Faith of Jesus Daily Devotional - Day 59
Matthew:14:1-12 John the Baptist Beheaded
Previous Context: devotion:Matthew:13:53-58 A Prophet Without Honor
What is God doing?
"The fame of Jesus"
Multitudes have been following Jesus for some time now and word of Him has spread even into Samaria and Syria and beyond, but appears to have come late to this Herod of the Jerusalem province. Jesus has requested with little effect that the crowds not spread word of Him yet, but it had anyway to nearly everyone except I guess this Herod. Kings often are left to know only what they have been told by their council, plus the majority of Jesus' ministry has been conducted in the distant Galilee province, but Jesus had been to the Temple causing quite a stir at least once and word of a possible king/messiah had to be all the regional buzz. Remember that it was Herods' dad that had tried to kill off this rumor only thirty years ago (ask Bethlehem, I am sure that they remember).
The fact is that God has worked since before Jesus was even born to make Jesus known. Events have transpired all along that have proven both the time and the person of this prophetic fulfillment; historical landmarks planted that could not easily be avoided. I think that there are two things going on here: there is that which Herod is refusing to know, there is that which his council is not wanting him to know/that which his council believes that they can keep under control without his knowing.
"His disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus"
Please notice also notice that even though John was alone politically in his stand against the king's adultery, God did not leave HIS prophet all alone in his long incarceration and abrupt death, HE kept loyal and comforting disciples attending to him until the end. We know that John was able to keep up with the reports of Jesus and was able to inquire of Jesus from prison and we know that Jesus was able of Johns' condition as well. John from early on understood that he was not the headline act and sensed that his demise was impending. I am not sure that he knew his end would be like this though; perhaps God was merciful in hiding these gruesome details from his immediate worries.
What is man doing?
"Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus"
It was in Herods' mind that Jesus must be John the Baptist risen from the dead. This is the first that we hear that John was dead and it sounds as if he has been dead for awhile, long enough for Herod to have confused two figures and long enough for John's disciples to have buried the body and to have told Jesus. My guess is that Herod had not known of Jesus before having ordered the head of John be delivered to his niece/step daughter on a plate else the transference to Jesus would not have been so easy for him to make.
"Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife"
Herodias proves to be a big figure in the death of John. It sounds like it was her prideful anger that had called for his imprisonment and her extreme vengeance that had devised a plan to outwit her now adulterated husband into finishing John off against his wishes. The plan included the use of her daughter by previous marriage in a erotic dance before the king at his birthday party in front of his guests. Remember now that this is the king and queen of the area including Holy Jerusalem, conducted in a court attended by many Sadducee and Pharisee guests and advisors, where there is a pornographic dance performed by the kings' step daughter, leading to the beheading on site of the great prophet, that no one that we know of thought or said anything against it, all of this because of a nationally known scandal that John stood alone against.
"He feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet"
If you think about it clearly then you understand that the man's stupid and foolish oath and the embarrassment that he caused upon himself publicly meant more to him than the life of a prophet. That is the type of twisted morality we often find ourselves with; morality is there in a large respect but it is severely corrupted. Reasonable political fear in this case has easily been outwitted by drunken nakedness and the contentions of a jilted woman. In this sentence however we find the popular perception that John was considered by many a true prophet, the first seen in Judah for more than two hundred years.
What does this passage tell us about the about the commands and faith of Jesus that saints are to keep/guard?
The question has to be asked: Why didn't Jesus stand up for His cousin in this national scandal and righteous cause? The answer that we've long developed is that Jesus is obeying the Father only. There are certainly details to this that we simply do not know especially from the Father's perspective, but the guess is that by doing something it would have distracted from the mission Jesus was already on and or altered the perception of Jesus that the was better needed to eventually get the public on board with God's larger program of Salvation. In a sense the consideration is a matter of John's salvation verses all of mankind's'.
Death is not seen as an end by those already in eternity, it is seen for men and women such as John as a crown of victory, a reward for a life of service to the true God well done. The end as we see it to them is only the beginning. And the righteousness of a moment performed before those who are barely even paying attention, though important and sizable, is not the same size righteousness as performed by our one and only Savior. It is an important thing to consider as we attempt to perform our personal size of righteous obedience in return as saints as well.
Next: devotion:Matthew:14:13-21 Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand