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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, December 2, 2012

“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” (Mark 6:20).

Herod Antipas was one of the sons of Herod the Great, who was the ruler when Jesus was born. Herod Antipas was called “Herod the Tetrarch” because he was made the ruler of one fourth of Galilee. He was also called “Herod the King” by the Galileans. He had married Herodias who had been his brother Philip’s wife. John the Baptist was outraged that a ruler in Israel would commit such a scandalous sin. He rebuked Herod severely for this. Herod had John put in prison because Herodias wanted him to. She hated John the Baptist for speaking out against her marriage to Herod. By calling him a “fox” (Luke 13:32) Jesus showed His disapproval of Herod’s cunning and deceitful character. Herod Antipas was also very superstitious, fearful and double minded. “Herodias had a quarrel against [John the Baptist], and would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19).

“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” (Mark 6:20).

In this text we see that Herod respected John the Baptist, gladly heard him preach, did many things John told him to do, and yet he perished eternally.

A few weeks ago I was speaking on Felix, the Roman governor that the Apostle Paul preached to in Acts 24. Felix trembled when Paul spoke, but he did not repent and trust Christ. He sent for Paul often, “and communed with him” (Acts 24:26). But he was never converted. I said I couldn’t think of another man in the New Testament who heard many sermons without being saved. After I spoke Mr. Griffith reminded me of Herod the Tetrarch, who is spoken of in our text,

“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” (Mark 6:20).

Here, then, is a man who pictures those who come to church and hear the sermons gladly, who change some things in their lives, but do not repent and trust Christ. If you have been coming to church, but have not been converted, think of several things in the life of Herod and compare them to yourself.

I. First, Herod admired John.

“For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy...” (Mark 6:20).

Matthew Henry said, “It is possible that a man may have a great reverence for...good ministers...and yet be a bad man” [himself].

You can respect the preacher. You can say that he is “a just man and an holy” – and yet not be saved. I remember a man who came to the Chinese Baptist church when I was there. He said the pastor, Dr. Lin, was a great man, as indeed he was. This man thought Dr. Lin was such a wise and holy Bible teacher that he wanted his whole family to transfer from another Baptist church so they could all hear Dr. Lin every Sunday. He would sit in church on Sunday in rapt attention while Dr. Lin spoke. He would quote Dr. Lin almost every time you talked to him. But after a couple of years he began to read the writings of a German mystic named Jacob Boehme (1575-1624). Boehme was a very peculiar, non-traditional writer, with many allegorical and strange interpretations of Scripture. This man began quoting Boehme to Dr. Lin, and even standing to read parts of Boehme’s writings in prayer meeting. He became so carried away with this mystic that he got into an argument with Dr. Lin and left the church. Thinking back, I doubt that man was really converted. He had respected and venerated Dr. Lin. But in the end, like Herod Antipas, he rejected the pastor, as Herod finally rejected John the Baptist.

At some point a person has to go beyond looking at the preacher and look at Christ Himself. The preacher is to instruct people until they repent and acknowledge the truth in Christ Jesus (see II Timothy 2:25). Herod never went beyond venerating and admiring John the Baptist. He never came to Jesus, and was never saved. Spurgeon said,

      Though he loved John, [Herod] never looked to John’s Master. John never wanted anybody to be his disciple, but he cried, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Herod was, after a sort, a follower of John, but never a follower of Jesus. It is easy for you to hear the preacher and love him and admire him, and yet the preacher’s Master may be all unknown to you. I pray you, dear friends, do not let this be the case with any of you…It is to Christ you must go: the end of all our ministry is Christ Jesus. We want you to go to him direct, to seek from him pardon, from him redemption, from him a change of heart, from him a new life, for vain will it be if you have listened to the most faithful of preachers, and have not listened to the preacher’s Master and obeyed the gospel. You will be Herods, and nothing more, unless grace leads you to Jesus Christ (C. H. Spurgeon, “John and Herod,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume XXVI, Pilgrim Publications, 1972, p. 404).

II. Second, Herod did many things when he heard John preach.

“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…” (Mark 6:20).

Herod did many of the things that he heard John preach about. But he did not get rid of Herodias. She was his own niece, and had been married to his own brother. She was the mother of children by his own brother. And yet Herod cast out his first wife, who had been faithful to him for many years, and took this wicked, godless woman, Herodias in her place. Herod was committing incest with her. The influence of this woman was his curse and ruin.

Many men and women have been ruined by keeping a close relationship with an unconverted person. The Bible says,

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers”
      (II Corinthians 6:14).

The Bible says,

“Come out from among them, and be ye separate”
       (II Corinthians 6:17).

The Bible says,

“Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

We have seen young people so strongly controlled by the influence of a lost friend that they would not turn loose of that person and come to Christ. Spurgeon said, “It is always perilous to be under the influence of an unconverted person, however moral they may be…God help you to rise above it [or] you will end in being Herods, and nothing more” (ibid., p. 406).

Herod “did many things” that he heard John the Baptist preach – but he did not put away from him this abominable woman. John the Baptist had warned him, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife” (Mark 6:18). If he had repented and sent her away, and trusted Jesus, Herod would have been saved. “But,” someone may say, “that would have been a hard thing for him to do.” Yes, I know, it always seems “hard” to give up a lost friend, or a beloved sin. But to hang on to such a sin is always harder in the end. For in the end Herodias tricked Herod into murdering the preacher he once respected. And Herod sent an executioner to behead John the Baptist, and he brought his head in a platter to that vile and contemptible woman that he wanted more than Christ!

Spurgeon said, “So it has happened with many hopeful hearers; they have become slanderers and persecutors of the very preachers before whom they once trembled, and far as they could they have taken off their heads. After a time men dislike being rebuked, and they proceed in their dislike till they scoff at the things they once reverenced…Beware! I pray you, beware! for the way of sin is downhill. A person may be evangelical…and yet, if he is placed under certain conditions, he may become a hater and a persecutor of the truth he once avowed” (ibid., p. 407).

As you may know, some of those who desperately hate this church, and attack us viciously, were once our friends, who prayed with us and said they loved us. The root of their hatred lies in the fact that they loved sin, and hated being reproved for it. Jesus said,

“If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).

III. Third, Herod’s conscience would not give him rest.

The portion of Scripture Dr. Chan read before this sermon began with these words,

“And king Herod heard of [Jesus]…and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him” (Mark 6:14).

Matthew Henry said, “He feared John while he lived, and now, when he thought he had got [rid] of him, fears him ten times worse when he is dead. One might as well be haunted with ghosts and furies, as with the horror of an accusing conscience.”

In the end, none of Herod’s craftiness and politicking could save him. King Aretas, the Nabatean ruler whose daughter had been Herod’s first wife, before he left her for Herodias, sent his troops against Herod to avenge his daughter. This led to the downfall of Herod Antipas. He was finally called before the Roman emperor Caligula. The Emperor took all his wealth and banished him to an obscure part of France. Later he was banished to Spain, where he died in poverty. Thus his earthly life ended, “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:23).

Herod heard John the Baptist preach, “and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly” – but he never repented, and he never trusted Jesus. John preached Jesus to him, but he never trusted the Saviour.

There are some of you here this evening who come to hear the preaching in our church. You come, but you do not repent, and you do not trust Jesus. I warn you, your end will be no better than that of Herod Antipas. You do many things. You may dress up for church. You may carry a Scofield Study Bible. You may sing the hymns, you may even go to evangelism. Yes, you may do many things, as Herod did. But what about Jesus?

Herod did see Jesus once, very briefly, just before the Saviour was crucified. But “Herod with his men of war…mocked him…and sent him again to Pilate” the Roman governor (Luke 23:11). By this time Herod’s heart was so hardened by sin that he mocked the Son of God to His face! That is what will happen to you as well, if you go on hearing the sermons but refuse to trust Jesus. Though He died on the Cross to pay for our sin, and rose again for our justification, you will one day be given up to a hardened heart, and the eternal fire of Hell, as was Herod Antipas. He heard the sermons, but he was never saved! Oh, may that not be your unhappy end! Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 6:14-20.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Almost Persuaded” (by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“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” (Mark 6:20).

(Luke 13:32; Mark 6:19; Acts 24:26)

I.   First, Herod admired John, Mark 6:20a; cf. II Timothy 2:25.

II.  Second, Herod did many things when he heard John preach, Mark 6:20b;
II Corinthians 6:14, 17; James 4:4; Mark 6:18; John 15:19.

III. Third, Herod’s conscience would not give him rest, Mark 6:14;
Luke 16:23; 23:11.