Truth Taught- Playing politics will cause us to do things we never thought we could do.
Who was Herod?
c. 4 B.C. Herod the Great dies in Jericho and is buried in Judea. Herod the Great was the Herod who tried to kill Jesus as an infant and murdered the infants in Jerusalem. He was the Herod who met with the wise men. After his death Roman Emperor Augustus divides up his kingdom among some of his sons.
Herod Archelaus, one of Herod’s sons through wife Malthace, is made Ethnarch (a title of rule that is less than a king) of Samaria, Idumea (Edom) and a large part of Palestine. He rules from 4 B.C. to 6 A.D. when the Judea province is formed and put under direct Roman rule. Archelaus lived until c. 18 A.D.
Herod Antipas, another one of Herod’s sons through wife Malthace, is made tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. He ruled from 4 B.C. to 39 A.D. It was he who, as the New Testament records, not only arrested and beheaded John the Baptist but also played a part in the crucifixion of Jesus.
Philip the Tetrarch (often referred to as Herod Philip II) is a son of Herod through Cleopatra of Jerusalem. Rome gives him the northeast part of his father’s kingdom, which includes Batanea, Auranitis and Trachonitis. He rules from 4 B.C. to 34 A.D.
It always helps to keep the Herods straight. That’s the Herods in a nutshell.
If there is one thing that marked Herod the Great and his son Herod Antipas was fear, fear of loosing power, fear of what people thought, fear of not being liked and losing popularity. They made decisions based on fear of man.
We must never make life decisions based on what others think. Make decisions based on what God says in His Word and who cares what anyone else thinks. Far too often people are hindered and led astray by the fear of man.
Herod Antipas is led to Hell by trying to keep people happy. Where will that lead us?
Herod tried so hard to please the crowd that became his god. He loved himself, his power, his fame, his wealth, and his life far too much. That misguided attraction with self leads straight to Hell.
Jesus gives us much better option…
John 12:25 (ESV)
25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
The healthiest place we can be is when we love Christ and hate our lives. We all know what Jesus means here. Give up self to embrace Christ? Love Him and get over yourself. Love Christ and don’t live your life like you have to manipulate everything to stay on top because it’s power and the roar of applause that fuels your life. If this is true of you, Jesus tells you that you will loose the very thing you worship, your life. Live for Christ in humility fearing God not man. You will be most happy. Beloved, pleasing others is just too hard, it costs too much…just ask Herod.
Are you willing to give up self to embrace Christ? If you are, this will lead to a clear picture of Jesus. He will be seen as He truly is, namely, Lord and Savior. If you are not willing to submit your life to Jesus then self will mar your perception of Jesus. He will be a stumbling block not Savior.
Matthew 14:1–12 (ESV)
14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 3 For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. 6 But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, 7 so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” 9 And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, 11 and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.
1. A Guilty Conscience Brings Paranoia
Herod’s Dilemma #1: I’m a Murderer and The One I Murdered Has Returned From the Dead
14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, 2 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.”
The account of the murder of John the Baptist is brought to us by way of a flashback. Herod is afraid that Jesus is John the Baptist raised from the dead. There is no greater fear for a murderer than to have the one you murdered to come back from the dead.
Herod was haunted with this fear. He heard about Jesus and what He was doing.
Luke 9:7 (ESV)
7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead,
This is an example of a wrong answer as to who Jesus is…
Matthew 16:13–16 (ESV)
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Herod was led to the wrong answer through fear and guilt, especially the fear that God knew the truth about his sin. He knew what he did was wrong but because the fear of the crowd trumped the fear of God, he did it anyway. Now when Herod hears about Jesus, his conclusion is not Jesus is a scam and His miracles are fake but that He is John the Baptist back from the dead.
Mark 6:14–20 (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.
Herod, no doubt, heard the message of Jesus and saw the popularity of Jesus. He also, no doubt made the connection between Jesus’ preaching and John’s preaching. Both preached and told the people to repent because the Kingdom of God is at hand. Herod’s conclusion was more superstition driven by the guilt of murdering John, the sin of his relationship with Herodias and the fact that both Jesus and John preached a different Kingdom and a different King.
Herod had an internal struggle…John is a righteous man and the people love him. I actually hate him because he reminds me that what I did with my brother’s wife is a sin. I hate John because he preaches another Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. The people love John and I want the people to love me.
He was haunted by his sin but unwilling to give up his life of power. What will people think?
Unrepentant sin brings fear. Fear that God knows and you’re not God. Fear that there will be a reckoning. This fear did not lead Herod to godly repentance however.
Then Herod finds himself in an even greater dilemma…
2. When You Play Politics, Your “Friends” Tell You What You Want to Hear and Your Enemies Tell You the Truth
Herod’s Dilemma #2…I Hate John Because He Keeps Telling Me I’m a Sinner
3 For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet.
Now Matthew shows us the flashback, which the Holy Spirit knows all about. God knows exactly why Herod had John arrested and placed in prison. The sole reason was because John told Herod he was a sinner. John was murdered for telling the truth. People do not like it when you tell them they are sinners. Most do not have the ability to arrest you and place you in prison, but Herod did.
Herod is a lot like King Ahab when it comes to prophets…
Micaiah Prophesies Against King Ahab
1 Kings 22:18 (ESV)
18 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”
John spoke the truth regardless who you were. If you were Herod or whoever, John told the truth. The Church needs more John the Baptists in the ranks. It is God’s will that you tell people the truth regardless what you think their response will be.
John called people to confess their sin. Matthew 3:6 says that he was calling them, and they were coming to him confessing their sins, and he would then baptize them as a symbol of their desire for cleanliness of spirit. And so he confronted sin, and he called with a strong message for holiness, to prepare a people for the arrival of the Messiah. He was very popular. The whole country was going out to see him, and multitudes responded to his message.
Herod also responded, however, his response was not repentance and faith, he responded by arresting John. Silence the spokesman of God and you can continue in your sin and better pretend there are no consequences. Silence the spokesman and your game of no consequences can go on.
This is the mark of prophetic greatness. This is the mark of the man of God: fearlessly confronting the sins of men, even though they be the highest leaders in the nation or in the world. You don’t close your eyes to the sins of the leaders of the world. When there is sin to be confronted, you confront it. They hold your life in their hands, but that’s okay; you’re God’s man. Christ confronted it; Stephen confronted it; Paul confronted it; Peter confronted it; John the Baptist confronted it. It’s the only right thing to do.
3. When You Play Politics, You Make too Many Promises and Tell Too Many Lies
Herod’s Dilemma #3…I Hate John and I Want to Kill Him But The People Love Him So I Can’t But I Just Told Herodius’ Daughter She can Have Anything and She Asked Me to Kill John and I Can’t Look Bad in Front of My Guests So I Guess I’ll Kill Him
7 so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. 8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” 9 And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, 11 and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.
Herod does not want to loose face with his guests. He’s a fool and thinks that now he must keep the smokescreen of truth. He wants his guests to think that his word can be trusted. I’m sure, unless his guests were completely senseless, they knew Herod could not be trusted but because they too wanted to be in with the power people, played along.
For Herod, one sin led to another then to another until the very thing he was afraid to do, namely, kill John the Baptist was the exact thing he did?
Sin is so deceptive. The old saying sin takes you where you don’t want to go and you do the very thing you don’t want to do.
Think about a drug addict. They want pleasure and joy. They think this drug will give it to them. It might the first time. Then it takes more and more until what they thought they could control is now controlling them. They wanted pleasure and all they have is pain. One day they find that their lives are the exact opposite of what they wanted. They have no family and friend relationships because they’ve stolen from them to fund their drug addiction. They have no job, no home, nothing of any value…all because they thought they could control sin.
This is what sin does.
In Herod’s case, the sin of fear led him straight to Hell. It would be Herod’s fear of loosing his power that would later lead him even to play a part in the murder of Jesus.
God has ordained the events and players around the crucifixion of Jesus. Herod was one of the figures.
Pilate sent Jesus to Herod after he learned that Jesus was a Galilean. Pilate wanted to get out of this bad political mess, Herod was the ruler of the area of Galilee. Herod mocked Jesus and questioned Him and then sent Him back to Pilate. Neither one wanted to get their hands dirty. Both feared the people. Both were politicians who loved their position and power.
God ordained that their hands would be dirty. He did not make them do what they did but turned them loose to do exactly what He wanted done.
Where do you derive personal worth?
The person(s) whose reward of approval we desire most — whose curse of disapproval we most fear to receive — is the person(s) we will obey, our functional god. That’s why the Bible so often commands us to “fear the Lord.”
Deuteronomy 10:12–13 (ESV)
12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?
Matthew 10:28 (ESV)
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Herod lived for the approval of others so much he murdered for it. You might think I could never do something like that. Well Pilate did. Those who do not fear God will do whatever it takes to feed their functional god. Once you begin down the path of sin before long you will loose control over it and it will begin to control you.
The next time you’re making a decision ask yourself why am I choosing or saying what I am? Am I acting based on God’s Word or on my fear?
Being a people pleaser is a snare.
Proverbs 29:25 (ESV)
25 The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.
Beloved, fear God and not man.
Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary
A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles
A Gospel of Matthew by France
Matthew by Craig Bloomberg
Matthew by Doriani
Matthew by Charles Price
Matthew by Leon Morris