Summary: Faith vs Superstition
Matthew 14:1-12 - BRAVEHEART VS THE MAFIA
He is drawn to the MAN IN THE DUNGEON. Beliefs are tested in the dark dungeon experiences of my life where everything is ripped away to expose who I really am. A dungeon is that place where everything is pointless without the purposes of God. Yet when all I have to offer to God is a dungeon it becomes a place of His presence, a throneroom, a place where His authority and intentions overrule my circumstances. A place of FREEDOM.
But he is king! The Godfather is dead. "Herod the king", psychopathic mass murderer who killed the baby boys of Bethlehem in a last ditch attempt to destroy Jesus is now gone (Matthew 2:13-18). Long live the Dons. He is "HEROD THE TETRARCH" who has survived to rule a quarter of his fathers kingdom. His tetrarchy extends from the Sea of Galilee to the northern part of the Dead Sea. Ambitious and just as deadly as his father, HEROD ANTIPAS has now been ruling about thirty-two years. In the luxury and excess of his kingdom he is imprisoned by a dungeon of his own making, far more oppressive than John's. What a mess.
Granddaughter of the late great "Herod the King", HERODIAS is niece to both her husband PHILIP, and her lover, Herod Antipas. Herod and Herodias? Days of our lives! She seeks to justify her relationship with Herod but the man in the dungeon DENOUNCES it saying that it is against God's law (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21). He is anything but politically correct and so influential with the people. He lives out Ephesians 5:11 (NLT) which says "Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, EXPOSE them." John the Baptist is not afraid to do this, even in the presence of a Godfather figure like King Herod. He may be in a dungeon but the dungeon is not in him. He declares that sin separates me from God, that genuine repentance is needed and that I need to come under the authority of Jesus whose way he is preparing.
With a heart as black as a dungeon wall, Herodias tries to rid herself of the irritation, but what mother would involve her own daughter in such a quest? What kind of trauma will result from such a request being granted?
Herod doesn't hold back when it comes to his birthday party or in celebrating the anniversary of his accession as king. He holds a magnificent banquet. Good food, questionable entertainment. He lives a life of debauchery.
Salome dances seductively before Herod. Being the daughter of Herodias Herod is not so much seduced by the dance as he is obligated by her mother to give her whatever she desires. He makes a foolish oath to grant her any wish, up to half his kingdom, but her heart too is imprisoned, and she too is drawn with malicious intent to the man in the dungeon.
Salome consults with her mother and makes a gruesome request that shows the stark animosity between Herodias and John the Baptist. She doesn't like anyone exposing her sinfulness and her heart is seared a life of excess.
Herod is deeply grieved by her words but doesn't want to lose face. So, with only a moments hesitation, he grants her request and orders John the Baptist to be BEHEADED. This is quite a table that has been set. Adultery, incest, debauchery, seduction, murder and the macabre all sit together at the kings table as John's head is brought in on a platter.
An Armenian Christian I was speaking with on Wednesday said that during the war the Turks beheaded Christians who made the sign of the Cross. Many of her family died for their faith.
Why did John have to die? The key is found in Acts 20:24 (NLT) - "But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus-the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God."
Courage. Humility. Faithfulness. Selflessness. Reformer. Servant and Ambassador for Christ. Martyr. Who says it's easy being a follower of Christ? But in the words of Braveheart "You have come to fight as free men. And free men you are! What will you do without freedom? Will you fight? ...Fight and you may die. Run and you will live at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!"
Galatians 5:1 (NIV) puts it this way - "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."