As the question continues to build concerning the identity of Jesus we are given an interlude between Jesus sending his disciples out on tour and their return. In this story we become privy to the interworking of a government system and leader with a faithful godly preacher of righteousness.
The ruler named Herod, Mark called Him “King,” which is what Herod wanted to be called; but in reality, he was only a tetrarch (the ruler of a fourth part of the nation). According to history, when Herod the Great died, the Romans divided his territory among his three sons; and Antipas was made tetrarch of Perea and Galilee. Herod Antipas had married the daughter of King Aretas IV and then had divorced her so he could marry Herodias, the wife of his half brother, Herod Philip. It was a wicked alliance that was contrary to the Law of God (Lev. 18:16; 20:21), and the fearless, faithful John the Baptist had denounced the king for his sins.
God and the Government...
Observation # 1 Here we see the law of God, or we could think of a moral standard, being proclaimed to a government authority. This is significant because there seems to be an increasing assumption in our society today. The assumption is that we cannot, as a civil society, have counsel from anyone or a group of people who appeal to God as their ultimate source of authority on matters of social justice or political policy. Without trying to expose all the complexity of this topic let us consider that John the Baptist, a prophet of God, evidently did not think that assumption is true.
Observation # 2 Herod recognized that John was a godly man and even feared to harm him, although he did put him in prison. The text says Herod was, "greatly perplexed" and yet heard him gladly. There was something about the preaching of John that fascinated Herod (v. 20); however, Herod did not follow John's instructions to repent. This is so common with people even today, namely, to see a glimpse, to have a warm feeling or see glimpses of godliness in some of God's children, and yet remain hardened as they continue to pursue their own personal agenda! (Pilate did the same thing - Mark 15:1-15)
Observation # 3 We see in Herod the common, yet sinful, example of a person being caught in the snare of public praise. Although Herod would not harm John, besides imprisoning him, when the praise of other people and the pressure to remain in his self-exalted state of mind was on the line he went against his own conscience and heart and had John the Baptist executed. Christians must be aware of the reality that preaching a biblical moral standard will very often bring hostility from those who desire to continue in their pattern of behavior.
In spite of the circumstances in which the children of God find themselves in this life we, like John the Baptist, must continue to remain faithful to God and the standard of living set forth in his Holy Word. Those who suffer for righteousness sake have many promises of God to lean upon in difficult times. One such promise is found in John 16:33 where Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”