God’s Word for You
Mark 6:14-16 Herod’s fear
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, January 1, 2023
14 King Herod heard about this because the name of Jesus had become well known. Herod was saying, “John, the one who was baptizing, has been raised from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And still others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.” 16 But when Herod heard this, he kept saying: “John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
This King Herod was one of the sons of Herod the Great, the terrible man who is mentioned in the account of Jesus’ birth (Luke 1:5) and who killed the baby boys of Bethlehem on account of his paranoia over a potential rival (Matthew 2:16-18). He died shortly after that (Matthew 2:19) while Jesus was still an infant, and his kingdom was divided between his sons. Herod Antipas became ruler of Galilee. His title was the awkward term “tetrarch,” the ruler of a quarter, but he always wanted to be called “king.” Mark uses the word “king” here with irony and mockery.
As the region began to wonder just who Jesus was, it’s both a surprise and no surprise at all to find that everybody got it wrong. Only those with faith accept Jesus as the Messiah. How often don’t unbelievers say with no justification or reason, “Whatever Jesus was, he wasn’t the Savior”?! That’s an answer that’s based on personal conviction; they really mean to say, “Whatever Jesus is, he isn’t my Savior.”
There is a minor translation question in the middle of verse 14, but the evidence of ancient and widespread manuscripts makes it fairly certain that the first voice we hear is that of Herod, who was saying, “John has been raised from the dead.”
Herod uses John’s description, “the one who was baptizing,” rather than his more familiar title “the Baptist.” Obviously our modern term “Baptist” is the name of a denomination begun by English-speaking Christians in Holland in the early 1600s. But in the Bible, John is usually called “the Baptist” (ho baptistes, ὁ βαπτιστὴς, Matthew 3:1, 11:10-11, 14:2, 16:14; Mark 8:28; Luke 7:20, 33, 9:19, etc.), but a few times he is described as “the one who was baptizing” (baptizon, βαπτίζων, Mark 1:4, 6:14; John 1:28, 3:23). It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Herod wouldn’t have known the title John had among Christians.
The ideas of the ordinary Jews were that a great prophet had arisen; perhaps Elijah (who had been prophesied to return, Malachi 4:5), or perhaps a prophet like those great prophets of long ago. Certainly Jesus’ words and works reminded everyone of Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the other prophets of ancient times. The more Herod heard other opinions, however, the more he was convinced that he and only he was right: This was not Elijah. It was John, brought back from the dead. The account of John’s death will be retold for us by Mark in the verses that follow.
Unbelief always assumes that a believer cannot be right about anything. Even a mildly rational man would recognize that the odds, humanly speaking, are that between any two people who always disagree, one will be right about half the time, and the other will be right about half the time. Therefore, shouldn’t an unbeliever assume that a believer would be right at least half the time? Shouldn’t that make an unbeliever terrified?
When it comes to God’s Word, a believer puts his faith in the text and the promises of God, and he knows that God is right 100% of the time. My own opinions are of no value when it comes to God’s Word. I bow to the truth, because God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). The word of truth is the gospel of your salvation (Ephesians 1:13), and so grasp it, hold onto it, and cherish it as your very dearest possession, dearer and more precious even than life. For the gospel means more than life in your lungs; it means life forever. The gospel brings life beyond the grave, beyond judgment day. It brings life everlasting, with no end.
Pastor Timothy Smith