Have you ever done something terribly wrong and then suffered from the paranoia of getting caught? When we break the rules and commit a sin, we discover that the fear of being found out is often worse than the punishment that follows. It is a relief to finally confess our misdeeds and be done with it…the guilt is expunged and the anxiety over being discovered is finally over.
In our scripture today, King Herod is overcome with his guilt. He killed John the Baptist because of a young girl’s demand. His paranoia is so great, he believes that a miracle-worker named Jesus was actually John, returned from the dead:
Mark 6 (The Message)
14 King Herod heard of all this, for by this time the name of Jesus was on everyone’s lips. He said, “This has to be John the Baptizer come back from the dead—that’s why he’s able to work miracles!”
15 Others said, “No, it’s Elijah.”
Others said, “He’s a prophet, just like one of the old-time prophets.”
16 But Herod wouldn’t budge: “It’s John, sure enough. I cut off his head, and now he’s back, alive.”
Guilt will do that to you. It can drive you crazy to hold onto a secret or to have to cover up a crime or indiscretion. One lie leads to another lie until we are caught in a web of deception. Herod’s guilt was great. He actually liked John. He had given John special treatment as a “holy man,” and respected the fact that John was bold enough to speak the truth:
17-20 Herod was the one who had ordered the arrest of John, put him in chains, and sent him to prison at the nagging of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. For John had provoked Herod by naming his relationship with Herodias “adultery.” Herodias, smoldering with hate, wanted to kill him, but didn’t dare because Herod was in awe of John. Convinced that he was a holy man, he gave him special treatment. Whenever he listened to him he was miserable with guilt—and yet he couldn’t stay away. Something in John kept pulling him back.
“Something in John kept pulling [Herod] back.” This is a sad statement. The power of the Holy Spirit working though John had almost broken down the walls that Herod had erected around himself. Herod felt the guilt that came with the truth John had exposed, and he couldn’t stay away. He was almost ready to turn it all around until…
21-22 But a portentous day arrived when Herod threw a birthday party, inviting all the brass and bluebloods in Galilee. Herodias’s daughter entered the banquet hall and danced for the guests. She charmed Herod and the guests.
22-23 The king said to the girl, “Ask me anything. I’ll give you anything you want.” Carried away, he kept on, “I swear, I’ll split my kingdom with you if you say so!”
24 She went back to her mother and said, “What should I ask for?”
“Ask for the head of John the Baptizer.”
25 Excited, she ran back to the king and said, “I want the head of John the Baptizer served up on a platter. And I want it now!”
His lustful eye for the young daughter of Herodias was his undoing. Trapped now by his hastily spoken words, he had no choice but to act on his extravagantly stupid vow to give her whatever she wanted.
26-29 That sobered the king up fast. But unwilling to lose face with his guests, he caved in and let her have her wish. The king sent the executioner off to the prison with orders to bring back John’s head. He went, cut off John’s head, brought it back on a platter, and presented it to the girl, who gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and got the body and gave it a decent burial.
How sad. It would have been so much better for Herod to accept John’s truth, repent of his sins, and receive forgiveness. But instead, Herod ends up beheading a man that he truly admired….a man who could have saved Herod from himself.
If there is anything to be learned here, it is that guilt can be destructive. Many of us carry guilt around for years, and it eats away at our self-esteem and our peace. We are caught in its sticky web and we can’t get free.
Do you have guilt that is pulling you down? Get rid of it. Take it to Jesus and let him absolve you. He will throw that sin away, as far as the East is from the West, and you will never be burdened by it again.
Jesus was indeed a miracle-maker. Let him make a miracle in you today.