Whom Shall We Fear (Mark 6:14-29)
This text before us today gives us a clear demonstration and comparison of the fear of God to that of the fear of man. We are thrust into the account of the death of the greatest prophet at the hands of vile people. One person fears only God, while the others fear everything but Him.
This portion epitomizes the teaching of James stating, “…whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” This inevitably means friendship with God makes oneself an enemy of the world.
It also emphasizes Christ’s instruction in Matthew:
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
In other words, fear God not man.
It is a commonly asked question these days:
Q.) Should we fear God in its purest sense?
Scripture says “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God, who is a consuming fire. We as believers are commanded to work out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is the Living God at work in us to will and work for His pleasure.
Within our time together this morning I want us to focus on what it means to truly fear God. May we find our answers to the questions:
Q.) What are the marks of God fearing people, and are we branded with these marks?
I want us to read this account as naturally as possible without much input, because the truth it conveys is fairly self-explanatory.
What Mark does is recount the day godless and man fearing people took the opportunity they were given to kill the God fearing man they hated. The reasons he explains this account is because of what resulted with the Apostles mission:
“14 And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, ‘John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.’15 But others were saying, ‘He is Elijah.’ And others were saying, ‘He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’16 But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, ‘John, whom I beheaded has risen!’”
Please do not miss that Jesus Christ alone got all of the recognition from the Apostles mission.
Q.) Why is that?
A.) People heard and saw Christ in them!
There was no mistaking Jesus was at work.
Now, Herod apparently had a guilty conscience and was afraid the one whom he killed, John, is back doing these works in Jesus. Talk about a skewed Christology!
The last time we heard of John is when he ushered in the Christ by proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It could be rightly understood that John was arrested while Jesus was in the wilderness.
Mark explains for us the circumstance leading to John’s death and the reasons behind Herod’s fear:
“17 For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, 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 and could not do so;20 For Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.”
Do not walk away thinking only Herodias wanted him dead and Herod did not want to kill him. Matthew plainly tells us, “Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet.” They want him dead, but they do not want to be seen negatively by the people.
Mark then introduces the opportunity for them to have their cake and eat too so to speak:
“21 And a strategic day came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee;22 and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.’23 And he swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom.’24 And she went out and said to her mother, ‘What shall I ask for?’ And she said, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’25 And immediately she came in haste before the king and asked , saying, ‘I want you to give me right away the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ 26 And although the king was very sorry, yet because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her.27 And immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and had him beheaded in prison,28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.29 And when his disciples heard about this, they came and took away his body and laid it in a tomb.”
Vance Havner says it best:
“Men love everything but righteousness and fear everything but God.”
This describes Herod Antipas perfectly. This Herod is the son of Herod the Great who ordered the murder of every male child in Bethlehem two-years and younger after Christ’s birth.
Q.) What was his reasoning for doing so?
A.) Fear of losing power to the newborn King.
His son is gripped with the very same fear.
Within this portion we see Herod Antipas fears:
His fear of losing face among his political friends ultimately outweighed all other fears he held.
He truly fears everyone and everything, but God.
John’s imprisonment and death, on the other hand demonstrates God is the only being he actually fears. He fears not what man will do to him, rather the One who destroys both body and soul in hell.
This is evident within his rebuke of Herod declaring “It is not lawful…”
Q.) How does this show us John fears God?
A.) He points to the Law of the transcendent and holy Law giver showing Herod he has fallen short of the very glory of God.
You see, when Mark tells us Herod was perplexed at John’s teaching, he is using the word Aporeo. This means as Herod was confronted with the Law he was faced with his helplessness. John’s teachings left Herod:
- Without any resources
- In dire straits
- To be found wanting
- Utterly embarrassed
- In doubt of himself
- Not knowing which way to turn
This is exactly what the Law does with humanity! It leaves us sinners in the hands of an angry God. It leaves us striped of every fiber of confidence we have ever had in ourselves. It leaves us helpless and naked before the One with whom we have to do.
Q.) Why should we fear God?
A.) Because His Law in the Old Testament reveals His unchanging character and attributes.
In other words, as we compare ourselves to the standard of His Law, we discover that God Himself is that very holy standard. As we measure ourselves to Him we fall far short. We therefore find ourselves eclipsed by His glory:
- Without any resources
- In dire straits
- To be wanting
- Utterly embarrassed
- In self-doubt
- Not knowing which way to turn
We are left in this state because God’s Word declares He is alive, good and just, but that we are dead, wicked and guilty before Him. God will not allow the guilty to go unpunished. We are then left completely in need of His mercy.
The Scripture teaches us it is the mercy of God that leads us to true repentance.
I want us to consider this question:
Q.) What makes the mercy of God so beautiful?
Perhaps the question should be asked:
Q.) If mercy leads to repentance, what leads to understanding our need for mercy?
A.) Our knowledge of a Holy God.
Q.) What does this knowledge produce?
A.) Fear, because our knowledge of Him tells us He is good and just, and we are deserving of His divine judgment.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God, Who is wholly good and does not hold the slightest inclination of ever perverting justice.
Realize this it is when we truly fear God for Who He is that we can ever actually begin to love Him.
If knowledge leads to fear, and fear leads to mercy, and mercy leads to repentance, than repentance leads to loving Him Who first loved us.
The reason a wrath-less gospel is no gospel at all, is because it takes away the quality of God that emphasizes the depth of His love towards us.
Q.) How is God able to extend mercy to us sinners without ever compromising His justice?
A.) He gave His Son, Who took our sin upon Him bearing the penalty we deserve appeasing the wrath of God towards us with His blood.
Since The Father poured out the justice we deserve upon The Son, God is just and the justifier of the one who comes to Him by faith in Jesus.
The Father did not allow The Son to undergo decay, but raised Him back to life on the third day. If we are covered by the blood of Christ through faith we are then clothed in the life of Him also.
God therefore mercifully saves us from His eternal destruction, and graciously gives us eternal life through faith in Christ alone.
Q.) Do believers need to fear the wrath of God?
The Scripture is explicitly clear there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, who has delivered us from the wrath to come. This does; however, mean non-believers have every reason to fear His wrath. The lost are dead in sin meaning they are:
- Separated from God
- Enemies of God
- Under the wrath of God
- Destined for the eternal destruction by God
Q.) What is the desire of The Living God whom they should fear?
A.) That they come to repentance and the knowledge of the truth, and not perish.
The gospel is the only way through which the Living God beckons mankind to repent and believe. It is the exclusive message that:
- Reconciles lost humanity back to God
- Establishes peace between God and man
- Saves sinners from God’s wrath
- Destines the undeserving for eternal life
It all hinges on the exclusivity of Christ Jesus.
The tragedy is the world hates this very message and receives it as complete and utter foolishness. The message of repentance and forgiveness was the very thing John the Baptist fearfully proclaimed.
John’s steadfast fear made him Herod’s enemy.
The message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ has been passed to us. We have two options for our earthly lives:
- Fear man, and live
- Fear God, and die
Please understand a clearly defined line is drawn and there is no middle ground. Jesus Christ took a proverbial stick and drew that line in the sand 2,000 years ago when He said:
“18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…17:14 I have given them Thy word, and the world has hated them…”
It has been this way from the beginning with the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah. Humanities history is stained with the blood of those who truly fear God.
Q.) What does it mean for believers to fear God?
First, we must note that God has not changed. This means the dread of Him that beckoned us to rely upon His mercy has not been diminished. He did not, nor will He ever, cease being wrathful, because it is one of His infinite and eternal qualities. What He did was satisfy His eternal wrath with an eternal payment, the blood of the eternal Son.
What has changed is our relationship with Him. Since we have been adopted by Him as sons and daughters in Christ our fear of Him has matured. This is not a cowering servile fear of facing divine wrath, but a fear of failing to live in a manner pleasing to the God who saved us from His wrath. We were bought with a price; the blood of Jesus! We therefore, must work out our salvation with fear and trembling and walk in a manner worthy of our calling in Christ.
It is true, we will not be judged for our sins since those have already been judged on Jesus. We will however, face The Judgment Seat of Christ where we are judged for our lives lived in Him.
Q.) What are the marks of God fearing people?
There are several things we can walk away with based on this account of John the Baptist. God fearing people strive to:
- Know God in His Word
- Obey God according to His Word
- Proclaim God through His Word
By the way these are a package deal:
- We cannot say that we truly fear God, but never strive to know Him.
- We cannot say that we truly know God, but never strive to obey Him.
- We cannot say that we truly obey God, but never strive to proclaim Him.
Q.) Are you and I branded with these marks?
The branding tool is not self-description. It is a life lived and tested by fiery opposition amid those who “love everything but righteousness, and fear everything but God.”
May we be proven as God fearing people among this world, because we continue to love nothing but Christ’s righteousness, and fear nothing but God.
 James 4:4
 Matthew 10:28
 Hebrews 10:31; 12:29
 Philippians 2:12-13
 Matthew 2
 Mark 6:14-16,20
 Matthew 14:5
 Mark 6:25
 Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 639
 Romans 2:4
 Romans 3:26
 Romans 8:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:10
 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25; 2 Peter 3:9
 John 15:18-20; 17:14