Mark 6:14-29 “Religious, But Not Saved”

Posted on March 13, 2009. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

Mark 6:14-29 “Religious, But Not Saved”

Sunday 26 March 2000 AM


Purpose: Evangelistic/Pre-Revival

Thesis: Many are entertained by the Gospel but choose to be religious without repenting and trusting in Christ. Sadly, many in our churches are religious but not saved.



I. Herod’s Difficult Situation

II. Religious But Not Saved

III. The Results of Sin

IV. The Hope of the Gospel



Mark 6:14-29

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.

Introduction: We are getting ready for revival by going through the book of Mark, story by story. The idea of revival is not to focus on what God may or may not do with other folks, the idea is to prepare our own hearts for what God wants to do with us! The same is true of preaching or studying the Bible.  It is good to study and preach for what we need. I should not direct my sermons to folks who are not here or who may not be here; I should preach for the glory of God first, preach what I the preacher need, preach for what you the congregation need. As soon as we start thinking, “That sermon sure did apply to Mr. so and so” instead of thinking “I needed to hear that sermon” then we miss the blessings that God has for us.

            Entertainment, while not inherently evil, can certainly be misused and overemphasized. We live in a leisure oriented society that seeks thrills and fun in a desperate way. Our fallen human nature will twist pleasure into a false god very easily. It was the same in Herod’s day. Sadly, many lost people in our day, just like Herod, are somewhat entertained by spiritual things, by the gospel even, but never repent and commit to the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, I believe that many religious folks in churches are merely religious without being truly saved! Today’s sermon is designed to help You think through the condition of your soul to examine your heart and see if you are really trusting in Christ alone for your salvation or if you are merely religious.


I. Herod’s Difficult Situation.

            1.”King” Herod- Who is Herod? This is Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch,

son of Herod the Great who ruled Palestine when Jesus was born. Herod the Great died around 4BC and his kingdom was divided between 4 sons. The Herod of our text today, Herod Antipas, ruled Galilee and Perea (the land East of Jordan River) from 4 BC to AD 39.

            Mark refers to Herod as “King” probably as an insult because Herod Antipas was not technically a king, in fact, Herod was deposed by Caesar Augustus specifically refused to give Antipas that title which his father had enjoyed. In AD 37 Emperor Caligula gave Antipas’ nephew (Herod Agrippa of Acts 12) the title “King” and Herodias was so jealous she urged her husband Antipas to request the title for himself from Caligula. For this, he got in trouble and banished. Mark would have been familiar with this of course and so he uses the title King to contrast the pretender with the Real King, Jesus, and the announcing of the Kingdom of God. Dr. Garland writes, (p.243), “Mark may be scornfully mocking Herod’s royal pretensions by giving him the title he coveted and that led to his ruin.”

            Herod’s wife, Herodias, was also a descendent of Herod the Great, hence her name. (This family is very complex!). She is Antipas’ neice and sister-in-law, having been married to Antipas’ brother, Phillip. Kent Hughes writes, (p.140), “Herodias was the daughter of Herod’s half brother Aristobulus, and was thus Herod’s neice. Further, when he met her in Rome she was the wife of another of his half-brothers, herod Philip, and therefore his sister-in-law. This was totally unallowable under Jewish law (Lev.18:16; 20:21).”

            John the Baptist was the son of the Priest Zechariah and Elizabeth (a relative of Mary mother of Jesus). A Nazirite from birth, a prophet, whom Jesus said of, Matt. 11:11 “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women, there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…” John would confront the Pharisees, Matt.3:7-10, “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Saducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘WE have Abraham as our father’…” John was in your face, confrontational preacher, who did not hesitate to point out sins personally.

            This is exactly what got him in trouble with Herod. Mark 6:17ff. Keep in mind that Antipas was the ruler, the “king”, the tetrarch, he was the chief executive, much as our President is, except with more power. John was pointing out the sins of the chief executive. This is perfectly fitting for the role of OT Prophet. See the relationship of Elijah and Ahab/Jezebel in 1Kings18:17; or Micaiah the prophet and his relationship with Ahab in 2Chron.18. The job of prophetically critiquing rulers according to scriptural truth is still important by the way. This is one of the jobs of the church, of individual Christians and faithful ministers- we must, like John the Baptist, confront our culture, our political leaders, with the Law and the Gospel. If you let political party affiliation blind you to the blatant sins of our politicians, then you need to re-evaluate your position. John did not hesitate to correct Herod Antipas for his incestuous marriage that was wrong on two counts. When it comes to preaching on sin and issues John did not hold back. It was not popular then, it is not popular today. It got John in trouble then and it gets me in trouble today! (I included this line because many in my church hated it when I brought up issues like abortion)


II. Religious But Not Saved

            Enough of the background stuff!! Here is the meat of the text and sermon. Herod Antipas had placed John the Baptist in prison because Herodias was incensed that John was pointing out their sin in his sermons in a public way (presumably). Herodias, like Jezebel of old (notice how much of the OT shows up in Mark’s gospel? I included this line because many in my church despised OT preaching and constantly complained anytime I preached from the OT) “wanted to kill John but she was not able to because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.”

            Herod was a typical hedonistic sinner who lived for the pleasures of sex, drunkeness, money and power. He divorced one wife in order to steal his brother’s wife. She was so evil that she even sent her own daughter out to dance as an exotic dancer for Herod’s wild party. The teenage step daughter danced a lascivious dance for her step father and his guests when that was normally the job of royal prostitutes. His marriage was incestuous, and this dance had incestuous overtures as well. Herod was deeply perverted, but that was normal for pagan culture.

            Yet Herod knew John the Baptist to be a righteous and holy man. As deeply into sin as he was, Herod was not oblivious to holiness. He saw holiness in John and appreciated it. He was drawn to it. This is a curious truth that I have seen in my experience as well. There are some lost sinners who have a degree of appreciation for that which is true, holy and righteous. Some sinners are like Herodias and Jezebel, totally mean,  wicked and vicious. Others, like Antipas and Ahab, like to hang out with the prophets. They see something in them they like. It is this tendency that I want to focus on, this sin of being religious without repenting.

            In our present day this sin is very prevalent in that most Americans believe in God and generally believe in Jesus and in the Bible. There is a renewed interest in things “spiritual” whether it is angels, reincarnation or prayer walks on ancient labyrinths. But surveys and studies have shown that behaviour amongst church members is no different from those who are not church members. In fact, Baptists have a higher divorce rate than those who are not in any church. It seems that, like Antipas, we like to have our sin and enjoy getting preached at as well!

            In reading a history book I have come across some startling things about the church in America. Let me quote from Henry Steele Commager’s book, The American Mind: An Interpretation of American Thought and Character Since the 1880’s. In his chapter on “Religious Thought and Practice” he writes, “Few things were more remarkable than the unanimity with which Americans professed a religious faith, for the most part Calvinistic, and the indifference which they displayed to its doctrines…in everything but law, America, at the opening of the twentieth century, was a Christian nation….Every people makes God in its own image, and the Americans were no exception….It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that during the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, religion prospered while theology went slowly bankrupt…Certainly by every test but that of influence the church had never been stronger than it was at the opening of the twentieth century…Everyone was a Christian, and almost everyone joined some church…. The typical Protestant of the twentieth century inherited his religion as he did his politics, though rather more casually, and was quite unable to explain the differences between denominations. He found himself a church member by accident and persisted in his affiliation by habit; he greeted each recurring Sunday service with a sense of surprise and was persuaded that he conferred a benefit upon his rector and his community by participating in church services. The church was something to be supported, like some aged relative whose claim was vague but inescapable….Never before had the church been materially more powerful or spiritually less effective….religion became increasingly a social activity rather than a spiritual experience…. ” Preach it brother Commager!

            The fact is that many people want a thin veneer of religion, want a taste of Christ without wanting to repent and follow Him. Human nature tends toward settling for superficiality instead of real commitment. Jesus faced this when in Mk.10 the rich young man approaches Jesus asking about eternal life. Jesus confronts him with his love of riches and the man leaves. Superficiality earns a rebuke from Christ. Look at Rev. 3:1-3, 14-20.

            Folks, if we are going to experience revival, if this church is to grow strong again, we must own up to being like Herod Antipas. We have some who may be religious but not serious, outwardly faithful, knowing some of the Bible and a lot of Baptist, but not committed to Christ, unrepentant of sin.

            What a horrible shame it would be to have attended this church for years, decades, and only to have served this church and never having served the Savior; to have done lots of good deeds to each other and to the neighbors, but never to have been truly born again.

            Do you like to be preached at, but have you never repented? That is what Herod did. Where does that lead?


III. The Results of Sin

            Let us look at the horrible descent of Herod down the drain of sin. We see his lust leading him to divorce and an incestuous marriage. We see an evil influence (his wife) that leads him to imprison God’s prophet; and then he listens to the Word of God repeatedly without heeding the Word, thus bringing condemnation upon his soul. (One of the biggest sins in the church is always this one of hearing the Word but not obeying the word). Herod hosts a normal party with lots of drinking and now an exotic dancer, his own step-daughter (incestuous again) and his pride exceeds his intelligence and he makes a rash vow which his scheming wife takes advantage of. This is where we get the crude saying “I want his head on a platter!” Now, facing humiliation before his guests, he sends the executioner after the court preacher. John dies a martyr’s death.

            Herod’s sins do not stop there. Look at Lk. 23 and you see Herod again, this time examining Jesus whom he had heard of for years. “When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer… Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him.”

            Herod wanted Jesus to perform like a court jester, actor or a trained dog. The entertainment factor again. Religious, but only interested in the sideshow stuff. Sadly many folks go to modern day “healing crusades” to see the show, to see God perform. There is an entire theology and church movement now that emphasizes making God perform on demand- just what Herod tried.

            How does it end? Herod mocks and ridicules the Creator himself; the Lord of lords is made fun of by a petty tyrant. Jesus is sent back to Pilate and crucified. One sin leads to another: from lust and drunkenness to treating the Word of God with contempt to murder of a prophet, now to the murder of the Son of God.


IV. The Hope of the Gospel

            Another biblical character, a king, was inflamed with lust that led to a murder. David. The difference is that David heeded the prophet Nathan when his sins were pointed out. David repented.

            The gospel is that God is holy and we are sinful to the core, unable to save ourselves. Jesus died as a perfect sacrifice in our place, bearing the full wrath of God against our sins, so that we could be forgiven. He paid the penalty for our sin so we could be declared righteous. The very righteousness of Christ is credited to our account and we are in fact adopted by God. The judge declares us righteous and then welcomes us into his family.

            We must no longer be content to be religiously entertained. We must repent of our sin and follow Jesus in faith. We must pick up our cross daily and follow Christ, walking in the Spirit, living by faith, pursuing holiness and sanctification.

            Being on the church rolls will not save you. Being faithful in attendance will not save you. Tithing will not save you. Studying your SS lesson will not save you.

            If you want to experience revival, if you want this church to experience revival, it begins with repentance and turning to Christ in faith.




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