Preaching against Sin Is Dangerous

Feast of Herod

The Feast of Herod (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 6:14–29 (ESV)

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 14:1-12; Luke 9:7-9

Understanding and Applying the Word

John the Baptist had been thrown into prison by Herod. Evidently, John had made an issue of the fact that Herod had taken his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, as his own. Herodias wanted John dead, but Herod feared John because he was a prophet. However, an opportunity arose that allowed Herodias to get what she wanted. Herod was entertaining guests and had his daughter dance for them. She did such a great job that Herod promised her a reward: anything she asked for would be hers! So, at the suggestion of Herodias, Herod’s daughter asked for John the Baptist’s head. Rather than face humiliation and refuse the request, Herod had John beheaded. When Herod heard of the mighty works that Jesus was doing he began to think that John the Baptist had returned from the dead. Surely this upset him because he already feared John while he was still alive. If he had returned from the dead, it could not be good for Herod!

When we read this passage, we are reminded that preaching righteousness in a world entangled in sin can be dangerous. John the Baptist’s message was “repent, for the kingdom is at hand.” When he opposed Herod and Herodias for their sin, it got him thrown into prison and beheaded. As Christ’s representatives in the world today, we are commissioned to also call the world to repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ. We should not be surprised if the sinful world is resistant to the message of the gospel and if it hates us too.

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Imprisoned for Christ

saint john the baptist

Saint John the Baptist (Public Domain)

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Thank you for reading! If you have not already done so, please subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. We are reading through the life of Christ in 2019.

Reading the Word

Luke 3:18–22 (ESV)

18 So with many other exhortations he [John the Baptist] preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Destroy Jesus?

the massacre of the innocents

The Massacre of the Innocents (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 2:13–21 (ESV)

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

Understanding and Applying the Word

When Herod realized that the Messiah had been born, he immediately wanted to remove the threat. Herod was in charge and he wanted to keep it that way. So, when he could not locate Jesus, he commanded that every male child two years or younger be killed. However, unknown to Herod, God had instructed Joseph to flee with his family to Egypt to escape this massacre.

From the very beginning, Jesus’ entry into the world did not go as we might expect. Should not the long-awaited Messiah be met with great joy and happiness? Should not the Son of God receive great honor and praise? Yet, while Jesus was joyfully greeted by some (e.g. the shepherds and wise men), he was also despised and rejected by many others at his birth and during his later life. Herod tried to put him to death while he was still a child. The religious leaders sought his life when he was an adult and eventually succeeded in sending him to the cross.

We see in the actions of the different people we read about in the Gospels that there are ultimately two responses to Jesus. We can either reject him and denounce him and try to destroy him or we can rejoice in his coming and fall before him in worship and praise. How do you respond to Jesus?

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

Visitors from Afar

journey of the magi

Reading the Word

Matthew 2:1–12 (ESV)

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Jesus was born, we read of visitors from far away. Most translations call them “wise men.” We may also think of them as kings due at least partly to the song We Three Kings. The Greek calls them magi. It is the word that we get “magician” from and was used to refer to a number of different things: a magician, a sorcerer, or an astrologer are some of the common things. These wise men were probably astrologers since the text tells us they were watching the stars. We also read that they were from the east, which is probably in the region of Babylon.

The wise men must have heard of the promised Messiah from some of the Jews who were still residing in the region of Babylon after they were exiled four hundred years earlier. They knew the prophecy and they saw a star that signified the time of the Messiah, so they traveled to Jerusalem to find him and bring him tribute. This is amazing! These non-Jewish astrologers come from a long way away to find the Messiah and bow before him, yet Herod, the Jewish king and the religious leaders of the day, wanted nothing to do with Jesus. They sought to destroy him from the very beginning.

Once again, we learn that Jesus is the Messiah, but he was a Messiah for all people. He came not only for the Jewish people who would trust in him, but also people from all nations. He did not come to cater to the powerful and elite, but all who would recognize him and follow him. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus will instruct his followers to go into the world and make disciples of “all nations.” Jesus came as the King, the Messiah, and the Savior for the whole world. He came for you. He came for me. What a great King!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.