By this time, I hope you are beginning to notice just how clever of a writer Mark really is. The way sews the story of Jesus together is so fluid and full of motion. This story is going somewhere and you can tell it. But then in chapter 6, he devotes a large portion of the text to a flashback!
We are told in Mark 1:14 that John was put into prison, but it’s just left at that…until now.
I think it becomes clear that Mark has purposefully held off the story of John’s death until now in order to compare Herod’s feast with Jesus’ feast. Let’s take a look.
Mark begins in 6:14 by introducing “King” Herod. This must have been a bit tongue-in-cheek because Herod at this time was not a king. When King Herod the Great died around AD 6, Rome divided the territory between his sons. The Herod in this story was not a king, but more of a viceroy over about 1/5 of the kingdom. His title was Herod the Tetrarch.
Herod was not truly a king, yet threw a big party in his palace.
Jesus was the true King of the Jews, and he provided a feast in the desert.
It was Herod’s birthday when he threw this party. Jews didn’t typically celebrate birthdays, chalking it up as a pagan practice. So from the beginning, this feast is wrought in paganism.
Jesus provided a feast for hungry people out in the wilderness which was in line with the prophecies in Jeremiah 31 – that Israel would find rest in the desert.
Herod’s party guests included governors, military leaders, and all sorts of high-ranking, well-to-do men.
Jesus held a feast for peasants – working class, rugged, peons with no political power whatsoever.
Herod made sure to have plenty of wine, alcohol, rich food, and even provocative female dancers to entertain the men.
Jesus could only give them grass to sit on, some bread and fish to eat, his teaching, and his compassion. And that was enough.
Herod, in a drunken stupor, abused his authority and made extremely regrettable decisions.
Jesus never let his power and authority get to his head. He could have taken advantage of his authority on a number of different occasions, but he never did.
Herod’s party could never offer any kind of lasting satisfaction.
Jesus gave enough that everyone was satisfied, both physically and spiritually.
Herod’s party ended in bloodshed and the death of a prophet.
Jesus’ feast ended in peace and the rise of The Prophet from God.
Herod’s party actually resembles the festival put on by King Balshazzar of Babylon in Daniel 5. The very night of this party, the Meads and the Persians invaded, overthrew the Babylonian Empire, and set up their own dynasty.
Jesus’ feast closely resembles the story in 2 Kings 4:42-44 when Elisha, the prophet of God, took 20 loaves and divided the bread among 100 other prophets until all were satisfied (and there was more left over!). It is also reminiscent of the time when David and his men were on the run from King Saul and ate the holy bread from the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 21:1-6).
Herod’s party represents the absolute BEST that the world has to offer – “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die!” (1 Corinthians 15:32) It’s a life that will never satisfy. It’s food that will always leave you hungering for more. It’s wine and drink that will only leave you thirsting. It’s hollow and empty.
Jesus’ feast represents the absolute BEST that heaven has to offer – “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:32-35).
The invitation to both feasts is open to you right now. Which party will you attend?