By Allen White
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.
On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. Matthew 14:1-12
In my early days of ministry, I had many doubts about my effectiveness as a pastor and especially as a preacher or Bible study leader. A number of those doubts remain.
Most Wednesday nights after presenting a Bible study, I would go home and contemplate my short future in the ministry. People wouldn’t keep coming back, would they? I soon learned the best remedy for my Wednesday night blues was eating dinner and watching L.A. Law. The evaluation could wait.
Once in a while, after I spoke, someone would feel the need to give me some feedback on what they just heard. Today, I believe feedback is the breakfast of champions. Back then, it felt like someone was pounding another nail in my ministry coffin.
But, one person always lifted me out of the pit, my friend, Doris Hayes. No matter how well I did, this dear woman would always tell me, “That was just great.” And, believe me there were a number of times when I sought her out just to hear her lie to me.
Doris wasn’t trying to deceive me. She was a great encourager. And, in those early days, I certainly needed the encouragement.
Reality is a little hard for all of us to face at times. More likely than not, our fear of reality is greater than the impact of the truth. If we’ve failed or are doing things that take away from who God created us to be, it’s hard to hear that out of line. When we know it’s time to do the hard work of character building, it’s hard to hear someone point out our flaws. No one really likes to be called out.
John the Baptist had called Herod and his sister-in-law out on the inappropriateness of their relationship. In appreciation to John for his candor, Herod sent him to prison. He couldn’t kill John – the fallout was too great. But, Herod didn’t want to confront the wrong in his own life. He just needed to silence John the Baptist. Prison served the purpose initially.
At Herod’s birthday party, his sister-in-law-turned-wife’s daughter (I’m assuming his niece) presented Herod with a dance. This family put the “fun” in dysfunction. Herod was so pleased he offered her anything. She asked for John the Baptist’s head. I’m thinking that for most young girls in that day, a prophet’s decapitated head wasn’t at the top of their lists. But, she wanted to please her mother. The prophet would be silenced for good.
Herodias’ daughter had no concern for John the Baptist or apparently the life of another, but she had great concern for pleasing her mother and step-father/uncle.
Herod couldn’t argue with the request on several levels. After all, a promise is a promise. John was finally silence for good. Herod and Herodias lived happily ever after – sort of. At least no one else would challenge their relationship.
Now, we could go one way in this devotional and ask who you’ve spoken the truth to only to have them resent or avoid you. But, rather than taking the high road and assume we’re more like John the Baptist, let’s go the other way: when have we sat in Herod’s seat and heard a truth we didn’t want to hear?
How did we feel toward that person? Did we isolate ourselves from them? Did we write off what they had to say? Did we plot a way to get them back?
Who has irritated you with the truth? How have their words shown true over the years? Maybe it’s time to reconcile the relationship. It’s time to admit they were right and give them credit. After all, they loved you enough to say something about it.
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