14 ¶ And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. 15 Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. 16 But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead. 17 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. 18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. 19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: 20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.
Here is the power of a bad conscience.
Acts 24:25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
Leviticus 26:36 And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.
Modern versions remove “risen from the dead” in verse 16 based mainly on Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. This “risen from the dead” lays out literally that there was indeed a general belief in a physical resurrection, not merely a spiritual one, although likely the wording was changed for the purpose of obtaining a copyright rather than an attack on doctrine.
Verse 18 showed that John had been preaching against Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife.This simple truth profoundly affected King Herod. This is the power of the word of God and of preaching it in the streets.
Herodias would have killed John as Jezebel would have killed Elijah in 1 Kings 19:2. While Elijah had overseen the execution, though, of many of Baal’s priests in the previous chapter, John the Baptist had simply called Herodias on her sin. It was enough to warrant death. Aren’t you glad you live in a country where criticizing your leaders’ behavior doesn’t result in execution, unless of course you’re one of the many people who have shot themselves in the head, twice, like Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Gary Webb who exposed President Reagan’s Contra project’s relationship with the influx of crack cocaine to the country in the 80’s, or any number of associates of Bill Clinton who were murdered or committed “suicide.” Then you might not feel so glad.
Pointing out a powerful or important person’s wickedness can put an end to a career. Usually, the pointing is done by a person with as much a load of guilt as the one being called out, at least in today’s politics. Newt Gingrich pointing out Clinton’s infidelities is akin to Stalin calling Hitler a dictator. In the scene here in Mark it is a true man of God, said to be just and Holy. He was also someone that Herod wanted to hear and wanted to follow but he was just too spineless in his sin.
You will see the occasional person in a wicked and sinful lifestyle or job come to church regularly and soaking in the sermons and teaching. But that person will be too afraid of his friends, business associates, wife, and family to leave the sinful lifestyle he’s in. It may cost him money, position, and contacts. He’ll get “it” alright. He just won’t have the guts to do anything about “it”.