Matthew – God’s Purposes
JUMPING RIGHT IN TO MATTHEW…
In Matthew 14—20, we will see three groups of people: Christ’s enemies, the needy multitudes, and the disciples. Our passage this morning describes some of Christ’s enemies in the line of Herod. Evil works through and has permeated this leadership over the Jewish nation. This Herod, in the Edomite hereditary line from Esau, beheads John the Baptist at a party at the whim of his wife’s manipulation all because John told the Truth and called them out on the evil of their relationship.
One of my favorite commentators, Warren Wierwbe, gives us a history so we can wrap our heads around the world Jesus has come down to save. Jesus, the Messiah, sent from God, to reconcile the world back to God faces the Jewish nation of God’s chosen as misguided, misled, and very lost…without a shepherd.
“The Herod family looms large in the four gospels and the book of Acts, and it is easy to confuse the various rulers. Herod the Great founded the dynasty and ruled from 37 BC to 4 BC. He was not a true Jew by birth, but was an Edomite, a descendant of Esau. He was a heathen in practice, and a monster in character. He had nine wives (some say ten), and he thought nothing of slaying his own sons or wives if they got in the way of his plans. It was he who had the infants slain in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:13–18).”
“Herod Antipas, the Herod of this chapter, was a son of Herod the Great. His title was “tetrarch,” which means “ruler over the fourth part of the kingdom.” He ruled from 4 BC to AD 39, and his rule was deceptive and selfish. He loved luxury and was very ambitious to become a great ruler. Herod Agrippa is the Herod who imprisoned Peter and killed James (Acts 12). He was a grandson of Herod the Great.”
“Herod Agrippa II was the Herod who tried Paul (Acts 25:13ff.). He was a son of Agrippa I. All of the Herods had Edomite blood in them, and, like their ancestor Esau, they were hostile to the Jews (Gen. 25:19.). They practiced the Jewish religion when it helped fulfill their plans for gaining more power and wealth.”
“Herod Antipas was guilty of gross sin: He had eloped with Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Philip I, divorcing his own wife and sending her back to her father, the king of Petra (Lev. 18:16; 20:21). Herod listened to the voice of temptation and plunged himself into terrible sin.”
God, the Father knew the evil of this leadership over his people. He created John with one purpose and mission. God gave John, his prophet, the words to say boldly and truthfully, pointing out what evil is and how to repent from it as he “prepared the way” for our Messiah, who would save all people from all sin forever by his sacrifice. This is the world Jesus has come to save.
Matthew 14, NLT
The Death of John the Baptist
14 When Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, heard about Jesus, 2 he said to his advisers, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead! That is why he can do such miracles.”
3 For Herod had arrested and imprisoned John as a favor to his wife Herodias (the former wife of Herod’s brother Philip). 4 John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry her.” 5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of a riot, because all the people believed John was a prophet.
6 But at a birthday party for Herod, Herodias’s daughter performed a dance that greatly pleased him, 7 so he promised with a vow to give her anything she wanted. 8 At her mother’s urging, the girl said, “I want the head of John the Baptist on a tray!” 9 Then the king regretted what he had said; but because of the vow he had made in front of his guests, he issued the necessary orders. 10 So John was beheaded in the prison, 11 and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. 12 Later, John’s disciples came for his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened.
THOUGHTS FOR REFLECTION:
Evil is present in Herod but there is still a conscience that rises to the top of his thoughts as he fearfully says, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead! That is why he can do such miracles.” Amazing that a conscience is bothering such an evil man, but the fear of what he has done is coming back to haunt his thoughts.
Are there some past sins, bad deeds, or words that sent mixed messages to a friend that are unresolved in our lives?
All sin within us can be resolved by remorsefully, humbly repenting of what was said or done to Jesus. Restoring relationships with others begins with repenting to Jesus first. Then He will give you the power and courage to make things right with our friends and family. If they do not accept our request for forgiveness, we have done what we need to do, in Jesus, to make peace. (Romans 12:18)
Herod’s conscience was troubling him, and neither his wife nor his friends could console him. The voice of conscience is a powerful voice, and it can be the voice of God to those who will listen. Instead of heeding his conscience, Herod determined to kill Jesus just as he had killed John. Some Pharisees (probably in on the plot) warned Jesus that Herod wanted to kill Him (Luke 13:31–32). But Jesus was not disturbed by the report.
Do we hear God but avoid doing what God wants and choose to live with a troubling conscience?
EPILOGUE – What happens to Herod because of his unrepentant heart?
Herod should have known that he could not get away with his sin. History records that Herod lost prestige and power. His armies were defeated by the Arabs, and his appeals to be made a king (urged by his wife) were refused by Emperor Caligula. Herod was banished to Gaul (France) and then Spain, where he died.
Herod is remembered as a weak ruler whose only concern was his own pleasure and position. He did not serve the people, he served himself. He has the dubious honor of being the man who killed the greatest prophet ever sent to proclaim God’s Word.
How do we want to be remembered?
JESUS RESPONSE TO THE NEWS OF JOHN
One word…CAUTION: He quietly withdrew from that area and went to a “lonely place.” He lived according to a divine timetable (see John 2:4; 7:6, 30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1), and He did not want to deliberately provoke trouble with Herod. Because Herod’s agents were all around, the Lord had to exercise wisdom and caution.
Certainly Jesus was deeply moved when He heard that John had been killed. The Jewish nation permitted John to be slain because they did nothing to assist him. But these same leaders would ask for Jesus to be slain! Jesus would never permit the Jewish rulers to forget the witness of John (Matt. 21:23.). Because they rejected John’s witness, they rejected their own Messiah and King.
Jesus knows our need for repentance and restoration. We are not perfect. We are always in need of Jesus each day. Our focus is so easily distracted by the world’s way of thinking only of ourselves and what we immediately want. We are a selfish lot in need of a Savior and Lord. We need no one else. We need nothing else. Only Jesus.
Thank you for centering our thoughts on You this morning. That you, by Your Holy Spirit, for calling us out on our own sin that entangles and trips us up until we repent of it. You do, indeed, cut away all that hinders our walk with you. Please continue your work of salvation in and though me. Continue to call me out for my own sin. Restore the joy of my salvation. Renew a right Spirit in me. Save me from my selfish self.
In Jesus Name, Amen