Scripture: Mark 6:1-29
Observation: Jesus faces rejection, sends out his twelve disciples to help heal others, and then King Herod, succumbing to the pressure of his wife and daughter, orders John the Baptist to be beheaded.
Application: Have you ever done something you didn’t want to do just because you felt pressure from someone else to do it? I certainly have (here’s a recent case in point). One of my biggest life fails was letting a friend convince me it was a good idea to flat iron my hair WITH AN ACTUAL IRON when I was 13. It was actually a terrible idea, and it ended with me singeing part of my hair off. For the love.
Turns out that I’m not the only one that succumbs to peer pressure – even King Herod himself made a decision (and a pretty grotesque one at that) out of peer pressure that came from his own daughter via his own wife. (Side note: Anyone who thinks the Bible is “boring” and “outdated” needs to read this chapter. This story is straight up WHACK. You could have pulled the storyline out of any modern day soap opera, that’s for sure.)
Here’s the setting: King Herod’s wife, Herodias, hated John the Baptist because John condemned her choice of marrying Herod’s brother, Philip, and then Herod himself. She wanted to kill him. (By the way – wanting to kill someone who disagrees with you is NOT A NORMAL REACTION.)
The problem: King Herod respected John. Even though he was “greatly disturbed” when he talked to John, he thought he was a “good and holy” man and liked listening to him. Therefore, he didn’t want to kill John. (A more normal reaction – Herodias should have taken lessons.)
The climax: The story hits its high point on Herod’s birthday, and you better bet he was PARTY ROCKIN’ IN THE HOUSE TONIGHTTTT with all of the kingdom’s high and mighty officials and officers. In front of all of his guests, he promised his daughter, also named Herodias (we’ll call her H.J. for Herodias Junior),that he’d do whatever she asked for. H.J. consults with her mom who tells her to ask for the head of John the Baptist. H.J. does it. (Seriously, H.J.?! You waste your birthday wish on the beheading of someone you probably don’t even know?! You should have asked for a car.) And then, here’s what happens:
“Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn’t refuse her.”
The conclusion: He did. Afraid to embarrass himself in front of guests, he immediately ordered for his solder to cut off the head of John the Baptist.
King Herod was willing to kill to avoid embarrassment.
What do we do based out of a desire to please others rather than please God? Are we more concerned with doing what’s right or with protecting ourselves? Are we willing to be publicly shamed, condemned, and opposed simply to avoid embarrassment?
When it comes down to it, are we willing to lose the respect of others to gain the favor of God?
Let’s vow together that it’s not worth it. Avoiding embarrassment and pleasing others isn’t worth the disunity it creates. It isn’t worth gossip or side conversations. It isn’t worth building our own egos or pride. It isn’t worth tearing each other down.
It’s time to build each other up, to be more concerned with earning the eternal favor of God rather than the fleeting favor of others. Let’s stand strong.
Prayer: God, I pray you’ll constantly help us push down that desire to please others and instead focus on pleasing you and you alone. I pray I’ll be more focused on your favor than on gaining approval from others. Amen.