THEME: John’s Trust
In this week’s study we see a contrast in character.
He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.
What a collection of characters we have encountered in this story. They are a sad glimpse into the high life of antiquity, as well as what people are like today. There is Herod with his evil conscience. There is Herodias, a wicked vengeful woman. There is Salome, already corrupted by her evil mother at a young age. There are the sensuous friends of Herod. And against them all is John the Baptist, whom everyone knew to be an upright, outspoken and courageous man.
There is one character we have not talked about. He does not enter into the specific action of this story, though he is the most important personage of all. He is Jesus himself, mentioned in the first verse of the story (“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus”) and in the last verse (“Then they went and told Jesus”).
It has been pointed out by several commentators on the New Testament that every time someone is “scandalized” or “offended” by some person in the Bible (see Matt. 13:57), that person is always Jesus. Have you noticed that? We have a good example of it here. Neither the citizens of Nazareth, nor Herodias, nor Salome, nor the drunken guests of Herod were offended by King Herod, because they were all exactly like him themselves, to one degree or another. Nor were they offended by one another, and for the same reason. Sinners like other sinners because they feel at home with them, and if their consciences bother them for some past evil act, they can always point to some other sinner who is worse. It is comforting to have someone as evil as King Herod around.
True. But we do not get any help from other sinners. Other people do not enable you to live an upright life. Nor do they provide salvation from your sins. Only Jesus does that. Only Jesus can.
All of which means that in the final analysis the real contrast in this story is not between Herod and John the Baptist, as interesting as that is, but between King Herod and King Jesus. What happened to Herod? Herod killed John. But a few years after this, when Herod’s brother Agrippa (the Herod of Acts 12) had been appointed king over the former tetrarchy of Philip as a fruit of his friendship with the Emperor Caligula, Herodias, who was always ambitious, pestered her husband until he went to Rome with her to see if he could not also be appointed a king. Unfortunately, Agrippa wrote to Caligula accusing Herod of treasonable dealings with the Parthians, and instead of being made a king, Herod was deposed and banished to Gaul where he died.1
Herod was a petty king, but he looked kingly. Jesus was the King of kings, but he appeared in the days of his flesh as a humble Galilean peasant. Deceiving, if you look only at the outward appearance! Yet if you look beyond the appearances to what Jesus really was and listen attentively to what Jesus said, you will find yourself agreeing with John’s testimony about him. John said, “I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34) and “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (v. 29). John trusted in Christ and stood for righteousness. He died for it. But now John is with Jesus and will rule with him one day along with all who willingly and joyfully confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
1 Matthew is the last place Herod is mentioned in this gospel But he appears again in Luke 13:3I,where he is described as wanting to kill Jesus, and in Luke 23:6-12, where Jesus is sent to him by Pilate at the time of his trial
Why would it be comforting for some to have a King Herod around?
Herod did what those in power do. He used his power to preserve his power. . Jesus laid his power aside in order to die for his people. But today he rules in glory and will rule forever.
Compare and contrast Herod with today’s leadership.
Pray for leaders today that they may stand for righteousness.