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Summary: 4th in a four part character study on the life of John the Baptist.

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"AN INTENSE FAITH"

MARK 6:16-29

INTRODUCTION:

In the highly rated Smallville, the WB’s story of Superboy, Clark Kent is just learning about his super powers. It is a perplexing and frustrating time for him. His powers really come to light when he is accidently run down by Lex Luthor and yet is unhurt. Not only is he spared any pain but is able to save Lex’s life even though he was run over at 60mph! Lex, who is very wealthy, gives Clark a new truck out of gratitude, but Clark’s father is not grateful. And we learn that there is something that Clark actually wants more than any truck.

{Video Clip - Smallville - Season 1 - Episode 1 (Pilot)- Start: 3:23:34 - End:3:26:12 - 2:45}

“I’d give anything to be normal.” What would you give anything to be? How would you fill in the line.. “I’d give anything to ____________” what? Be rich? Be married? Have a better job? What would you say means the most to you? Is there anything you would give your life for? Is there anything that means more to you than you?

I want to be right up front with you this morning. The purpose of this message is to motivate you to make Jesus Christ.. the consuming passion of your life. Now, in this day and age that sounds fanatical but that’s the level of intensity that Jesus calls us to. Mt.10:37-39- "Those who love their father or mother more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers. Those who love their son or daughter more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers. 38Whoever is not willing to carry the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who try to hold on to their lives will give up true life. Those who give up their lives for me will hold on to true life."(NCV) Jesus calls us to believe in Him and His promises with such intensity, that we are willing to give anything, to sacrifice everything for Him if it is necessary.

John the Baptist was that kind of radical believer. John gave his all for God. He did not allow his comfort, his popularity, his needs to stand in the way of pointing people to Jesus. And John’s dedication to Christ cost him his freedom and finally his life. I’m sure that there were a lot of people who thought John was a fanatic but Jesus said, "Of those born of a woman there is no one greater."(NIV)

So, this morning, let’s examine the story of John’s death and then apply some truths that will challenge us to a more intense faith.. To live a sold out life for Jesus.

I. TELLING THE STORY: Matthew 14:1-13a

The story of the death of John the Baptist reads like a modern day soap opera. It is full of inter-tangled marriages, lustful passion, political intrigue, lust-filled decisions, violent murder, unresolved guilt. But it is not the fictional "As the World Turns" but a true, historical account written for our instruction.

Let’s begin with vs:3. Matthew tells this story in “flashback”style as he reviews the events that lead up to John’s death. Vs:3-4 tells us of the arrest: "Herod was the one who had ordered the arrest of John, put him in chains, and sent him to prison at the nagging of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. For John had provoked Herod by naming his relationship with Herodias “adultery.” If you were here last Sunday you may remember that the scripture tells us that John kept on telling Herod and Herodias that they had grievously sinned by marrying each other. Herodias had dumped Herod’s half-brother Philip for Herod and without even a divorce had married Herod. Now, Herod had mixed emotions about John. On the one hand he didn’t like being told he was a sinner, yet on the other hand he was enthralled with John and interested in his message. The King was apparently impressed by the Baptist’s courage and sincerity. Our text says it this way in vs:20: “Herod was in awe of John. Convinced that he was a holy man, he gave him special treatment. Whenever he listened to him he was miserable with guilt - and yet he couldn’t stay away. Something in John kept pulling him back.” That may seem a little strange but as we said last week, one of the bi-products of truth can be respect. And Herod apparently respected John for his courageous stand against sin.

But while Herod was enthralled with John, Herodias, his wife, was enraged by him. While Herod liked to listen to the prophet’s message, Herodias hated hearing him and was looking to silence him...for good. It galled Herodias that John, this country bumpkin, would have the audacity to criticize her lifestyle.. the Queen! And for Herodias, imprisonment was too good for John and so she apparently hounded Herod to have him shut-up permanently! Herodias as we’ll learn was an evil woman and she kept nagging Herod to exterminate John. And Herod seemed to be in between the proverbial "rock and a hard place." He didn’t want to tick off his vindictive wife, but he wasn’t sure if he should kill the man who seemed to appeal to his conscience, or what was left of it. So Herod probably thought he had found a happy medium. He kept John in prison to appease Herodias, yet alive to appease the people & soothe his own conscience.

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