Some Reflections on Mark 6:14-29
Herod is controlled by a woman who is not his legitimate wife, and his daughter holds massive sway over him. He cares what John the Baptizer says because Herod knows he’s right (v.18-20), but won’t change his ways. Herod’s political position in the Jewish world appears precarious; how can he be a legitimate ruler of God’s people if he fails to keep God’s law? John’s criticisms are hitting a nerve, but to kill John would worsen Herod’s political standing.
He also cares more about the opinion of other people (v. 26) than righteousness. You get the sense that Herod is petty and shallow, not ruthless. It seems that his sorrow at executing John is not from affection towards John, but the unenviable political situation he finds himself in due to his licentiousness.
Herod finds what John says interesting in an exotic way, and John is little more than a court curiosity (v. 20). This should serve as a warning: John’s message of repentance wasn’t simply about inward faith, but had a socio-political dynamic where he spoke truth to power. And that truth wasn’t about injustice being inflicted by the government to an oppressed people, but the personal character of the ruler! It would be easy for John to think that he was making progress in his sessions with Herod, when in reality he was a step removed from the court jester.
It’s good to remember how politicians and officials view the gospel. Just because they listen, doesn’t mean the church has their ear. They may be acting in such a way to appease the base, with no intent on reform or repentance. Whether or not our position of favor in the court is jeopardized, we should not cease speaking truth to power.