John’s Martyrdom

Key Text: Matthew 14:1-12, Mark 6:14-29, Luke 9:7-9


John was in prison because he had preached that it was sinful for Herod to be living with or be married to his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, Lk. 3:19. Previously John was forcefully proclaiming Jesus was the Christ, which gave him Herod’s attention. John’s message about Jesus had no miraculous signs, but was regarded as true, (Jn.10:40-42). This teaches us that our message about Christ should put us in the position of defining moral standards for the lost. If we do, draw the line, then those who love truth will get to hear more about how to be saved in Christ and who He really is and what He really deserves from us. While John suffered imprisonment he came to doubt his own message, if Jesus were indeed the Christ. Sometimes we along with John and Thomas may struggle with doubts. Remember Jesus made no move to free John. John may not have understood that Jesus did not dogmatically proclaim his Deity or Messiahship lest he be prematurely arrested and crucified for sedition rather than for his teaching and divine person. Our doubts can ruin our faith, if we do not persevere in God’s viewpoint and trust in His timing. Keep searching and “sending messengers” like John did, Lk. 7:18-23.

Jesus told John’s disciples to tell John what they had seen and heard from his ministry, recalling the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 35:5, Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped, the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are (ceremonially) cleaned, healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. John would be more than familiar with Isa. 61:1. John would take the gospel being preached to the poor as proof for the Messiahship, because only God would use phenomenal physical miracles to bolster a message to the poor, not the rich who would distort it for a physical reign. Paul later ascribed to the power of God in the message, Romans 1:16. One of the beatitudes of Jesus is Blessed is he who shall find no occasion of stumbling in me.” Lk. 7:23. John made no other inquiries of Jesus’ Messiahship.  He accepted the evidence presented by Jesus, He here praised John more than he praised any other person at any time during his ministry, Mt. 11:11.

Herod was one evil man! Matthew 14:9, The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that Salome’s request be granted. The Pharisees knew Herod wanted to kill Jesus too, Luke 13:31, 32, At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else.  Herod wants to kill you.”  He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ Just like Jesus we should imitate their faithfulness even in the face of death. Are we surprised that King Herod was ready to believe that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead?  Pythagoras’ theory of the transmigration of souls was in vogue at that time.  Herod’s guilt may also have made him susceptible to beliefs he ordinarily may not have otherwise entertained. Herod’s advisors had differing but similar views saying: Jesus was Elijah raised from the dead or Jesus was one of the great prophets of the Old Testament who had returned from the dead. But Herod was adamant.  “John, whom I have beheaded, he is risen.” Compare Matthew 16:13-14. Aquila & Priscilla imitated this faith, Romans 16:4, can we?

Had you rather be John in the prison or Herod at the eternal judgment? God’s judgment at length found Herod.  He was defeated by Aretas in a great battle and put to ignominious flight.  Herodias and Herod were banished by the Roman Senate to Lyons by the Emperor Caligula, where they both perished miserably.  Salome fell into some treacherous ice over which she was passing in such a manner that her head was caught while the rest of her body sank into the water.  She perished when her head was (practically) severed by the sharp ice. They died in dishonor, in obscurity in a distant land!  So much for Herod Antipas and his second wife Herodias.

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