The church has the privilege of proclaiming the greatest news in all of history—that God sent his Son to be the Savior of the world! However, the fact that this gospel message is good news doesn’t mean it will be popular. In fact, those who proclaim Jesus should expect opposition and persecution. In this message from Mark 6:14–29, David Platt points to the example of John the Baptist’s death as a reminder that following Jesus is costly. But, as Scripture also makes clear, the reward of following Jesus is greater than the cost—both for us and for those with whom we have the privilege of sharing the gospel.
With Jesus in your boat, you can smile in the storm when you’re sailing home. When you think about it, I would submit that’s a pretty theologically profound and personally encouraging truth. I’m looking across this gathering right now and there is a variety of people walking through storms—in your life, in your family, some of you with kids, or with parents, in your work, in the world, in a world of war and strife.
God, we pray for Your peace and mercy over Ukraine and the surrounding countries.
There’s actually a way to smile, even in the middle of the storms in our lives. In the storms in this world, there’s a joy to be had—an otherworldly calm and supernatural peace to be experienced in the middle of the storm—when you’re sailing home. That’s a good word, isn’t it? The storm is not home. The storm is what you’re in when you’re on the way home, but the storm isn’t home. Home is coming. As long as Jesus is in your boat, home is coming where the storm will be no more.
No more winds or waves of hurt, heartache, pain, grief, fear or anxiety. No, one day we’ll be home and the storms will be gone. Just knowing that can make you smile in the middle of the storm. All of this is only possible when Jesus—God in the flesh—is in the boat with you. You can smile when you know that the God Who has power over the storm, the God Who has purposes in the storm, the God Who promises to get you through the storm, has not left you alone. He is with you every step of the way. You’re not facing that storm alone. You may not sing that song and do those motions this week, but regardless, remind yourself of this truth: with Jesus in your boat you can smile in the storm when you’re sailing home.
I want to show you this is true according to the story of John the Baptist. The way Mark tells this story is interesting. Let’s get the picture. In verse 13, where we left off last week, Mark tells us about Jesus sending His disciples out on this mission trip. Then if you jump down to verse 30, where we’re going to start next week, he talks about these disciples coming back. In between Mark doesn’t tell us anything about what actually happened on the mission trip. Instead, he tells us a story about John the Baptist that happened way before this. If you don’t know much about John the Baptist, he was the forerunner of Jesus who came baptizing people for the repentance of sins and pointing them to Jesus.
Now in our text, this is the story of how he was martyred. Even in the way Mark sandwiches this story of John the Baptist in between the disciples of Jesus going out on a mission and coming back, he’s making a point. These disciples were going out on mission into a hostile world, into a world of storms. It was not easy for them.
This is a truth for all followers of Jesus to realize, from the youngest to the oldest. Following Jesus on mission in this world will involve storms, so don’t be surprised when they come. Don’t be surprised at the cost that comes your way when you’re on mission with the Word of God in this world. In fact, following Jesus on mission in this world may cost you your life. This is good for all of us to realize, no matter how young or old we are. So even kids who are considering following Jesus, hear loud and clear today from God that following Jesus could cost you everything.
Follow along with this story as I read it from Mark 6, beginning in verse 14:
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.
Mark 6:14–29 Reveals the Hostility Against God and His Word
So yes, this is a very heavy story with a very clear picture of the hostility against God, His Word and His ways in the world. Just look at King Herod here. You think your family tree is crooked, try to follow this. There are other Herods mentioned in the Bible; this one is Herod Antipas. Mark called him King Herod; Matthew calls him Herod the Tetrarch. He’s basically governor over a certain region of Roman occupation, the region that “happened to be” where Jesus’ ministry was primarily taking place.
Now, Herod had a wife who was the daughter of an Arabian king. They got married as kind of a political-military alliance. So you have Herod Antipas and his Arabian wife. Well, one day, they went to visit Herod Antipas’ half-brother, whose name was Herod Philip. Herod Philip was married to Herodias, which means that Herodias was Herod Antipas’ sister-in-law. Not only was she his sister-in-law, Herodias was also Herod Antipas’ niece. So you have Herod Antipas married to his Arabian wife, and Herod Philip married to Herodias, who was Herod Antipas’ niece and sister-in-law.
During this trip to visit Philip and Herodias, Antipas decided he wanted to marry Herodias, his niece/sister-in-law, so they ran away together. Basically Antipas divorced his Arabian wife and married his niece/sister-in-law Herodias. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, Antipas and Herodias had a daughter together, the girl who’s mentioned in this story. Then consider her story. One day she married her half-uncle Philip the Tetrarch, so just like that, she became the sister-in-law and aunt of her own mother. Do you follow that?
Now, if you’re wondering why any of that really matters, it doesn’t. But I just want you to see how messed up this picture is.
It’s in this passage where we read about Herod hearing about all Jesus and His disciples are doing in his region, which gets him scared because he thinks Jesus is John the Baptist come back to life. Which then leads Mark to tell us this story of what happened.
A while before this, when Herod’s daughter did a dance before what was likely her drunk father and his friends, he offered her whatever she wanted, then behind the scenes Herodias tells her daughter, “Ask for John the Baptist’s head.” This was because before that, at great risk to his own life, John had called out Herod on his adulterous and incestuous actions. As a result, Herod imprisoned John in a dungeon, but didn’t want to kill him. There was a sense in which Herod respected John, but Herodias didn’t. John was a threat to her marriage, so she had John killed.
There are all kinds of things we could dive into at this point, but the main picture I want you to see is that this is not just a story about John the Baptist. You see, this is in part a foreshadowing of the story of Jesus. Herod was in charge over the region where John the Baptist was preaching and in his leadership—or lack thereof—he beheaded John the Baptist. Fast forward one day to Jesus’ trial and we’ll see in Luke 23 that Pilate sent Jesus to guess who—Herod. This same Herod who would one day play another passive role that would lead to Jesus’ death. But it’s not just John the Baptist and Jesus.
Think of Jesus’ disciples amidst Roman occupation as they scatter into different places, these same disciples who are out on a mission trip while Mark is telling us this story. Apart from Judas, who betrayed Jesus, for all we know ten out of eleven of those disciples died martyr’s deaths. The only one who didn’t was John who was exiled on an island for speaking the gospel.
Mark 6:14–29 Reminds Us that the Life of a Christian is Not Easy
So the Bible is clear. Kids, adults, mark it down. You give your life to following Jesus and speaking God’s Word in this world and you will face more storms, not fewer. This wasn’t just true back then. This is true today. Do you think Jesus is the Hero of all history? Or a more personal way to put it is do you think Jesus is the Hero of your life?
If you’re exploring Christianity, the story of the Bible is the story of one Hero Who is worthy of not just admiration but awe and worship, and not just for a time but for all time. It’s the story of how God has formed and created each one of us fearfully and wonderfully in His image for relationship with Him (Psalm 139:14). It’s also the story of how all of us, in different ways, have turned aside from Him, have sinned against Him and chosen our ways over His ways. It’s the story of how, as a result of our sin, we live in a world of so many storms. It’s a world that’s separated from God. So if nothing changes, when we die, we will go to an eternity of everlasting suffering, separated from God.
But the Bible is also the story of how God loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to this world to live the life we could not live—a life of no sin. Then, even though He had no sin for which to die, He chose to die on a cross for sinners, to pay the price for our sin. He died the death we deserved to die. Then the good news keeps getting better because He didn’t stay dead long. Three days later He arose from the grave, so that anyone, anywhere, who turns from their sin and puts their trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord of their life will be forgiven of all their sin and restored to relationship with God—now and for all of eternity.
Jesus has lived the life we could not live, He has died the death we deserve to die, He has conquered the enemy we could not conquer. He is the Hero of all history and He is the only Hero Who is worthy of all of our worship. We invite you, then, from the youngest to the oldest within the sound of my voice, to put your trust in Jesus, early in your life, or as soon as possible in your life. Make Jesus the Hero of your story. Your life now and forever depends on it.
At the same time, know this one simple, significant truth today from God’s Word. If you believe that Jesus is the Hero of history and that Jesus is worthy of all your worship, know that following Him will not lead to an easy, comfortable life in this world. Not when you’re following the Hero Who was crucified by this world. Not when you’re following this Hero Who is leading you to another world, and along the way is calling you to forsake possessions, pleasures, pursuits and the applause of this world because He knows all of these things are fading. None of them will last.
So realize that regardless of how old you are—if you’re in elementary school right now, middle school, high school, college, if you’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s—regardless, if you’re going to follow Jesus, you are joining in a line behind John the Baptist, who gave his life pointing people to Jesus. John the Baptist said of Jesus in John 3:30, “He must become greater and I must become less,” which meant proclaiming God’s Word in this world even when that cost him everything.
Are you willing to follow Jesus behind John the Baptist? If not, then you are not actually following Jesus. You might say, “But he died. They cut off his head in this world.” And that’s the point. John wasn’t living for this world. He wasn’t living for worldly kings and temporary pleasures. He was living for a heavenly King with everlasting pleasures. John wasn’t living for an earthly hero; he was living and dying for an eternal Hero.
The question is are you? If Jesus, the Hero of history, is the Hero of your story, then you can know that no matter what storms you may face in this world, even down to the storm of death itself, you can smile, because you know you’re sailing home.
Will you bow your heads with me? I want to ask you to focus, just between you and God. Is Jesus the Hero of your life? The Lord, Savior and King of your life? If the answer to that question is not a resounding yes in your heart, then I invite you in this moment to just call out, from your heart to God, and say, “God, I know You have made me for relationship with You. I know I have turned away from You in so many ways, but today I believe that Jesus is the Hero of all history Who has died on a cross for my sin and risen from the grave so that I can have life, so that I can be restored to You. Today I confess Him as Lord and Savior, as Hero of my life.”
The Bible says everyone who calls on His name as Lord will be saved from your sin and restored to God.
God, I pray for that miracle to happen in hearts all across this gathering right now. And for all of us who have experienced this miracle—either for the first time in this moment or in times leading up to this—we thank You for this reminder today, that the storms in this world are not the end. We thank You even for the reminder that following You and proclaiming Your Word in this world will lead to more storms, not fewer. We say to You Jesus, the Hero of history and the Hero of our lives, You are more than worth it. We want to follow You wherever and however You lead us. We want to speak Your Word, the good news of Your love, no matter what that means for our lives.
God, help us even this week—the second week of this mission trip we’re doing—please give us courage and boldness to speak Your Word, to speak the gospel, especially in light of the brothers and sisters in India, for whom it’s so much more costly than just reputation or lack of comfort in a conversation. God, please help us to speak Your Word. We pray that You would bring people to life in You today through Your Word spoken through us.
O God, we look forward to the day when storms will be no more. We long for that day. At the same time, we praise You that You’re in the middle of the boat with us right now. So lead us on. Guide us. Help us to live and die proclaiming Your Word in this world, as we look forward to seeing Your face and for the day when the storms will be no more. In the name of the One Who makes all this possible—in Jesus’ name—we pray. Amen.
How can we apply this passage to our lives?
- How can you “smile in the storm” when you’re sailing home, despite your troubles and weaknesses?
- We want our Church Group to be on mission together making disciples.
- How can you be prepared for storms and how can you help to equip others for storms?
- Where have you/we gone on mission during this past week? Where can we go next week?
- How are we serving the next generation, the underserved, the unserved?
- We want Jesus to be the hero of our life and our life should be uncomfortable.
- How does your life testify that Jesus is in your boat and that He is your hero?
- Where do you need to move from comfortable wordly pursuits to uncomfortable pursuits for Jesus?
- How are you living according to the Word to glorify God over self, regardless of storms?