Mark inserts his account of John the Baptist’s killing as a back flash between Jesus sending out his inner twelve disciples throughout Galilee to preach and heal and their return to Jesus for a debriefing. Herod as king of Galilee was getting reports regarding Jesus as to how his ministry was stirring the people up throughout Herod’s region. The reports were not necessarily accurate and were laden with various interpretations. ‘Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” Others said, “He is Elijah.” And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.” v15 All the reports inferred that God was actively at work through Jesus, Elijah appearing again was associated with Israel’s end times.
The reports of Jesus deeply concerned Herod because he was carrying a burden of guilt for killing John who he knew to be a holy man sent from God. Herod had originally protected John from his wife’s plots to have John killed. Herod feared John because he knew him to be righteous and holy. v19 Now along came Jesus doing even greater things, speaking more truth and Herod jumped to the conclusion John had been raised from the dead even though he witnessed for himself that John’s head had been separated from his body. v16
Herod was trapped in his own spiral of sin. He had married Herodias against God’s law. John had condemned him for that. He was fascinated by John and what he had to say about the kingdom of God and the coming Messiah but he could not get beyond being fascinated. In one sense Herod was an enquirer and fascinated by things of God. That though is not sufficient. Interest alone doesn’t cut it. He was still trapped in his sin and refused to repent no matter how many times he heard the good news of the kingdom of heaven. What trapped him was a combination of things. His wife did everything she could to stop his interest up to and including murder. He was not prepared to lose face and admit he was wrong in front of others. His pride was for him an obstacle that prevented him from knowing God and receiving eternal life. v26 He was more controlled by sexual desire v22 than his knowledge of what was righteous and holy.
In the end he was such a slave to his sin that he preferred the friendship of a local Roman governor (Pilate) to justice for the Son of God.
Herod had a sense of guilt, he experienced inner turmoil but that counted for nothing because he refused to repent of his sin. A sense of guilt is not the same as repentance. Repentance would have meant he would have refused Herodias’ daughter her evil request. Repentance would have meant he would have judged righteously in Jesus’ trial. Repentance would have meant he would have undergone a major lifestyle change as Zacchaeus did when he met Jesus and gave back the money he stole with interest. There is no eternal life without repentance.
Are you stuck at the fascinated stage?
Are you too proud to confess your need of forgiveness?
Are you carrying an inner guilt that prevents you turning to Jesus?
Are you listening to the voices of others who prevent you from doing what you know is right?
And can it be that I should gain – Charles Wesley