Sermon #24 Series: Mark
Title: SEVEN LESSONS
FROM A SEDUCTIVE PARTY
Text: Mark 6:14-29
Readings: Office: Buddy Daugherty Auditorium: Ron Wood
Subject: The Beheading of John the Baptist
Date: Sunday Evening - June 22, 1997
Tape # T-84
We have before us tonight Mark’s divinely inspired account of the cruel, barbaric murder of God’s faithful servant, John the Baptist. I have never understood why so many men seem to be ashamed to wear the name Baptist, when it was so honorably worn by John, the first Baptist. I count it an honor to wear the name he wore and pray for grace to walk in his steps until my work on this earth is done. Mark tells the melancholy story of John’s slaughter by Herod in greater detail than either Matthew or Luke. Let’s read it with the reverence it deserves and pray that God the Holy Spirit will graciously seal to our hearts the lessons it contains.
Without the slightest attempt at being cute or clever, but with a purpose that will be obvious in a few minutes, I have titled my message tonight - Seven Lessons From A Seductive Party. As I hope you will see in a few minutes, there is a lesson in the title itself. I will be as brief, but as pointed as I possibly can. Here are the seven lessons set before us in this paragraph. I hope, by the grace and power of God the Holy Spirit, to shoot them as barbed arrows into your heart. That is where I am aiming.
I. GOD HAS NOT LEFT HIMSELF WITHOUT A WITNESS, EVEN IN THE DEPRAVED HEARTS OF FALLEN MEN.
A man’s conscience is an amazing thing. Like the rest of our nature, our consciences are depraved and sinful. Yet, truth has an amazing power over the consciences of men. Herod the king was afraid of John the preacher, while John was living. And even after he had been dead for some time, the memory of the Baptist street preacher and the sound of his voice.
The fact is, everyone has a conscience. Herod feared John the Baptist. Felix trembled as he listened to Paul preach the gospel. Agrippa was “almost persuaded,” as the imprisoned preacher reasoned with him about the things of God. Fallen and depraved as man is, there is within him a voice called conscience, a voice that either accuses or excuses him, a voice that cannot be silenced, a voice that can make even great and powerful kings tremble.
This voice, the conscience, is one of many things that distinguish men from beasts. The conscience is, or is at least the reflection and result of, the law of God written upon the hearts of all men by their Creator.
The conscience may be temporarily quietened by many things. But the only thing that can purge a guilty conscience is the blood of Christ. It takes the same thing to speak peace to the troubled conscience that it takes to satisfy the law of God.
Herod was a terribly vile and wicked man. Luke tells us that John reproved him for all the wickedness he had done, though Matthew and Mark mention only the two most notable, obvious, commonly known things practiced by the king. Herod was guilty of incest and adultery. Not only had he taken his brother Philip’s wife, divorcing his own, but he publicly flaunted his depraved behavior.
According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, the situation was this, “Herod being sent for to Rome, called at his brother Philip's by the way, where he fell into an amorous intrigue with his wife, and agreed, upon his return, to take her with him and marry her; as he accordingly did, and divorced his own wife, who was daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia Petraea; which occasioned a war between Herod and his wife's father, in which the former was beaten.” (Quoted by Gill)
For these public disgraces, these public displays of contempt for God’s holy law, John publicly reproved the king. In doing so, this faithful man stands as an example and pattern for every gospel preacher to follow.
While I’m here, let me follow John’s example. I stand before you as God’s servant. Therefore, I must speak for God. In this day and age, when everyone, from the white house to the wash house is advocating and promoting homosexuality, lesbianism, fornication, and adultery, those things are still brazen, contemptuous violations of God’s law, “for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience.” Those who behave in such a manner not only bring upon themselves the wrath of God, they…
· Contribute to the degeneracy of society.
· Teach those under their influence to disregard God.
· And wreck families for generations to come.
II. GOD’S SERVANTS ARE COURAGEOUS, BOLD MEN.
John the Baptist, when called to preach in the king’s court, spoke to Herod, Herodias, and the assembled crowd with the courage and boldness of a lion pursuing a lamb. He did not smooth his words, soften his language, or try to find a way to get out of telling Herod exactly what God required him to say.
Many men, like Balaam, try to serve both God and their own bellies. They do not exactly lie to men. They do not exactly deny Christ and the gospel of his grace. However, they try to make the gospel palatable to unregenerate men by stating things very carefully so that they do not offend their hearers. Some men call such behavior wisdom. I call it compromise and treason.
That man who serves Christ, that man who is led by and filled with the Holy Spirit carefully words his message to expose man’s sin and enmity against God, probe his conscience, and demand that he acknowledge and bow to the truth of God.
III. GOD’S SERVANTS ARE REQUIRED, FOR THE GOSPEL’S SAKE, TO BE BLAMELESS MEN.
I do not mean that God’s servants are perfect in their behavior. They are not, neither do they claim to be. Neither do I suggest that men will acknowledge and speak willfully of faithful preachers. They seldom do. However, it is required of God that those men who preach the gospel behave in such a manner that they do not give men a reason to hold them in contempt, or give God’s enemies occasion to blaspheme. Herod did not repent of his sin, but he knew that John the Baptist was God’s man and that as such he was blameless in his behavior, just and holy.
IV. GOD ALWAYS MEETS SINNERS AT THEIR POINT OF REBELLION AND DEMANDS SURRENDER.
People may go far and do much in the exercise of religion and yet miss Christ and his salvation because they refuse to yield at their point of rebellion. Herod went further than many. We are told that he “feared John.” He “observed” him and “knew that he was a just man and holy.” He “heard him gladly” “and did many” things in response to his preaching. However, there was one thing Herod would not do. He would not give up Herodias. He would not give up his adultery. Therefore he is in hell today!
Take warning, my friend, you will either bow at your point of rebellion, or you will perish in your sins under the wrath of God. Christ demands surrender. Naaman had to dip in the Jordan seven times, or die as a leper. Herod had to give up Herodias or perish. And you and I will either surrender to Christ as Lord at that very spot where we most ardently desire to have our own way, or we will perish in hell.
We must keep back nothing. It is better far to cut off your right arm and pluck but your right eye, and enter into the kingdom of God halt and blind than to go to hell with them. It is not enough that you admire your favorite preacher and hear him gladly. Do not hold out against Christ. Surrender now!
V. THOSE WHO WILL NOT HEAR GOD’S MESSENGER OFTEN BECOME HIS RESOLVED ENEMY.
As Herodias sat beside Herod and heard John, she was seething. No doubt, she hid her anger, smiled politely, and may have even said, as John greeted her at the door, “You sure stepped on our toes today.” But from that moment, she was John’s resolved enemy, determined to destroy him if she could! Like a lion waiting to catch its prey, she waited her opportunity.
We must never be surprised when faithful men are vilified by those who hate God. Elijah was accused of being the cause of Israel’s troubles. Ahab hated Micaiah because he never prophesied good things to him, but evil. And Herodias hated John the Baptist because he exposed her adultery.
It is no disgrace to a preacher to be unpopular, disliked, and evil spoken of by men. It is not an honor or a preacher to be applauded by the community. Our Lord said to his disciples, “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you!” We must never forget it.
You can almost mark it down as a matter of certainty, when a man or woman suddenly turns against a preacher, though he may not know how, when, or where, that preacher has, by his faithful preaching of the gospel, stuck his finger right in the sore spot of their hearts and exposed their sin.
VI. MISCHIEF AND MISERY OFTEN FOLLOW THE MERIMENT OF THIS WORLD.
Herod threw himself a big birthday party. It was a big thing. Everybody who was anybody was there. The place was crowded with people, eating, drinking, dancing, and having good time in harmless fun. But when the harmless was over, sitting in the laughing queen’s lap on a silver platter was the head of John the Baptist!
Herodias and her daughter knew what a weakness Herod had for women. So the queen sent her daughter in to do a striptease act before Herod. When his passions were ho, in a moment of unguarded excitement, the king made a ridiculous oath publicly. He promised the stripper anything she requested, up to half his kingdom. Now, she had him exactly where she wanted him. Herod backed himself into a corner from which he could not extricate himself without embarrassment. And, rather than embarrass himself before all those important people, he did something that haunted him until his last breath, something that continues to haunt his tormented soul in hell today. He brutally murdered John the Baptist, a just, holy, man who had been faithful to his soul!
Perhaps you are thinking, “Don, what’s the point?” The point is just this - People often do things at or immediately after times of great reveling, when passions are high, which they normally would not do, things which they regret for the rest of their lives. We would be wise always to avoid giving space to the devil. We would be wise never to willingly put ourselves in the place of temptation.
You young people may wonder why your parents refuse to allow you to go to the parties all your friends get to go to, why they refuse to let you run around all hours of the night, why they do not seem to trust you to always do what is right. It is because they know what can happen when your passions are high. None of us knows what we are capable of doing.
Illustration: Don’t ever put yourself in a position where you can’t say, ‘No.’”
VII. OUR BEST THINGS ARE YET TO COME.
Children of God, we must never look for good in or from this world. John the Baptist was beheaded. Stephen was stoned to death. The apostles were imprisoned, tortured, and cruelly murdered. This was the world’s “thank you” to those faithful men, of whom the world was not worthy, for their labors. The histories of these men are meant to remind us that our reward is not here. Our rest, our crown, our wages, our reward is on the other side of the grave. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable!”
There is a day of retribution. There is a time of reaping. There is a glorious harvest yet to come. The value of Christianity is not to be measured by the things of this world, by the things of time, or by the things that are seen. Be of good cheer, my brother. Be of good cheer, my sister. Heaven will make amends for all!
“Life’s day will soon be o’er, all storms forever past,
We’ll cross the great divide to glory, safe at last;
We’ll share the joys of heaven - a harp, a home, a crown,
The tempter will be banished, we’ll lay our burden down!
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small, when we see Christ!
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.”