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The Cost of Discipleship

Mark: Being the Body of Christ  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction:
The passage before us this evening reminds me of Netflix original. It is filled with violence, lust, intrigue, and many other things that might appeal to the populace. It isn’t just based on a true story, it is a true story. The life of John the Baptist was filled with controversy. It only makes sense that his death is filled with controversy as well. Through this passage, we will learn the cost of discipleship. We are called to stand for truth in a world that doesn’t want to hear it. There are implications for standing for truth that we, as followers of Christ, need to understand and be aware of.
Exposition:
VV. 14-20 - Herod Antipas’ reaction to Jesus’ and the disciples’ preaching ministry
The Herod referred to here in this passage is Herod Antipas. He was a son of Herod the Great. Herod Antipas was tetrarch over the land at this time. Mark writes that he is king. This is a term that neither Matthew nor Luke use to describe Herod Antipas. He uses the term king loosely and probably ironically.
He was only a tetrarch Galilee and Perea.
VV. 18-29 - The execution of John the Baptist
Tetrarch. Title of a class of Roman provincial officials. Tetrarchs were tributary princes who were not deemed important enough to be designated kings.
Tetrarch. Title of a class of Roman provincial officials. Tetrarchs were tributary princes who were not deemed important enough to be designated kings.
Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Tetrarch,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2047.
He ruled over this area from 4 B.C. until 39 B.C. when he was banished to Gaul (modern-day France). The reason for his banishment by the Roman government was because of his insatiable desire to be king. He had petitioned the Roman government for the official title of king but was denied. So, he decided to do something really dumb. He started stockpiling weapons to become king by force. His opponents revealed what he was doing, so he was banished.
In our text, he heard about Jesus’ and the disciples’ itinerate preaching ministry along with many others. People were saying that it was John the Baptist come back from the dead. Some were saying it was Elijah. Some said he was a prophet of old. For Herod, he thought it was John the Baptist whom he beheaded.
Why did Herod Antipas execute John the Baptist? John the Baptist was a fiery preacher of repentance. He held nothing back and told it like it was. Herod Antipas was a married man who was attracted to his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias. If you don’t think that is weird, consider this: Herodias was the daughter of his brother, Aristobulus. She was his niece and his brother’s wife. (and people make fun of West Virginia). It can really get confusing because his father, Herod the Great, is reported to have had 8 wives and children by each. They were the poster children for dysfunctional.
Herod Antipas divorced his wife so he could marry Herodias, his brother’s wife. For this, John the Baptist wasn’t going to allow this to happen without telling him he was violating God’s law. John’s denunciation of this affair (which was adultery and incest according to and 20:21) was viewed as a personal attack and probably a political threat.
Herodias held a grudge against John the Baptist and wanted him dead. However, Herod Antipas, was afraid to execute him because he knew John was a holy and just man. Therefore, he imprisoned John but kept him safe.
It is interesting to note Herod’s reaction to the Baptist in verse 20. “When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, yet he heard him gladly.” He wanted to hear what he had to say, yet was troubled by what he heard. I guess you could say that he was a glutton for punishment.
VV. 21-29 - The execution of John the Baptist
An opportunity for Herodias to see John killed presented itself at Herod Antipas’ birthday party. All kinds of dignitaries, generals, and important men were present at this party in which the wine was freely flowing. This party probably took place in his fortress at the village of Machaerus in southern Perea.
Machaerus
It is believed that this is the site of John the Baptist’s imprisonment and execution. During the festivities, Herodias’ daughter (from her marriage with Philip) came in and danced for the crowd. It is implied that she was just a teenager. It is also implied that her dance was provocative as we see it appealed to Herod’s perverted mind. Herod was so pleaded with her dance that he made a vow to her. “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” Keep in mind, it was not his kingdom to give in the first place.
An oath like this was not legally binding. However, not to carry through with the oath would have been embarrassing. Even Caeser dared not make such an oath in front of others like this.
When Herodias’ daughter heard this, she wasn’t sure what to do. So, she left to go ask her mother what to do. Notice that Herodias was not present. The daughter had to leave to go where her mother was. Excavations of Herod’s fortress where John the Baptist was imprisoned revealed two dining halls - one for men, and one for women. The men partied in one dining hall and the women in the other. So, Herodias’ daughter went to the other dining hall ask her mother what to do.
Some believe that this was all planned. I really don’t believe that was the case. If this were all planned, the daughter would have known what to demand of her uncle step-father. Herodias was an opportunity and seized it. She told her daughter to demand the head of John the Baptist on a platter. “The king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.” Therefore, he sent for the executioner and beheaded John in prison. The head was placed on a platter and given to the girl, who, in turn, presented it to her mother. It wasn’t enough to just have John executed. Having his head presented on a platter was a symbol of mastery over and humiliation of the victim.
When John’s disciples heard of it, they came and buried him properly.
Why did Mark place this event in the middle of the description of Jesus sending out the twelve on an itinerate preaching mission? is the beginning and is the end. This incident is sandwiched in the middle. Remember Mark’s purpose for writing (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) was to reveal Jesus’ identity as the Christ and to teach discipleship. John’s death here serves as a precursor to Jesus’ death. There are some interesting similarities. John the Baptist angered Herod and Herodias because of his teaching. Jesus angered the Jewish religious leaders because of His teaching. John the Baptist was considered to be a good man by Herod who didn’t want to kill him. Jesus was considered a good man by Pontius Pilate who did not want to kill Him. Herod gave in to the demand of his wife and daughter to kill John the Baptist. Pilate gave in to the demand of the Jews to kill Jesus. John the Baptist’s purpose was to prepare the way for the Messiah and point people to Him. His death hinted at the death of Jesus. Also, there are several things in this passage that relate to discipleship that we can apply to our lives today.
Application:

1. Don’t be surprised when people are bent on holding on to their sin despite what God’s Word says.

Herod was perplexed by John, yet delighted to hear him. He held on to his sin, yet gladly heard John preach. Sometimes, people love their sin so much that they will hold on to it and even fight for it when they see it in God’s Word. First, may this never be true of the believer. If sin becomes evident because it is seen in God’s Word, repent. For the unbeliever, the truth is usually suppressed in unrighteousness. In other words, they willfully ignore the truth so they can hold on to their sin. This is what Paul taught in . Therefore, don’t be surprised when people are so bent on holding on to their sin despite what God’s Word says. Also,

2. Don’t be surprised when the world reacts negatively to you if you uphold the truth.

Herodias did not like being told she was a sinner. John’s intent was not to judge by looking down his nose because of Antipas’ and Herodias’ adulterous and incestuous relationship. It was to get them to repent and turn to God. Despite the fact that John upheld the truth and held them responsible for violating God’s law, they reacted by imprisoning him (Herod Antipas) and eventually killing him (Herodias).
People do not like being told they are sinners. They don’t like being confronted with their sin. This doesn’t mean we walk around pointing out the sin of everybody we know and come in contact with. That is a sure fire way of making someone put up a wall. However, we are called to proclaim the truth in love. When opportunities come, proclaim the truth, but don’t be surprised if you receive a negative reaction. Lastly,

3. Despite the negative reactions and ridicule, always be faithful to Christ and His truth.

John didn’t say, “Ok guys, I was only kidding. I take back what I said to Herod Antipas and Herodias. Can’t we just live and let live?” Even though we do not know exactly what John said before his execution, we can be certain he didn’t say that. Jesus called him the greatest man that ever lived.
Matthew 11:11 ESV
11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Yet, look at John the Baptist’s view of himself.
John 3:30 ESV
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
yet John’s motto was, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Along the way, John the Baptist expressed some doubt as all of us do from time to time.
Matthew 11:2–3 ESV
2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
Jesus reassured him. Nevertheless, John was faithful to the end despite the ridicule and negative reactions - even prison. When you stand for Christ, you face ridicule. You will be called all kinds of things and accused of many others. John’s example is not to say that we go looking for a confrontation. It is not to say that we cower down in some corner and hope for the best either. As opportunities arise to witness for Jesus, don’t hold back because of repercussions. This is the cost of discipleship. Besides, if you have accepted Jesus’ payment for your sin, you are a citizen of Heaven and this world is just a temporary stop along the way.
Conclusion:
The implications for standing for truth that we have examined in this passage are not unknown. These are things that we need to be reminded of and consciously think about as we live for Christ in this world. Lest you think that these things only apply to preachers or anyone who is a church leader, think again. We are all called to be His ambassadors while we are here on this planet. We are called to proclaim the truth despite what others might think and do.
2 Corinthians 5:
2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
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