Read Mark 6:13-29
On Monday we talked about the need to deny the crowd the ability to influence us and to plant seeds of doubt and discouragement in our spirit. But it is easy to get caught up in the opinion of the crowd and to let them sway our decisions. Mark inserts a story at this point in his Gospel narrative which highlights, as it were, the other side of the Good News. King Herod heard about Jesus, and wracked with guilt declares that he must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. The story of John’s beheading illustrates the power of a crowd to negatively influence our decisions, if we allow it.
Herod was in an illicit relationship with his brother’s wife, Herodias. John reprimanded the king for his unlawful behavior. This displeased his wife. Seeking to please her, Herod had John arrested. Though his wife wanted him to kill John, he would not, “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe…and he liked to listen to him.” When Herodias’ daughter danced before the king, he was smitten. He made a public promise to the girl, saying, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.” Her mother advised her to ask for John the Baptist’s head. Herod didn’t want to kill John; he liked him. But as Mark reports, “because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.” The power of public opinion won the day. He didn’t want to disappoint the crowd. Herod folded under the pressure of pleasing others.
Herod did not know Jesus personally, but he admired John who had paved the way for the Lord. The testimony of John, and the reports of Jesus’ miracles and teachings were not enough, though, to sway the king. He chose to follow the crowd. Ultimately, we must ask: are we going to follow the crowd, ignoring the evidence of Christ’s power and authority, or will we stand in faith with Jesus, even if it is the more difficult place to stand?