different Herods around the NT time.

  1. Herod the Great (ruled 37-4 B.C.) He’s the guy in the Christmas story. Super powerful client king answerable to Rome. Tried to trick the wise men. Killed the babies in Bethlehem (not to mention some of his own sons and wives).
  2. Herod Antipas (ruled 4 B.C.-A.D. 39) Jesus called him “the Fox” (Luke 13:32). Received a quarter of his father’s territory (Galilee and Perea). Divorced his first wife and married Herodias, the wife of his brother (who was yet a different “Herod”). Killed John the Baptist. Pontius Pilate sent Jesus to see this Herod as part of Jesus’ trial since this Herod was visiting Jerusalem at the time Jesus was sentenced to death.
  3. Herod Agrippa I (ruled A.D. 37-44 [41-44 in Judea]) Grandson of Herod the Great and nephew of Herodias, Herod Antipas’s wife. Eventually ended up ruling over even more territory than did his grandfather, Herod the Great. In the book of Acts he is known as the one who put Peter in prison (Acts 12:1-5)…although he couldn’t keephim there (12:6-19)!  Also…“He did not give God the glory” when referred to as a god by the people of Tyre and Sidon and was thus struck by an angel and “eaten by worms” (Acts 12:20-23)
  4. Herod Agrippa II (ruled A.D. 50s until long after the end of the Jewish war; died around A.D. 93) Like his father Herod Agrippa I and great-grandfather Herod the Great he ruled over a large territory. He’s the one who interviewed Paul along with the Roman procurator Porcius Festus when Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea (in Palestine) after Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 25-26).

 

  1. God work connects Jesus and John

Herod’s reaction to the ministry of the twelve is to connect the ministry of Jesus to the ministry of John.

The prophetic ministry is a match. There is a call to repentance.

There is ministry in the lives of people. There are crowds gathering around. (The next story in Mark is the feeding of the 5,000).

And here we have the reaction to the ministry of Jesus. Who is Jesus?

Is He Elijah? Why Elijah? Because of miracles. Because of rebuking leadership. Because of prophecy.

Is He a prophet like the prophets of old? John was. Jesus has a prophetic ministry for sure. But is He more?

Is He John raised from the dead? Jesus and John share the same fundamental message: Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand! Both of them minister out and away from Jerusalem. Both of them attracted a crowd.

 

  1. The troubler is troubled

        Herod is anxious because of his sin. He knows that He cannot avoid God. He hopes that there is no God. That is his only hope. He is in big trouble.

 

 

  1. The Story of the Death of John

And then we have the story of Herod having John the Baptist killed.

  1. Another political beast

Like Daniel and Revelation. Political beasts are energized by the   dragon, they oppose God and they cause trouble.

 

  1. Satan always loses

        Name a time when Satan defeats Jesus. John’s testimony at Jesus’ arrest: “I am He!” Jesus fixes the ear cut off.

        Pictures in Revelation 12: Defeated consistently, the dragon goes         off and calls forth beasts to trouble God’s people. Revelation 13

Herod kills John. Does this ruin John’s ministry? Nope.

 

  1. Christ followers need encouragement

This process of God working in a sinful and corrupted world can   be very confusing.

Example of John the Baptist

Example of Jesus

Example of the Apostles

Definition of the Greek word for witness. Marturion, from which we get the word martyr.

What is the Biblical encouragement?

Hebrews 12 Endure hardship as discipline, God is treating you as sons. The example is the Children of Israel in the wilderness.

God has a good purpose in the difficulties that you suffer in life:

  1. They connect you to Him.

Identity of children. In Hebrews 12, but also Romans 8:

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

  1. They work to conform you to His image

Deuteronomy 8

  1. They will work for good. Romans 8:28

 

III. God is at Work in Mysterious Ways

        God does not always explain Himself. God allows hardship, sometimes extreme hardship as a part of His work. The hardship does not prevent God from working. God is sovereign, He is at work. We may not like this, but it does explain the hardship!

  1. John doesn’t know what God is doing

But God is at work! Consider Luke 7:

18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

How is it possible that this great prophet of God does not know what God is doing? Well, there are many prophets who find themselves in the same situation. Elijah, Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Hosea etc.

 

  1. Herod doesn’t know what God is doing

He is going about causing trouble.

“If the princes of this world had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” – Paul

 

 

  1. The Apostles don’t know what God is doing

        They are preaching, casting out demons and doing miracles.

Luke 10:17-20

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

And yet the Apostles do not understand that Jesus must die for sins and that His Messianic ministry is not political in nature. Peter swings a sword in the Garden of Eden! Where does that end?

God is at work in our lives as we trust and follow Jesus. You can look back and see that He has done amazing things. Very often those amazing things are born out of hardship! So, what should we do?

We should be faithful to follow the teachings and example of Jesus.

We should be aware that God may allow hardship in our lives. Hardship in the areas of relationships, health, lack of understanding etc.

We should expect for God to act in our lives to resolve hardship in a way that honors Him and is for our good.