A Rebellious Heart Unchanged
Last week’s article was from Ezekiel 2 in which Ezekiel is commissioned to proclaim the word of God to rebellious people who may or may not listen. This week’s passage seems to bear upon such a person. As Herod reminisces about John the Baptist, we learn that John spoke against Herod and his wife, Herodias. Herodias wanted to kill John for his words of judgment (rebellious, indeed), but Herod feared John (6:20). He knew that John was righteous, he knew that John’s words were hard, and yet he liked listening to John. Would it have any effect on Herod’s life? Would he repent from his ways?
In answer to these questions, Mark gives us the story of one of Herod’s banquets. At such a banquet, the guests and the host likely indulged in much revelry and drinking. Eventually, seductive women came and danced erotically, as we see Herodias’s daughter do (6:22). These banquets basically were venues for physical pleasures. With the sense of euphoria lying heavily over the proceedings, we see Herod make a fool of himself by offering up to half his kingdom because a pretty girl danced for him (6:23). How does it end? With Herod ordering John’s execution and Herod being unchanged in his ways.
This passage comes in a string as, first, the people of Jesus’ hometown reject him and his teaching; second, the apostles are warned about those who will not listen; and finally, Herod shows that he did not really listen to John. The message from Ezekiel bears out that they may not listen; but we see the content of one of these people in Herod. Notice the problem: for all of his intent listening to John, for all of his respect for him, Herod never applies the teaching to himself. He continues in the lifestyle that brought about John’s condemnation in the first place. He may have listened, but it did not produce any fruit in his life.
As we think about Herod, I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew and Luke about hearing and doing: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock…it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock” (Matt 7:24-25; Luke 6:47-48). Those who hear the words of God but never put them into practice will not benefit from them at all, no matter how intently they listen to them. Indeed, this story of Herod embodies the second half of Jesus’ teaching: he showed the he was a fool, and his world came crashing down around him that day. Let us not be surprised if the people to whom we speak the Gospel end up in the same place. This should not stop us from telling them, but we might do well to remind them to apply it to their lives instead of just listening. -TL