The Devastating Nature of Sin – Mark 6:14-29 (pt. 1)


Sin is devastating.  The bible is full of examples that illustrate this very point.  From the very beginning sin has had an awful effect on this world (Genesis 3:14-19).   That is because sin, by its very nature, is devastating.  Our problem is that we usually forget just how devastating sin is.  We ignore it.  We excuse it.  We forget about it.  Ultimately, we take sin far too lightly.

This is very dangerous because if we allow it, sin will take over our lives and lead us into places that we never intended to go.  This was exactly the point that God was making in Genesis 4:7 when He told Cain, “sin is crouching at that door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”  If we do not rule over the sin in our life then Romans 1:18ff tells us what will happen to our lives.  This is a graphic reminder of just how devastating sin is, and as we look at Mark 6:14-29 we are going to see a living example of this very thing.

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter 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 to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

As we prepare to look at this passage we need to understand a little bit of what is going on.  This passage is right in the middle of a section of Mark’s gospel that is about the popularity of Jesus’ Galilean ministry (note the connection between v. 13 and v. 30).  It almost seems strange that Mark would place this account right here.  However, if we think about the people to whom he was writing it makes a little bit more sense.  Mark was writing to Roman Christian undergoing intense persecution.  As they were reading Mark’s gospel it would have been easy to wonder why so many people were rejecting the gospel in Rome.  That is why Mark included this passage in his gospel account.

Mark wrote this passage to his Roman readers to help them understand how people could violently oppose the power of the Gospel.  He uses the example of Herod, a Roman figure who martyred a Christian, to show them that rejection of the gospel is the natural result of sin.  The very first words of this passage reveal that Herod’s thinking about Jesus was flawed, and the rest of the passage reveals how it became so flawed.  As we trace these steps it will become clear that sin is what caused Herod to reject Jesus.  Furthermore, it will become clear that sin is devastating.  Specifically, we are going to see 4 principles that reveal the devastating nature of sin:

  1. Sin is devastating because it distorts your thinking. (vv. 14-16)
  2. Sin is devastating because it leads you to do disgusting things. (vv. 17-18)
  3. Sin is devastating because it forces you to violate you conscience. (vv.19-26)
  4. Sin is devastating because it has horrible results. (vv. 27-29)

I. Sin is devastating because it distorts your thinking. (vv. 14-16)

The first principle that reveals that devastating mature of sin is that sin is devastating because it distorts your thinking.  We see this in vv. 14-16.  Here Mark turns his attention to King Herod.  Just for clarification, this is Herod Antipas who was the ruler of Galilee.  In reality, he was not really a king, but just a ruler.  The beginning of v. 14 says that “King Herod had heard of it, for his name had become known.”  What was it exactly that he heard of?  Clearly it was the excitement that was building over Jesus’ ministry as the 12 disciples were going out and preaching in Galilee.  On a side note, it is interesting that the disciples were going out promoting the fame of Jesus rather than their own fame.  As they did this v. 13 tells us that they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to do some amazing things.

As word spread about Jesus and these miracles people began forming opinions concerning the identity of Jesus and the source of His power.  In vv. 14-15 we learn of three of theses theories about Jesus:

  1. John the Baptist – This is the first that we hear of John’s death…
  2. Elijah – This was based on the Jewish expectation that Elijah would return as a forerunner (Mal 4:5).
  3. Another one of the Prophets – Possibly as prophet to come and deliver the people from Roman oppression.

There are significant problems with each one of these theories about Jesus, however the most ridiculous theory is clearly that Jesus was some kind of reincarnation of John the Baptist.  This theory was ridiculous for at least 4 reasons:

  1. John and Jesus were alive at the same time.
  2. John didn’t do miracles.
  3. John pointed to Jesus, and even taught that Jesus had more power.
  4. Reincarnation?????

Quite frankly, it was idiotic to think that Jesus was John or that in some way Jesus had the power of John’s reincarnate spirit.  And yet, this was the very position that Herod emphatically held to.  As you read v. 16 you can almost envision Herod interrupting a conversation about Jesus to make his position clear.  He was certain that this was John raised from the dead, and as we look closely at this verse we see why.  He was the one who had John beheaded.  As one commentator put it, “It is by no means impossible that a guilty conscience working on a superstitious nature should have convinced him that John had really returned.”[1]

I don’t think that there is any doubt that Herod’s guilty conscience was behind him ignoring all the facts about Jesus and looking to the reincarnation of John for the answers.  In other words, sin distorted his view of Jesus.  And if it distorted Herod’s view of Jesus it will distort ours as well.

In general the bible teaches us that sin separates us from God.  This is what Paul meant in Romans 6:23.  But even more specifically than this, the bible teaches that sin distorts our thinking.  We already looked at Romans 1:18-32.  This passage outlines some of the ways that sin will distort our thinking.  Herod was certainly an example of this, and his view of Jesus shows us just how devastating sin can be in our lives.

Sin will affect your thinking.  Even if it is just one sin that you are holding onto this sin will begin to multiply.  Pretty soon, if you don’t snuff out this sin you will start lying even to yourself to justify this sin.  Before you know it, that sin has distorted your thinking and most importantly that sin has distorted your view of Jesus.  This is what happened with king Herod, and as we will see in the rest of the passage it all started with one sin that ended up taking over his life.

[1] Cranfield, 207.