MARTYRDOM OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
Key Verse: 6:18 …."For John had been saying to
Herod, `It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.'"
today's message the holy Word of God takes a moment to remind the reader
of the event that led to martyrdom of John the Baptist. In the sight of
Jesus, John was one of history's greatest men. John was great because he
gave his life to help men find faith in
Jesus through repentance. Some people say with
their mouth: "I believe in Jesus Christ." but their actions show they only
believe in sinning. To his dying breath John the Baptist taught that true
belief in Jesus begins by being willing to repent according to the revealed
word of God. This word of God we will look at
today will take us to the cold, damp, rat-infested dungeons of king Herod
where John the Baptist is being bound. It also takes us to the palace of
Herod where men and women enjoy the fruitless, meaningless pleasures
of sin and plot the murder of the righteous.
Part I. It is not lawful for you to have
your brother's wife
Look at verse 14: "King Herod heard about this,
for Jesus' name had become well known. Some were saying, "John the Baptist
has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at
work in him." There are a number of king Herods in the Bible. The one mentioned
here was King Herod Antipas, who was appointed king of Galilee by the Roman
government. It was under this Herod's rule Jesus sent his disciples out
into the towns, roads and country lanes of Galilee two by two to drive
out evil spirits and to preach that people should repent. Through
this two by two ministry Jesus' name became well known. As Jesus' name
became more well known many rumors concerning who Jesus was began to circulate.
Verse 15 reads: "Others said, `He is Elijah.' And still others claimed,
`He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.' King Herod
was convinced Jesus was John the Baptist. Like tapes that reveal
the Presidents most private conversation verse 16 reveals to us Herod was
pacing the halls of his palace telling his closest aides: "John, the man
I beheaded, has been raise from the dead." To those who repent the news
of Jesus Christ brings tears of thankfulness. Jesus opens for them an everlasting
gushing well of peace with God. Herod's self-condemning thoughts show those
who don't repent become more mentally unstable and self- condemning. Like
a movie that begins by going back in time, the gospel writer now takes
us back in time when Herod first heard the preaching of John the Baptist.
Mark 1 and Luke 3 give us a glimpse of the preaching style of John the
Baptist. To taste the fiery preaching style of John the Baptist let us
look at Luke 3:7-14. John's preaching because it was empowered by
the Holy Spirit even moved cynical tax collectors and hardened soldiers
to repent. We can also imagine King Herod or a representative of King Herod
also came to John asking
what King Herod had to do to produce fruit in
keeping with repentance." We are told in verse18 John would say to him:
"It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife."
Bible commentaries tell us Herod began this unlawful
marriage with his brother Philip's wife when Herod went to visit Philip
in Rome. At the time Philip was married to Herodias. Herodias wanted to
be a queen by any means, at any cost. Being the wife of Philip she new
her worldly ambition to become a queen would never happen. However when
King Herod visited her home she found the way. Using her womanly attractive
powers she caught the eye and lust of King Herod. Together they made a
Both agreed to dump their husband or wife so
they could marry one another. Since Herod was a king, he thought no one
would ever dare question the legitimacy of his marriage to Herodias. God
used John the Baptist to shatter his false confidence. John could say the
truth of God to Herod because he feared God not
Herod. Moreover he had a shepherd heart for Herod and Herodias. He wanted
them to believe in Jesus and be saved. The only way John could help them
was to help them repent. Therefore without compromise he
told Herod: "It is not lawful for you to have
your brother's wife."
John the Baptist reminds of Nathan the prophet
who rebuked King David for his murder of Uriah and his adultery with his
wife Bathsheba. David repented at Nathan's rebuke. Just because someone
is a leader doesn't mean he doesn't sin or above rebuke.
Being a good example is everything to being a
good leader. When you think about Abraham Lincoln, what do you think about?
I think about his leadership to keep America united and his Emancipation
Proclamation to give freedom to all slaves throughout
America. When you think of President Clinton
what do you think of? Unfortunately off the top of my head I can't think
of any positive legacy he left. My point is leaders can leave a positive
or negative legacy. When they sin they must be open to rebuke and
repentance if for anything so they can encourage
others to follow their example of repentance.
For Herod to repent he would have to change his
life. He would have to apologize to his brother Philip and send Herodis
back to him. Instead he ordered John arrested, verses 17 tells us. He had
him bound and placed in his dark, damp rat-infested prison. He
thought such a wretched change in John's life
would change John's message to him. John never altered his message. Day
after day, week after week John's message remained the same: "It is not
lawful for you to have your brother's wife."
John's message infuriated Herdioas. He nagged
and nagged Herod to kill John. Verse 20 shows why Herod didn't kill him.
It reads: "because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to
be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was
greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him."
According to this verse while John remained locked and bound in Herod's
prison, Herod would go to him and listen to him. John was not only Herod's
prisoner; he was also Herod's own personal 1to1 Bible teacher. Herod became
like those who would show up for church or Bible study every now and then
because they like to listen to the Bible message or Bible study. The question
to answer is why was Herod greatly puzzled or why does anyone remain puzzled
and uncommitted after coming to Bible study after Bible study. Was it because
John preached in riddles or the Bible is written in a high level code?
Not at all. Herod was left puzzled because he tried to study the Bible
without trying to repent. Understanding is not what comes first in Bible
study. Repentance and child-like acceptance of the revealed word of God
comes first. If Herod had repented, everything John taught would
been clear as crystal. One of the main purposes
of Bible study is to use the power of God's word to change our life. I
remember the first Bible testimony I wrote. Enclosed in the testimony was
little or no mention of the word of God I had studied. One word of
God I did mention was written for the purpose
of serving my own ideas. Missionary Jacob rebuked me for filling my testimony
with my own ideas. He told me my testimony had to serve the word of God
I studied, to use the power of God's word to change my
life. Everyone who comes to Bible study
is a sinner. We can't change ourselves nor can anyone else change us. Only
the power of God's word can change us. Through repenting and accepting
the clear revealed word of God we begin to grow in Holy Image of God.
As 1 Peter2: 2 teaches we grow up in our salvation.
There is no problem too great, no sin too addicting and awful that cannot
be completely overcome through repenting and accepting the powerful word
Part II. Herodias nursed a grudge
Herod would visit John in prison for Bible study Herodias nursed a murderous
grudge against John. Even though she was queen and lived in the lap luxury
while John seemed to rot in prison, it was John who was content while she
What made her miserable? It was her grudge she
nursed against John. Cain nursed a grudge against his brother Able. God
counseled Cain in Gen3: 6-7: "Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Why are
you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will
you not be accepted? But if you do not do what
is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you
must master it.'" For Herodias to do what is right first she must ask God
to help her repent of her grudge against John. Nursing a grudge against
somebody can lead us to become servants of the
devil. This is exactly what Herodias became to Herod because of her grudge
she nursed against John. Verse 21 reads: "Finally the opportune
time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials
and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee." Herod at his core
was a corrupt politician. To legitimize his kingship and win the fidelity
of the people of influence and authority in his kingdom he invited all
of them to his birthday. During the banquet Herod guzzled alcohol. He lost
all his emotions. Part way through the banquet the king invited his stepdaughter
Salome to dance for him and his guests. Herodias had
hired the best dancers in the land to give her
daughter lessons. Salome made dancers like Brittany Spears look like an
old lady. She also hired the best hair stylist and beauticians to make
her into a woman who would take the breath out of any man who laid their
on her. Basically Herodis refined her daughter
in all the areas of pleasing the flesh of men. She provided for her the
same attributes she used to become queen by any means.After Salome's dance
Herod and his guests were left salivating like hungry dogs. The
king lost all his senses. He said to the girl
in verses 22,23: "Ask me for anything you want, and I'll give it to you."
And he promised her with an oath, " Whatever you ask I will give you, up
to half my kingdom." Who has ever heard a king promising some girl
with an oath up to half his kingdom? Not even Hollywood could portray
one of their fictional kings to do such an insane act. But this is exactly
what Herod did because he did not live for God or for his people but for
his flesh. He was like Esau who sold all his spiritual rights and blessings
for a bowl of soup.Verse 24 tells us this young girl went to her mother
and asked: "What shall I ask for?" Without giving it even a moment
to think about Herodias told her daughter: "The head of John the Baptist."
How did the girl respond to such a grizzly request? Verse 25
tells us: "At once the girl hurried in to the
king with the request: `I want you to give me right now the head of John
the Baptist on a platter.' In carrying out her mother's request she
did not do it with sullenness. She hurried Herod like a girl hurries to
share a malicious rumor. Right now she demands Herod to give her the head
of John. To add insult to injury she added to her mother's request to place
Johns head on a platter. Herodias had raised her daughter into twice the
devil she was. Here we see daughters grow up to be just like their
mothers. If a mother's ambition is for the glittering wealth and power
of this world, it is very like her daughter will also follow her example.
mother fears God, is a woman of prayer and places
her faith and hope in Jesus, then her daughter will more than likely follow
her godly example. Verse 26-29 read: "The king was greatly distressed,
but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse
her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John's
head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought
back his head on a platter. He presented it to
the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John's disciples
came and took his body and laid it in a tomb." In one sense this
martyrdom of John the Baptist is one of the darkest moments among the deeds
of men. John the Baptist had been the conscience of Israel. Every
echelon of society looks to him for direction how to do what is right.
His life was
prophesied in Isaiah 100's of years before he
lived. His birth was an answered prayer to Zechariah and Elizabeth who
themselves gave their entire lives to follow all of God's commandments
and regulations blamelessly. Then because of the request of a wicked spoiled
little girl his life was snuffed out as quickly as a candle on a birthday
cake. When Jesus heard of John the Baptist martyrdom, how did he respond?
"He told those around him in Matt. 11: 11 "I tell you the truth: Among
those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist."
Jesus Christ, the Son of God said John was the greatest person ever born
of women. When we examine his life, we find his
violent death is what consummated him to be honored
as the greatest person born of women. First he was great because he lived
and died for mission. By the hour of his death he had completely achieved
his mission. In John 3:30 John the Baptist said of Jesus: "He must become
greater; I must become less. When John was martyred we find Jesus was becoming
greater while John was becoming less. Looking back at Mark 6:14 we find
Jesus' name had become well known after the death of John the Baptist.
Many men while carrying out their mission taste what it means to be great.
Then they relax and indulge in greed and lust. In the end instead of ending
their lives in greatness they end it in shame and regret. John from
his birth to his death lived a life of single minded, unyielding devotion
to his mission. Nothing short of cutting off his head could prevent him
from living for his mission.
Secondly John was great because he was faithful
even to the point of death. When we think of John's martyrdom we think
of Jesus' words to the church of Smyrna found in Revelation 2:10: "Do not
be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put
some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for
ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you
the crown of life." John was arrested, bound and placed in prison to torture
him and cause him to compromise his message. Nevertheless, to the very
end of his life his message to king Herod remained the same: "It is not
lawful for you to have your brother's wife." King Herod and queen
Herodias would compromise manipulate and kill
at the drop of a hat to hold onto their perishable crowns. In the end not
a crown but death and eternal punishment is what they achieved. John in
contrast, even with the executioner sword drawn back to cut his head
remained faithful to the word of God. Because
he was faithful to the end we know a crown of eternal life is now what
he will wear in the kingdom of God. Some people place their work first,
or family or ego or worldly ambitions. Their excuse for not being faithful
to God's word is always the same. They
say "The Bible won't put bread on my table, seeking first God's kingdom
won't pay the mortgage." On the other hand there are people who at any
cost will be faithful to the word of God. Once Shepherdess Mahmia before
one summer conference matter of factedly told
her employer: "If you refuse to allow me to go to my church's summer Bible
conference I'll have to quit." She quit her job to go to the conference.
That was a few years ago and she still hasn't gone a day without food.
Still she has a place to live. More important
she was faithful to God's word even at the cost of her job. Everything
we do in this life, no matter how important it may rank among the people
of this world, it all pales to being faithful to God's word and faithful
Jesus our Savior. Let me read you a brief portion
of Missionary Roni Bowers' testimony. She was the young missionary woman
who along with her adopted child Charity was shot and killed while flying
in a missionary plane in Peru. The part of her testimony I'll share
is the emotions she struggled with after the
death of her new born baby."I couldn't understand all the emotions, the
deep depression I was feeling. What kind of a Christian was I?
After months of struggles, I realized I was putting the baby I
wanted before my relationship with God.
I finally realized what I was doing and begged God to forgive me.
More than anything, I wanted my relationship with Him back . God
has not taken away the desire for a baby, but He has helped me put my
priorities in order.
Now I choose to trust God fully. He is in
control; He knows what is best. He doesn't owe me anything, rather
I owe Him everything. When we as believers get to heaven, we won't
have to ask, "why?" It will be worth it all. "For where your treasure
is, there your heart will be also." This young missionary woman
lost two babies and her own life in the mission field. It seems this woman
lost everything for Jesus. But by her own confession it will be worth it
all, because her real treasures are found with her Lord in heaven."
From the martyrdom of John the Baptist we learn being faithful to Jesus
our Lord even to the point of death is our doorway into glory.