OFF WITH HIS HEAD
Lord, thank You for my position as just a lowly servant of God.
Read MATTHEW 14:1–12
John the Baptist Beheaded
14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, 2 and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.
6 On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much 7 that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” 9 The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted 10 and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. 12 John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“The world was not worthy of them” is the assessment of the martyrs for the faith (Heb. 11:38). Give thanks for them and consider what they say about commitment to Christ.
Some kings abuse their power. Some, like Herod Antipas (not a king like his father, although he may have still carried the title), act out of obstinacy and revenge. Jesus, by contrast, is driven by compassion.
Herod, superficially so sure of himself, makes his decisions based on the whims of others (3) and the fear of people at large (5). He makes a pompous show of his power, over-promising to Herodias’s daughter just because he can, then regretting it all (9). He can’t come across as showing mercy or admitting a mistake. That would mean losing face in front of his dinner guests. There are important lessons here about integrity, courage, and humility for everyone exercising power.
John will die for speaking out. Silence is sometimes the best policy if you want to save your head. It takes boldness to speak truth to power and sustained courage to maintain an adversarial stand. It seems this is a campaign by John rather than a one-off action. Great painters of old, including Titian, Caravaggio and Bartholomeus Strobel, present the outlandish nature of the party and the eyes-averted disinterest of Salome in her prize. It is all so pointless and foolish. Sometimes God’s people fall afoul of such pointless abuse. Why lose someone of John’s stature so ingloriously? Yet, God has his purposes. The weeds may grow with the wheat for now, but all will be resolved in due time.
How does this tragedy affect Jesus? Neither unmoved nor unscathed, he reacts. He proceeds to draw apart for some time (13a), but his mission must carry on (13b). He does not allow his sorrow to interfere. There is no time for bitterness or self-pitying. There are still many people who need him.
Those in positions of power desperately need our prayers. Power has so many temptations, including the craving to hold onto it. Will you pray now?
Lord, even though we do not understand, we believe that Your ways are best, and we submit to them.
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