Jump Start # 3383
Mark 6:20 “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.”
Our verse today explains why John, the cousin of the Lord, the baptizer, was put to death. His preaching killed him. Actually, unrepentant hearts is what truly killed him. Herod had stolen his brother’s wife. He had no right to be married to her. King or not, the law of God applied to him. John said so. Herod stuffed John in a prison, yet he like to hear him preach.
Two statements about John’s preaching stands out. Herod was perplexed and Herod enjoyed listening. The word “perplexed” is perplexing. Here are other expressions of that word:
· NIV: puzzled
· Phillips: profoundly disturbed
· ESV: greatly perplexed
· CEB: greatly confused
Herod enjoyed listening to John, but he was very perplexed as he heard him. Perplexed but enjoyed. That’s an interesting combination.
First, Biblical preaching must have an appeal to it or people simply will not listen. I have a lot of dear friends who love listening to country music. I’m not one. After about two songs, I’m done. Give me the ‘60s, the Beatles, Hollies, Dave Clark 5—that’s my music.
So, if I’m in the audience and the preaching comes across like listening to a country song, I’m struggling. It may be on me and I likely need to do some serious attitude adjusting, but Herod enjoyed listening to John, even though he was perplexed.
Here’s just a few thoughts, and this is simply personal and nothing more:
First, Illustrations and stories need to accent the points and principles of the sermon. Long, long stories that have to be explained, often causes the thought to jump the tracks and no one makes the connection. Look at the parables of Jesus. The prodigal son or rich man and Lazarus were likely the longest stories and they are not very long. Some parables were just two or three sentences. Keep the principles before the eyes of the audience.
Second, illustrations, examples and stories need to be relevant. Talking about movies that no one has seen falls flat on the floor. Talking about TV shows that are now fifty to sixty years old, misses a large part of the audience. Obscure, vague, and the unknown will not illustrate the principle. No one will know what you are talking about.
Third, preaching ought not to be viewed as getting a lecture from the school principle. Herod, while perplexed, enjoyed listening. People will come when they enjoy. Now, one must be careful and not allow that to be the motive and the drive of your preaching. Tickling ears makes one popular, but it also often conceals the truths of God’s word.
Why was Herod perplexed? Righteousness in the kingdom involves righteous choices and righteous living. The Herod family failed terribly at this. Blood dripped from their hands, from the little baby boys that Herod the great killed, to John losing his head, to killing of the apostle James. The Herods were a murderous, power hungry political mess. To be righteous, this Herod, would have to give up his current marriage. That is perplexing. Prophecies about the coming Messiah who would reign in the lineage of King David would be perplexing to Herod. The qualities of grace, forgiveness and kindness would have been perplexing to Herod.
What made these things perplexing is that Herod was outside of these divine principles. He would have to alter his ways and change his thinking. And, then there is John, himself. He seems to be an odd character. He is not a threat, yet crowds flock to him. He is not afraid to speak the truth.
Preaching ought to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Perplexed and enjoying. And, in some ways that ought to be our reaction to preaching. It troubles us because of what the Lord expects. It troubles us because we need to step up and do better and do more. Some things are complex and it takes some understanding to understand. Yet, with that, preaching can be enjoyable.
Every July and August in my home congregation, we invite different preachers to come in on Wednesdays and present a lesson to us. The lessons surround a hymn that is sung each week. The titles and topics come from the lines within that hymn. We always have great preaching. The guys truly bring their A game. And, it gives me a wonderful opportunity to listen to other preachers.
Enjoy preaching, even though it may be perplexing to you.