The Perils of Peer Pressure
Dr. Stephen Johnson
Mark 6:14-29
January 05, 2020

Mothers often impress upon us great pearls of wisdom. Here are a few your mom may have shared with you.

1. Make sure you have on clean underwear, you might be in an accident.

2. Wash your hands.
3. Soap is cheap, use it often.
4. Never eat yellow snow.
5. Learn to finish what you start.

6. If you can’t say nice things then say nothing. Speak soft words, they are easier to eat.

7. If you open it, then close it. If you turn it on, then make sure to turn it off. If you put it on your plate then eat it.

8. Don’t go to bed angry, you could die in your sleep.

9. Bad company corrupts good morals.

10. Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it.
Right is right, even if no one is doing it.

In our text for this morning, it is evident that one mother, Herodias, was really messed up on the last three of these truths.

Let’s look at our text - Mark 6:14-29

Few passages of scripture illustrate more poignantly than this the perils of peer pressure.

It seems as though we live life in a pressure cooker.

There is pressure from family, pressure from friends, pressure from work.. pressure everywhere.

We are pushed and pulled in every direction.

Some pressure we put on ourselves.

We procrastinate and create time pressure.
We spend foolishly and create financial pressure.

Many of the pressures we face in life can be controlled or prioritized.
Our schedules, our responsibilities, our finances. These things we usually can control.

But there is one type of pressure which is far more difficult to deal with - and far more dangerous to our spiritual lives.

And that is peer pressure. People pressure.

People close to us who expect certain behaviors from us. People who entice us to spend beyond our means.
People who encourages us to do things we know are wrong.
People who enable us to rationalize sinful behavior.

Our text tells the sad tale of Herod hearing about Jesus and remembering events that had happened earlier.

Jesus scared Herod because he reminded him of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist had been thrown into prison not long after he had identified Jesus as the Messiah.

And eventually, at a birthday party, Herod bowed to peer pressure and put John to death.

But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here.

Long before that dreadful event, peer pressure was working its ills upon Herod.

The first lesson on peer pressure we see is this:

1. It makes you resistant to the truth and change the truth demands.

John the Baptist was no stranger to controversy.
He challenged the religious leaders of his day.
And he challenged the political leaders as well.

He was in prison because he had the audacity to call sin sin.

He had pointed out to Herod that he had no right to marry the divorced wife of his brother Phillip.

Now, Herod’s family tree was really messed up.

Herodias, who married Herod’s brother, was probably also Herod’s niece.

Herodias and Philip have a daughter before getting divorced. That daughter is the young dancer spoken of in our text.
She was Herod’s niece but also his step daughter.

His relationships were messed up and sinful.

And John the Baptist called him out for it.

Because of John speaking the truth, he was arrested and thrown in prison. And he also incurred the wrath of Herodias.

Herod knew the truth but refused to change as a result of the truth.

Peer pressure will do that to you.

For a while Herod held out - note verse 20&21 in our text.

“Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed and yet he heard him gladly.”

So Herod heard the truth.
He understood that the person proclaiming it was right.
He was righteous. He was holy.

He was interesting.
He was perplexing.

But that didn’t change Herod.

Peer pressure makes you resistant to the truth and the change it requires.

Many are like Herod today in this regard. They would never admit it, but they know God’s Word is true. Some even enjoy hearing the Word preached. Like Herod they are not yet ready to abandon their life of sin, but they are intrigued by the Word.

Herod continued to listen to John, interested enough in his message to gladly hear him out, but not to release him from prison.

And all the while his wife harbored a grudge.
Rather than being intrigued by the message of John, she was angry.

She wanted him dead. But Herod was afraid to put to death a holy man. So Herodias concocted a plan of revenge. A plan to do away with John. And she did it by applying intense peer pressure on her husband.

She organized a birthday party.
And she was quite the party planner.
Invite the right people.
Serve the right food.
Probably provide ample amounts of alcohol.
And a dancer sure to make Herod lose his mind.

Herodias’s daughter came in and danced.

Now the text thankfully doesn’t specify the type of dance that was on display that day, but it probably wasn’t a square dance.

In short, she danced to be lusted after.
And she was.

And Herod made a really stupid statement.
Blinded by lust, and probably the desire to have her dance again, he offered her up to half his kingdom.

And her mother, who had set this whole thing up, tells her to request the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter.

Which leads us to the second lesson about peer pressure:

2. It helps you make bad decisions and stick with them

The text said that Herod was remorseful but gave orders to cut off John’s head and bring it to the girl.

She then brought the head on a silver serving plate to her mother. The very thought of this at a dinner banquet seems bizarre to say the least.

In some cultures, people slaughter a pig and put the pigs head on the table as part of a banquet.

I find that rather unappetizing.
Put the head of a human on a plate and I’m likely to throw up.

So strong was Herodias’s appetite for revenge that she found this a pleasing dish.

She hated the message and she hated the messenger.

And through peer pressure she convinced Herod to have John killed.

The text tells us the king was exceedingly sorry.


Because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.

Because of peer pressure he made a bad decision and stuck with it.

As soon as that girl mentioned the desire to see John dead, Herod could have challenged her.

He could have said “No way.”

He could have decided that the life of a holy man was worth more than his reputation.

He could have made the argument that helping someone exact revenge was less than honorable.

But he made a bad decision and although he was sorry, he stuck with it.

Herod put himself in a position which was difficult.

He knew what was asked of him was wrong.
He didn’t want to do it.
But he allowed peer pressure to win the day.

As many mothers would say:
Bad company corrupts good morals.

Herod was no saint - he did after all marry his brothers wife and lust after her daughter - but he didn’t have to kill John the Baptist.

There are times when we make commitments which we simply should not make.
When we make commitments which lead us into sin it is actually okay to break the commitment.

Peer pressure helps you make bad decisions and stick with them even when you know better.

Saving face is not a good argument for doing something horrible.

Herod regretted offering such a reward and was very sorrowful regarding her request, but he would not deny it in front of such a gathering.

Knowing it was wrong, Herod commanded the execution of John to be carried out immediately and his head be brought on a platter.

Many agree to actions that are wrong simply because they refuse to stand up against peer pressure.

The third lesson on peer pressure comes from a group of people who are easy to overlook in our text.

A group of people who really shouldn’t be affected by peer pressure.
Those nobles and military commanders and leading men of Galilee who were at the party.

We tend to overlook them because they say nothing. They just watch a lurid dance and sit by idly while John the Baptist has his head cut off.

The third peril of peer pressure is that:

3. It makes you silent when you should speak up.

It is amazing when you think of it.

The pure arrogance of sin.
The pure arrogance and self-serving pleasure with total disregard for decorum or decency.

No one dared to challenge the king.
Not one of the nobles, military commanders or leading men of Galilee said wait a minute, that’s gross.

That’s child abuse.
That’s disgusting.
While our society has hopefully moved towards a greater willingness to push back against this type of thing peer pressure continues to expect us to wink at sin.

To quietly accept that some people are immoral.
They will do and say just about anything.

Some do it for the shock value - but peer pressure tells us not to be shocked and not to speak up so we remain silent.
Peer pressure can sear your conscience against the truth and prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Herod was confronted with the truth and chose to ignore it.
Herod’s own heart told him what he was about to do and he chose to ignore it.

The people at that party knew what was happening was absolutely wrong and they chose not to say anything.

And know this, when we fall prey to the perils of peer pressure there is no falling about it.

It is a choice.

Our moms were right when they told us that bad company corrupts good morals.

Because the company we keep impacts the peer pressure we face.

So if you want to stand against peer pressure choose carefully who you keeps as peers.

The best type of pressure comes from people of like faith where iron sharpens iron. We should minimize our contact with those who:
1. make us resistant to the truth and change
2. Help us make bad decisions and stick with them
3. It make us silent when we should speak up.

The question we need to have before us at all times is not "What will they think of me?" but "What will God think of me?"


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