The Bible Speaks
“Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet.” Matthew 14:5
I’d like for you to sit back and let me tell you a tale of two men; two very different men. One was named Herod: the consummate politician, unscrupulous and self-centered; the other was John, a wilderness preacher who cared nothing for what people thought of him but only what his Master thought. Two men whose lives couldn’t be more different.
Matthew 14:1-12 tells the story of both men. Herod, the Roman appointed ruler of Judea, had taken his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, as his own. This was plainly against the law of God and unacceptable to the general public as well. Herod was powerful enough to get away with it, however, and suffered no consequence for it, or so he thought. John the Baptist spoke to him several times and plainly declared his marriage to be unlawful. This enraged Herod and his stolen wife so much so that he locked John up in prison. Herod wanted to go one step further and put him to death but he feared the Jews, his constituency, because they held John in high regard. When his stepdaughter, Herodias, delighted him in her dance performance he foolishly promised her whatever she wanted and, much to his dismay, she asked for John’s head on a platter. Because of the courtiers and guests surrounding him, and the ire of his wife, he complied. John’s death, however, haunted his soul. He began to think that Jesus was John risen from the dead because He was godly and powerful as John was. Herod was a tortured soul. He feared everyone but God and he tried to make everyone happy and lost all his own joy and peace in the process.
In contrast to Herod was John. John spoke out as a preacher of righteousness and advocate for God’s holy law. He did not consider his life or popularity as dear to himself but instead desired only to please the Lord. For his courage and conviction he found himself in prison and eventually beheaded. John’s uncommon spirit pleased God and has inspired countless Christians throughout the ages to be courageous like John. He was rewarded in heaven by the Lord himself and occupies his place in history as the greatest of the prophets (see Luke 7:28).
The Bible speaks of a choice all of us will face. A choice about whom we will please: ourselves, others or Christ? The choice will never be easy and each choice has consequences. Herod chose himself and others; John chose Christ. Who will you choose?
The Rev. Bruce MacInnes is pastor at Turner’s Chapel.