Hymn—“Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”

Scripture Reading—Mark 6:14-29

”And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead. For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; and when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.”

Opening Prayer

Scripture Meditation—The Death Of John The Baptist

The death of John the Baptist opens to our view an incident filled with all the wickedness, fears and insecurities of the human heart. The conscience-stricken response of Herod Antipas to the mercy and miracles of our Lord Jesus Christ is used by Mark to recount the grizzly death of John, the great prophet and forerunner of our Lord and Saviour.

Who is this Jesus?

Herod was a puppet-king, a vassal of Rome who reigned at the pleasure of the local Roman authorities. Upon hearing of the powerful, miraculous ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, Herod’s reaction was to mistake the Lord for John the Baptist ‘risen from the dead’. The strangeness of this error takes on dark significance when Mark tells us the circumstances of John’s murder and how he was beheaded, at the request of Herod’s illegitimate wife, at the climax of a lust filled birthday celebration.

Guilt that gnaws

In truth there was little or nothing to merit Herod’s false conclusion. John’s ministry and Jesus’ ministry were quite different. John did no miracles. The Lord Jesus’ did many miracles. John’s dress, diet and demeanour was austere. Jesus came eating and drinking as the friend of publicans and sinners. Add to this John was dead because Herod himself had had him killed and it becomes clear that guilt and fear was the real reason for Herod’s confusion. What horror hell must hold for the wicked whose guilty conscience is already so haunted in this life.

Sin feeding on sin

No one but the faithful forerunner of the Saviour looks good in this story of vindictiveness and face-saving stupidity. Herod knew better than slay John, but was too weak to lose face amongst his conniving courtiers. Herodias, his illicit wife, filled with spite and seeking vengeance, grasped the opportunity of Herod’s drunken swagger to condemn a principled man. Her daughter teased and flaunted herself as a tool to secure the evil end, and bore the head of God’s great prophet like a trophy on a plate.

A glorious contrast

But in the end John was dead. He was arrested unjustly, imprisoned without merit, and executed on a whim. Yet let us not pass by without acknowledging the Lord’s will in this gruesome death. We do not doubt angels stood by John in his final moments. Hand on sword they would happily have defended their charge and severed the heads of John’s killers, smiting with all the vigour and ferocity of an earlier Elijah. But that was not necessary. John’s work was done, his ministry was fulfilled, and successful. Now everything before him was glorious. As he departed swiftly the dark cell beneath Herod’s castle, he arrived immediately in the bright courts of his God and King; a real King with a real Kingdom. In a final moment of trial he rid himself of the dirt and stench of this sinful world and entered victoriously into everlasting joy.

An enduring witness

The circumstances of John’s passing reveal the viciousness of sin and the kindness of Christ. While Herod wished to please the unpleasable, his foolish vanity was but the means of the Lord Jesus Christ promoting His friend and brother, John the Baptist, to heavenly glory. John’s disciples came and collected his body for burial but the brave prophet’s spirit was already soaring in realms unimaginable to sinful creatures. Herodias looked at the contorted face of John, John looked upon the beautiful face of Christ. We may recoil at the cruelty of Herod and his bitter wife, but John would have it no other way. He had the better part. Soon, in Christ, it shall be ours also.

Peter Meney

Hymn—“Afflicted Saint, To Christ Draw Near”

Sermon—“The Death Of John The Baptist”

Peter L. Meney is the editor of “New Focus“, a web-based magazine available online. Its purpose and aim is to spread as widely as possible the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of free, sovereign grace found in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

Hymn—“When We See Christ”

Closing Prayer


May the Lord bless you, and keep you; may the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; may the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Amen.


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