In Mark chapter 6v17-20 King Herod is sitting on the fence. On the one hand he ‘had given orders to have John arrested’ (v17) but on the other hand he ‘feared John and protected him’ (v20). On the one hand Herod ‘liked to listen’ to John (v20) but on the other hand he liked his brother’s wife, Herodias (v18). And in 21st Century society most people think it’s OK to sit on the fence. Why not go to church on Sunday morning but get drunk and sleep with your boyfriend or girlfriend on Monday evening? Answer (according to Mark): sitting on the fence leads to moral disaster! That’s what Mark shows us in chapter 6v14-29. Herod ends up presenting the severed head of John the Baptist to his niece at his own birthday party!
‘Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him’ (v19). And eventually she was able to organise and orchestrate his death. At Herod’s birthday party she sent her own daughter in to seduce him (v22). When Herod made a drunken promise we are left in no doubt that Herodias is pulling the strings. After rushing to check with her mother, his own niece asks him for ‘the head of John the Baptist on a dish’ (v24). Herod ‘immediately’ sends for an executioner and before Herod blows out the candles on his birthday cake John the Baptist is dead (v27-28)!
John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife’ (v18). And Herod’s failure to repent gave Herodias just the opportunity she needed to kill John the Baptist. If Herod had got off the fence and ended his relationship with Herodias none of this would have happened. And so the lesson for people today is this: ‘Stop sitting on the fence and repent!’ This is in line with the main aim of Mark stated in chapter 1v14-15: ‘After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’’
In 21st Century society most people think it’s OK to sit on the fence. To compromise here and there. To sin against God on Saturday evening but to say sorry to God on Sunday morning. But if we’re that casual about sin we could end up just like Herod! He didn’t plan to execute John but the seed of compromise grew into a monster that he couldn’t control. For Herod the area where he compromised was relationships and it’s true to say that this is still one of the biggest reasons why so many people today turn their backs on Jesus Christ… Stop sitting on the fence and repent!