the innocent may pay here but the guilty pay in eternity !

The truth about what we are as human beings is not always comfortable. In fact it is so uncomfortable people will go to extraordinary lengths to cover it up –  and some will even go as far as murder

Prejudice today, especially among intellectuals, is so bad that most people will give you no hearing if you mention the words “Bible” or “Christianity”. Yet the book and the faith recorded in it constitute a remarkable reservoir of knowledge and insight about human nature. And about the answer.

We come this week to chapter 14 of Matthew’s Gospel and to the historical account of the beheading of John the Baptist and why he was martyred. The episode is extremely telling and incredibly up to date.

Human nature has not changed,  and what people will do to cover up their own sense of guilt and shame is appalling.

First the Perpetrator of the murder of John. Herod.

Herod did not like the fact that John criticised his state of marriage with Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip.

Herod was manifestly a man at the mercy of his own lusts and instincts. When the daughter of Herodias danced for him, he betrayed not just his lust but the lack of judgment which springs from such foolishness. He promised the girl whatever she wanted – and ended up obliged to kill John, despite his own regard for John.

Caught in the consequences of his own foolishness. He could have said No, because it would be immoral. But like so many people caught in such a way, his moral compass is skewed by Pride: how would it look if he broke his word given before witnesses – no matter that an innocent man must die for Herod’s gross sin.

Such is not just a silly incident 2000 years ago, but a telling commentary of men in high places ever since – men whose twisted and immoral outlook dictates callous abuse of the power they have by virtue of a public office.

A King should have been dispensing Justice, not committing Murder.

Second the Beneficiary of this Murder. Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. John’s very existence was a threat to her immoral and illegal position of power as consort to the King. His critical declarations on the subject of her status were well known. John was a constant reminder that there was a public voice and public awareness of her tenuous position.

She therefore schemed to gain his removal – permanent removal. It did not matter to this manipulative and power seeking woman that an innocent man must die. Her entire outlook was obsessed with her own position and the public perception of her. With John out of the way, the reminder would be gone. With John disposed of, everyone would now fear a woman who could arrange for the ultimate elimination of anyone who even questioned her standing and power.

I can think of politicians in the world today whose mindset is no different from that of Herodias. There is nothing new under the sun, as the Preacher says in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Third,  we have the Victim of the abuse of royal power, John the Baptist. He had nothing wrong. His  crime was not a judicial crime, but a political one. He had pointed out that someone was in a position of power and influence, immorally and illegitimately.

John would know this. He would know this had the potential to damage him, and had landed him in prison. He offended against the private conscience of the king, and he offended against the inordinate ambition of Herodias. His crime was to challenge wrong doing; to stand up for what is right; and to uphold God’s law publicly.

John was first and foremost God’s servant. His respect and allegiance belonged to God, not to a twisted king, nor to any personal ambition to get on well with powerful people in a corrupt government.

John was quite prepared to pay the ultimate price for siding with God against mere mortal,  sinful men and women.

He must have made a cold, calculating choice because he knew that the consequences could be very serious indeed.

As calculating and cold a choice as Herodias had made. The difference being of course, that his choice was for God and self sacrifice – hers was entirely for Self and her ambition in this evil world …

John had his sights on Heaven, while Herodias was convinced only of the ways of this world and making herself successful here, regardless of the consequences in the life beyond this world.

And that is the choice we all have. At the end of the day, we must either follow the example of John, or else fall into the temptation to be like Herod, or behave like Herodias.

We all have to face that decision – and the best place to be is to recognise our inadequacy and call upon God to help us to be and do the right thing.

And finally God. Where was God in all this ? Herodias gets her way. John dies. The bad gall wins. The good is killed and any one with a conscience is warned off on pain of going the same way as John …

Not at all nice.

What is God doing while all this is going on ?

Well, if we read the Bible through we begin to realise who God is and how he operates. And with that knowledge in mind we can conclude as follows.

  1. John goes to heaven – he served God faithfully – his eternal future is secure !

  2. God allows people to reveal themselves for what they are – to themselves and to the world

  3. God allows sin to mature – his judgement upon the person concerned when they die and he sends them to hell,  will be manifestly justified

  4. following God is a moral choice we all have to make – to obey his teaching and to realise we need him to do it. It’s all Grace.

Christian Preacher

By Christianity

The personal icon photograph shows God's creation, the world. It reminds us that God is the Creator of all - the almighty, the all knowing and all present - the one who is most important of all. The one to whom we owe all, and the one to whom we will answer for all. The site's header image of the Bible [King James Authorised Version], a map, a light and a compass represent to us that God's word in the Bible is our spiritual map, illumination and guide through this life. Those who obey his teaching will know his presence and power - Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 23

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