No Fear - A Reflection on Mark 6:14-29
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias 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.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
There are many times in the past several months that we have reflected upon the character of John the Baptist, who has become one of my favorite personalities in the Bible. A man of tremendous conviction, he fully believed that he was put on earth to prepare a way for the coming of the Lord, and he set about his task with vigor and enthusiasm. In this we realize that if we too believe that we have been called by God to do something, we will also pursue it with zeal.
But I don’t want to talk about John today. I want to talk about another man, who is is a study in contrasts. If John was a man convicted, then Herod was a man conflicted. If John was a man of single-minded devotion, Herod was a man given to contradictory impulses. And if John was a man of courage, Herod was a man of fear. The latter actually results from the former, and it is common characteristic of anyone who lives in the shadows and is afraid of the light.
Consider the ministry of John the Baptist. He went out calling people to repentance and a lot of people came, sorry for their sins and wanting to walk in guilt-free freedom. However, the Pharisees didn’t like both the call to repentance, and being called out for their reluctance to repent, causing the Baptist to berate them, calling them “a brood of vipers” (Matthew 2:7), something Jesus would also call them a few years later (see Matthew 12:34).
Of course, they didn’t think they needed repentance but on some level they knew they were sinners. When Jesus told them that anybody who was without sin was free to cast the first stone on the woman caught in adultery, they all dropped the stones they had in their hands, because they were terrified of what Jesus might reveal about them. That’s the fear of the sinner, not so much the sin itself, but being caught in it. It is what terrified Herod.
Confronted by John the Baptist about his affair with his brother’s wife, he had the man beheaded. And now with talk that Jesus was John the Baptist reincarnated, his fear swelled to alarming proportions. If we face the same fear, let us understand that John the Baptist’s call to repentance was followed by something else. A finger pointing toward Jesus, who would take away our sin and give us his Holy Spirit who would enable us to lead sin-free lives. No sin, no fear.
Let us live without fear.