These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the gospel of Mark. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
Leonardo De Vinci once said, “While I thought I was learning to live, I have been learning to die.” Every one of us will die. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “What am I living for and what am I dying for?” And is what I’m living for worth Christ dying for?
Today, we encounter four people, each living for something different.
- We will encounter Herod, a man who lived for pleasing people.
- We will meet Herod’s wife, Herodias, a woman who lived for power.
- We will be introduced to Herodias’ daughter, Salome, a young woman lived for pleasure.
- Finally, we will encounter John the Baptist, a man who lived and died for God’s kingdom.
Today, we will focus on John the Baptist. Let’s dive into it.
Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because everyone was talking about him. Some were saying, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. That is why he can do such miracles.” 15 Others said, “He’s the prophet Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet like the other great prophets of the past.”
16 When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.”
17 For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. 18 John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, 20 for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.
21 Herodias’s chance finally came on Herod’s birthday. He gave a party for his high government officials, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee. 22 Then his daughter, also named Herodias, came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod and his guests. “Ask me for anything you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you.” 23 He even vowed, “I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!”
24 She went out and asked her mother, “What should I ask for?”
Her mother told her, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist!”
25 So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!”
26 Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn’t refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison, 28 brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother. 29 When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came to get his body and buried it in a tomb. (NLT)
I want us to focus on John the Baptist today. From His life we see several characteristics and qualities that we need to imitate, by God’s grace, in our lives if we want a life that lives for and dies for God’s kingdom.
Boldness: Confronting Sin
The first characteristic we see is boldness. There are going to be times as a believer you will need to confront the sin in someone’s life. I’m not talking about sticking your nose where it does not belong, I’m talking about addressing a deadly sin in someone’s life that is harmful to them and others. That is exactly what John did. We are told in verse 18, John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.”
What’s going on here? Herod and his wife had visited Philip and Herodias in Rome. While there an adulterous relationship began between Herod and Herodias. They decided to leave their spouses for each other. What made matters worse was Herodias was not only his sister-in-law, but she was also his niece.[i] On top of that, by marrying his brother’s wife, he not only violated an important marriage treaty, causing political unrest, but Herod also violated Jewish law (Lev. 18:16; 20:21). Herod was supposed to be the king of the Jews and represent them. The bottom line is Herod was committing adultery, incest, and violated a marriage treaty.
When John was preaching to the crowd one of the things John mentions is this sinful affair between Herod and Herodias. This angered both Herodias and Herod, so they cast John in prison in order to shut John up. That was how censorship was done in Jesus’ day.
One of the things about John is he was bold. He confronted and addressed sin wherever He found it, even in the most powerful and threatening leaders. Whether it was political leaders or religious leaders, John would call them out on their hypocrisy, deceit, and sins (Matt. 3:7). John had a conviction to speak for God rather than to please people (cf. Acts 5:29).
John was wise and strategic about this. Whether he was addressing the crowd or talking to Herod one-on-one he used wisdom, discernment and boldness. There will be times when you have to address the sin in your children’s life, your spouse’s life, or a friend’s life. If you love them, you will have to confront them eventually. But God gives us some guidance on how to do it.
- Galatians 6:1 says, “If a person is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness” (NASB). Approach them with gentleness. You don’t want to sound argumentative, judgmental, bitter, or have an axe to grind. Be gentle, kind, loving, and patient. Don’t interrupt them. Listen to them as they respond to them. Be gentle.
- Ephesians 4:15 tells us to “speak the truth in love” (NLT). You want the best for them. They need to hear love, compassion, and understanding coming from you. You are to speak the truth in love.
- 2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (NIV). Even though this is specifically to pastors, there are two principles you can apply. When confronting someone’s sins you must have “great patience.” One conversation is not usually what it will take. You have to give time for God to convict, challenge and bring understanding. You will also need to confront them with “careful instruction.” Think through what you are going to say and have a strategy laid out that you believe will help them see and understand what you are trying to say. Don’t just share you emotional opinion, share truth in love.
John was bold and we need to be bold in Christ as well.
Goodness: Doing what benefits others
Another characteristic we need to consider is goodness. Goodness is doing what is right in attitude and action for the benefit of others. According to verse 20, Herod knew that John “was a good and holy man.” A good person thinks about others. They are concerned about others. A good person will sacrifice their time, money, and resources for someone else. A good person wants to be helpful and a blessing to others. Their attitude and actions lean toward blessing others.
God uses good people. Goodness is a key component of who God wants you to be. Just consider what God’s Word says about goodness.
- Galatians 5:22 says, “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…” (NLT). The Spirit of God is working in your life to produce goodness from your life. The reason why you want to speak truth in love to your friend is because of goodness. The reason you want to bless that person you have compassion for is because of God’s goodness working in your life. God wants His people to be good people.
- Galatians 6:10 says, “Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone…” (NLT). You will have opportunities to bless, love, encourage, rebuke, give wise counsel and speak truth in love to those in your life. Look for those opportunities. They will be there.
- Romans 15:14 says, “I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness” (NLT). You want to be that person who is full of goodness, not badness. There are plenty of people who are rude, unkind, cruel, impatient, evil, and immoral. That’s not you. God wants you to be known for being good, not bad.
- Romans 12:21 says, “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (NLT). There is power in goodness. Even the most evil and wicked people, like Herod, respect people who are good. Good people will tell you the truth. They are people of integrity, honesty, and consistency. There is power in goodness.
John had this goodness quality about him. God was able to use John in public ministry or in a prison where a leader would often visit him to have conversations about the kingdom of God.
Holiness: Be set apart and distinct
Another quality we need to consider is holiness. According to verse 20, Herod knew that John “was a good and holy man.” The word “holy” (hagios) means different, set apart, or distinct. It means to be set apart for God and by God. It is to be set apart for a special divine purpose and that setting apart makes you different, distinct, and holy. Herod knew John was from God. Herod knew that John was different.
- 1 Peter 1:15 says, “Now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy’” (NLT). Everything you do is to be set apart for God’s glory. Holiness is not about your perfection, but your position. Your position in Christ. Who you are and who you belong too. Holiness is about living a life for the glory of God. Being a steward of what God has given you in order to further God’s kingdom.
- 1 Peter 2:9 says, “You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (NLT). God is able to take a holy life and display His goodness through it. Your holy life puts God’s goodness on display and it brings light into the midst of darkness.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:7 says, “God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives” (NLT). God has called everyone believer to live a life that is different and unique from the world. He is placing a desire in you to live for God. You since this call every time you know the right thing to do with your money, your time, your words, your attitude. The Holy Spirit is drawing you to a life of holiness. You feel the tension every time your call to holiness and your desire for selfishness collide.
Approachable: Easy to talk to
Another quality we see in John and we need to consider for ourselves is approachability. Verse 20 tells us, Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him. We are going to take a deeper look at Herod next time, especially regarding his conscience and conviction about what John was saying. But for now, I want you to notice that even though Herod “was greatly disturbed” by what John was saying “he liked to listen to him.”
John was approachable. You could have a conversation with Him about serious matters, about spiritual truths and about your own sin that caused you to come back for more discussion. There will be some people in your life that even though you tell them the truth and have tough conversations with them about the sin in their life, they will listen to you and they will come back to you for further discussion. Herod would often go talk to John about various things. This was not a one-time conversation. Herod kept coming back.
You have people in your life that will listen to you. They may not listen to me, but they will listen to you. The way you talk, the way you listen, the way you respond, the sound of your voice, your body language, and how you communicate is perfect for them.
When your approachability is backed up by holiness, goodness, and boldness you are in position to impact and influence others and it doesn’t matter where you are, it matters who you are. Herod had John put in prison, but Herod listened to him intently.
Sacrifice: Surrendering your life for a greater purpose
This brings us to our final observation. To follow Jesus you will experience sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is voluntary and others times that sacrifice is forced upon you. There is no following Jesus if you never sacrifice. For John, he sacrificed his life. Verse 27 says, a soldier beheaded John in the prison.
Being beheaded for Christ is not going to happen to every believer, but some level of sacrifice will happen. Just because you are holy, filled with goodness, and approach life with boldness does not mean sacrifice is removed from your life.
- Romans 12:1 says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (NLT).
- Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (NLT).
God has a great purpose for you. It will take sacrifice. It will take dying to yourself. You will have to give up your own way. Sometimes it will feel like your life is being crucified on a daily basis. You will be tempted to hang on to your life, to do what you want, to be selfish and to make life all about you… but let it all go. Give up your life for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.
God works through people every day. You don’t have to be perfect. Be bold, do good, live holy, be approachable and be willing to sacrifice. God can use you where you are. He used John the Baptist while still in prison, He can use you where you are.
[i] She was the daughter of Aristobulus, the half-brother of Herod Antipas.