Insufficiency of Herod's Right-Doing
Mark 6:20
For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things…

In all his doing of right things, Herod does nothing right; for in all that he does he is Herod. The things that he does in obedience to John's preaching are right in the abstract, considered independently of the man that does them. But as a matter of fact, these actions in the abstract never get done in actual life. We can think about them, and reason about them; but we never really see or know of an action that is not done by somebody. The action is the man acting. Strictly speaking, it is not actions that are right or wrong; it is men. And when the question is, — Did the man do right? we have to look at the man as well as the deed. And the honest conscience has no doubt on this point: No man is right in his doing, so long as he is cherishing a fixed, conscious purpose to do wrong, or not to do altogether right. This is a rule that does not work both ways. The hidden thought of the heart is like the morsel hidden in the garment (Haggai 2:10-14); it can pollute a good act, it cannot sanctify an evil act. Here is Herod resolutely protecting the sternest of God's prophets, eagerly listening to him, heeding him, obeying him in many things, but standing out obstinately in his incestuous and adulterous love against that word of the Lord, "It is not lawful for thee to have her." How does the case stand with him, just now? It was right, wasn't it? for Herod to "do many things" at the preaching of John. He was a pretty good man for the time being, wasn't he? Wasn't it quite like heroism — moral heroism — backed up by political caution, when he stubbornly refused to permit the killing of John, and said to Herodias, "No! I will not! I will agree to lock him up in prison, but not one step further will I go!" Was he not rather the pattern of what we should call a good member of society — a man with a sincere respect for religion, and a great interest in the church, and a strong attachment to his favourite minister; — a man who is willing to subscribe handsomely, and do many things, and deny himself many things, but of course, not everything? Now I do not find that the gospel has any dealings with this kind of goodness. It does not appear that Jesus Christ has any advice or encouragement for those who would like to be rid of a part of their sins. He is not a specialist in spiritual maladies; He is a Great Physician. It is not worth your while to go to Him with a request for partial and local treatment — to hold up before Him your infected, swollen limb, and say, "There! give me something for that! Don't touch the rest of me. I am all right. I only want that arm cured." He will not treat the case on any such terms. Your case is constitutional, not local. If you would have the help of Jesus Christ; you must surrender the case to Him; and prepare for thorough treatment, perhaps for sharp surgery.

(Leonard W. Bacon.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

WEB: for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he did many things, and he heard him gladly.

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